For my American readers, welcome back to the work week after the long weekend. For the rest of you, I hope the week started out well for you. It didn't for the head of a new webinar company in Australia, who had a lot of problems launching his new collaboration software. That will give me fodder for a few days of reflection and blog tips. But it won't be a problem for BigMarker webinar software, which is sponsoring me as a guest speaker for part two in my series of educational webinars.
This Wednesday (June 1), I will give practical tips on ways to make your B2B marketing or lead generation webinars more effective and productive. I'll cover everything from planning through promotion, delivery, and follow up. The focus will be squarely on marketing, as opposed to direct sales webinars. As usual, you will get a solid session of practical advice, with no sales pitch or invitation to buy additional consulting, books, or courses. And as always, it's free!
I just tripped across an old article referencing an even older book. But the concept it outlined was new to me and has profound implications for presentations to global audiences.
The article is from two and a half years ago. I will admit that "The Lewis Model Explains Every Culture In The World" by Gus Lubin reads suspiciously like a paid advertorial designed to drum up business for Richard Lewis Communications. Lewis is apparently a professional linguist and author of a highly-rated book on Amazon entitled "When Cultures Collide." I haven't read the book, but now I want to.
The article includes two fascinating graphics. The first puts countries on a sliding scale of cultural identity:
The second graphic assigns traits to the three identity categories:
The first thing to remember when thinking about any such gross representations of large populations is that they are utterly useless when applied to an individual person or a specific real interaction. Individual human beings are infinitely complex and can easily contradict any generalization you might make. The goal in these kinds of studies is to see if we can find commonalities that seem prevalent across large segments of the population.
Webinars are a perfect use case for applying this kind of generalization. You often don't know individual members of your audience and have to plan your content and presentation style to have "the best chance" of being persuasive to a large group. We obviously tend to think in terms of the cultural norms we have been raised within. If we have received presentation training, it probably reflects our cultural perspective as well. But if we plan to influence audiences with different backgrounds and expectations, understanding their viewpoints is crucial.
According to Lewis's triangle of national country types, my experiences place me strongly in the lower left corner of "Linear-Active" cultures. USA, Germany, and UK cultures strongly influence my expectations of "proper" business etiquette and presentation technique. Those countries also happen to be farther along the adoption curve for webinars as a business tool than many other countries on the chart. I would say that the secondary level of webinar adoption favors the lower right, "Reactive" countries. The countries taking the longest to adopt webinars as a common business tool are those towards the top of the triangle near the Multi-Active label.
It is easy to rationalize why webinar methodologies, growth patterns, and problems might fit this modeled division. If we look at the traits listed in the second table, we could pick out many things I have come to expect in business webinars that would be associated with Linear-Active tendencies. Cover one item at a time, use logic to persuade, stick to facts, deliver results as a measure of success, don't rely heavily on body language, and place importance on the written word ("Death by Bullet Point" anybody?).
Secondary popularity moving more towards the Reactive corner gives us audiences that are primed to listen to a speaker without confrontation and who uses more careful selection of words that imply a promise. Webinar growth might be slowed compared to the primary countries because of a desire to get the speaker to repeat information and because of the importance of face-to-face communications. Now that webcam video of presenters is commonplace in webinar technologies, they might be more accepted as a communication tool. But presenters seeking to influence audiences in these "Reactive" geographies may want to change the way they organize and present their content to keep coming back to a harmonious agreement on base principles without showing facts as the way to win their argument.
I couldn't help but notice that the countries near the Multi-Active point of the triangle are often stereotyped as "fiery, passionate, and emotional." Looking at the traits summary table shows that our Linear-Active oriented webinars (and webinar technologies) are all wrong for these audiences. Even a webcam of a presenter's face is not enough. They want full-body visuals, with presenters who pace, gesture, and invite the listener to be a constant part of the conversation. Having someone speak while they are speaking is not a sign of rudeness, it is a sign of involvement and interest. If webinars are going to have rapid growth in these cultures, new conceptual approaches will be needed. I see the need for something like group interactivity around a Prezi-style presentation of many different conceptual components. Attendees can zoom in and out of areas of interest, conversing with others on multiple aspects of the topic and having simultaneous conversations in multiple streams. I also think this is the strongest opportunity for webinar technologies that combine with community-building, social networking, and pre- and post-webinar interactions as a part of the business process.
This is a fun way to think about global communications and you should be looking at cultural expectations whether you are a webinar host, presenter, or technology vendor.
Hey, readers… This blog post isn't for you. It's for your friends and colleagues. Be a dear and forward this column to them.
