Presenting in the 21st Century

In the middle of July, 24 publishers awaited the marketing presentation about to be given by nationally-recognized expert speaker, Brian Jud. Attendees settled in their seats. Brian and I chatted as we prepared to begin. When everyone had gathered, I began to describe the event and then introduce our speaker.

But these weren’t ordinary presentation circumstances: I was deaf and blind to our audience, I couldn’t see or hear a soul. I had first-timer nerves. I had to have faith that the system was working.

Welcome to my side of our first Webinar (a Webinar is essentially a seminar held over the Internet). Our attendees were sitting in front of their computers at home or in their office, watching Brian’s graphics and listening on the phone. We could not hear the attendees, but we were able to receive written questions from them.

Although it felt a little clunky (my part, not Brian’s), the Webinar went well and we got good reviews from the attendees.

In fact Leo Dewey, Elvenwork Press told us “Very fine presentation, most informative, and best of all, fun.”

Patti Kokinos, Author of Angel Park: A Novel wrote, “Wow! Terrific…By the way, your (Brian Jud’s) personal manner over the phone felt very friendly and engaging, without the typical hype that others may offer. Thanks for keeping it real–and useful!!”,

Everyday I am learning and teaching and the Webinars are no different. Two days after the event, I wrote an evaluation over a big cup of strong coffee. Here are a few lessons learned.

1. Message–Never assume people know what you are talking about. Of course, the “never assume” rule is variable. If you are talking about making a cup of coffee, most people have a pretty good idea what you are talking about.

With the Internet and other high tech tools, if in doubt, explain. I started advertising our “Webinar” and people asked where it was being held and if they needed a computer. This was my fault, not theirs.

I ended up writing an explanation of what a Webinar is and what people needed to participate. Here is the copy I wrote to describe our Webinar:

“A Webinar is a Web based seminar or Web conference. At our Webinar, participants will sit at their computers connected to the Internet while Brian Jud gives his presentation. They will watch the PowerPoint type slides while listening on the phone.

“We will send two pieces of information to all participants on how to connect to the Webinar. The first is a Web address and access code for your computer and the second is a phone number and access code for the Webinar phone call. You do have to pay your usual long distance charges for the phone call.”

2. Understand your software–We use Internet based software to set up the Webinars. Brian and I both took a Webinar class presented by to learn how to present and communicate with the attendees. It was a good thing, too, because I had been sending out the wrong login information. I had to scramble to get the correct information out on how to connect to the computer and phone network.

The software has a feature where we were able to have practice sessions in the days before the Webinar. As all speakers know, one of the major rules is to practice, practice, practice. It is the same for Webinars. The presentation may be similar to a live speech, but there are little unfamiliar buttons to click on the screen to make things happen during the Webinar. Practice and a few real live Webinars make this flow smoothly.

3. Be really clear about the time–Although we clearly stated that the Webinar started at “7:00 pm Eastern”, we had people show up at 7:00 pm Pacific. Again this was partly my fault for not being clearer about those pesky time zones.

4. Plan follow-up contact–We recorded the Webinar and provided it to all the participants after the event. Also, Brian sent the participants “handouts” via e-mail afterwards. If you are selling training, books, or other products and services, your audience is interested in what you do and feeling good about you. After the Webinar is a great time for continued communication–it allows you to extend the value of this tool even further.

Webinars are the wave of the future. Seminars, especially, when people have to fly, are on the decline. Security hassles, the expense, and many other factors have made on-location events less attractive. People are living, working, and training on the Web. Try out a Webinar. You’ll be glad you did.

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