If you have been with The Webinar Blog for a while, you already know the basics of hosting and delivering business webinars. I've been giving you tips, advanced techniques, and technology reviews for more than a decade.
But as with juggling, small engine repair, and laser interferometry, there has to be a first time. Someone out there is thinking about holding their first webinar, and they aren't sure exactly what is involved. Heck, they don't yet know what questions they should be asking!
It can be intimidating to get into a public session when you feel like the new kid on the block… You don't know the terminology being used and you don't yet have the background that the other participants take for granted. You don't want to ask a question about first principles because you feel like you might be wasting everyone else's time.
Boy, do I have the session for you! I'll be talking about the fundamentals you need to understand before giving your first webinar. I'll fill you in on the terms that technology vendors use, help you figure out what tasks need to be accomplished and how you can plan for them, and even look at how to put together a budget.
I never liked that whole "Brain Surgery For Dummies" phrasing that Wiley & Sons Publishing popularized. You aren't a dummy, and I won't treat you like one. You are a business professional who just hasn't happened to study up on webinars yet. This will be a great introductory overview. No question is too basic, and you'll be in an audience with similar skill levels and lack of experience in this subject.
The live session will take one hour, including time to answer your questions. It is scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday, May 18. Starting time is 11am California or 2pm New York. You can preregister at the following link, which will ensure that you get emails with login instructions and reminders before it starts:
We'll be using BigMarker webinar technology. They are sponsoring the session so it can be offered for free. But both BigMarker and I have agreed that we'll keep this truly educational rather than being a thinly veiled sales pitch. I won't be inviting you to take a course or buy a book at the end of the presentation.
It doesn't matter whether you are thinking about webinars for marketing, sales, training, employee communications, or outreach to customers and community members. The information will be applicable to all use cases.
I hope you'll join me on Wednesday to see what webinars are all about. All you need is internet access and computer speakers or a headset to listen to the audio. I'll take care of the rest!
There are times when it makes sense to write out what you want to say. It helps clarify your thinking and helps you find the most effective way to make a point. I particularly like using a script for the first and last minute of your presentation. At the beginning, a script gets you into your speech when you are most uncomfortable and immediately build a perception of yourself as a polished and confident speaker. At the end, a script helps you close off concisely and unambiguously.
In between, I don't recommend using a complete script for most people in most situations. Attendees can spot someone reading a script a mile away. Unless the script is REALLY well written and you are REALLY well-trained in vocal acting, you are most likely to bore your audience and make them wish they had your notes to read for themselves instead of listening to you recite the words verbatim. They want you to speak TO them, to communicate WITH them. They didn't show up to a live session in order to be greeted with a "books on tape" narration.
But let's assume you feel the need for a script. Maybe just for one section of your presentation that has to be spot-on. Or maybe you have to write for someone else acting as presenter. What can you do to help improve the quality of the presentation script?
One of the best, most value-packed summaries of writing for the ears versus writing for the eyes is a short column that John Coleman wrote in 2014 for the Harvard Business Review. I urge you to follow the link and read "A Speech Is Not an Essay." Mr. Coleman includes practical tips with supporting research citations. I'm not going to rehash his points here… His article is short enough to read on its own, and he explains things clearly and eloquently.
But I will attempt to supplement Mr. Coleman's suggestions with a few specifics to watch out for in your webinar scripts.
1) Parentheses. If you have parentheses in your script, you aren't writing for the ears. People cannot hear punctuation (Victor Borge aside). Rewrite the phrase using words to connect the subordinate concept to the primary concept in the sentence.
2) No mention of the audience. Most business webinar scripts ignore the audience. They are written in the abstract: "This is a fact. This is another fact." -- It doesn't matter whether someone is listening or not. If you don't see direct references to your listeners, with plenty of "you" and "your" pronouns, you have a bad script.
3) Long sentences. Make a point. Then make another point. Introduce a fact. Then say something about the fact. At the end of a sentence, the audience must remember how it started. If you review your script and find yourself going back to re-read the beginning of a sentence, that sentence needs rewriting.
4) Lots of numbers. You can present a slide with a chart, a table, or a list of statistics that support something you are communicating. Your script should not concentrate on what the numbers ARE. Your script needs to say something ABOUT the numbers. What they mean, why they are important, how they impact the listener. Nobody can remember a bunch of numbers recited in a narration. If the numbers are important as reference information for later, provide them in a reference document. Saying them in your speech is not just ineffective, it's counterproductive.
5) Overflowing the slide notes area. If you find that your script notes don't fit in the notes area of your PowerPoint slide or you have to use a teeny font to fit them, you should probably break the slide and your script into more pieces. A webinar needs repeated visual changes to keep refocusing the audience's attention on the materials. If you stay on one slide for 5-10 minutes, attendees lose interest and start multitasking. I try to change slides roughly once a minute on average. According to Mr. Coleman, that is a mere 130 words of script per slide.
Let's close out with a practical example. Here is a short monologue from the movie "Malice." The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank. The character's goals are to be extremely persuasive in a short speech. The writers know that there is not much in the way of visual dynamics in the scene (even though the director includes a few quick reaction shots to break things up). I might even suggest listening without looking at the video. Is the writing effective for use in an oral presentation? (We'll leave aside the question of agreeing or disagreeing with the character's opinion.)
Here is the speech, written out:
The question is, “Do I have a God complex?” Which makes me wonder if this… lawyer, has any idea as to the kind of grades one has to receive in college, to be accepted to a top medical school? Or if you have the vaguest clue about how talented someone must be to lead a surgical team? I have an M.D. from Harvard. I am board certified in cardiothoracic medicine and trauma surgery. I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? Now you go ahead and read your bible - Dennis. And you go to your church and with any luck you might even win the annual raffle. But if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two, on November 17th, and he doesn’t like being second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something: I am God.
211 words, taking a minute and 32 seconds… Almost exactly what Coleman's word/time calculator predicts, and well within my timing guidelines for making a single, contained point. The next thing Alec Baldwin says would need to be on another slide!
Almost all the sentences are short. Easy to follow. The one long sentence in the middle is separated into three easily followed "case study" examples that can be understood without any statistics. The speaker is not being academic, but is speaking directly TO his listener, asking rhetorical questions and even addressing one of the people in the room by name.
I'll leave Alec Baldwin's delivery of the lines as a topic for another post. Having a well-written script is one part of the battle. Studying it, internalizing it, and presenting it in the moment as if it were your spontaneous thoughts is the second half of the battle and is just as critical to your webinar success.
Let's say you host a webinar and invite another company to participate. They might provide a guest speaker or sponsorship or something else that contributes to the event. After the webinar, they ask you for a copy of the contact list generated from the webinar. What are the legal implications to sharing the leads and what are best practices?
Standard disclaimer here: I am not a lawyer and my understanding of the legal implications of any business process is to be discounted, disregarded, disputed, and disparaged. I'll be talking about the CAN-SPAM Act, which is United States law and does not apply to citizens of other countries.
My read on the subject seems to indicate that there is no breach of the CAN-SPAM law inherent in the process of sharing the leads with your partner. Of course both of you have to adhere to the basic tenets of the Act. That means things like allowing recipients to opt out of further communications from you, not mailing to people who have opted out in the past, and not using deceptive subject lines to fool people into reading your email. So far, so good.
But there is an interesting subtlety in the rules that pertains here... According to the shorter FTC compliance guide, "Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list."
This means you have to pre-screen all collected leads against your opt-out list before forwarding them. Don't just send over the full registration list!
The other legal question is whether you are violating privacy laws by sharing the information your leads provide you with. I was surprised to see on the Practical Law web site that "there is no single, comprehensive federal (national) law regulating the collection and use of personal data" - although some federal and state laws offer specific protections that vary depending on your location and type of data collected. For instance, school records, financial information, health data, and so on have privacy laws.
But if your company has a posted privacy statement on the web site or in statements mailed to customers (as many companies do), you have to comply with your own policies. If you say you don't share information, you can't break the rules just because the webinar is "a special case."
So much for the legalities. How about best practices? A fundamental step in your earliest planning for a lead generation event that involves a guest speaker is to reach an explicit agreement on lead sharing. If you have a policy statement that prohibits sharing information collected on your web site, you have to tell the partner up front that you can't and won't share the registration list.
If the partner wants a shot at those people, it needs to create an opt-in opportunity for registrants to specifically request contact. I often do this on a post-event feedback form. Add new fields for contact information and a checkbox that very clearly asks whether the respondent would like contact or communications from the guest speaker's company. Now you can share just those opt-ins in good conscience. If anybody complains about email they receive, you have an electronic record of their request for it.
Transparency and honesty in your dealings with new contacts is the right way to do business. If they are coming to a public, free event and are asked to provide all their contact information, they know what's up. Don't try to dance around it and pretend you aren't going to use the information. If you aren't going to use it, don't ask for it!