Wednesday, July 25, 2007

5 Fast Ways to Engage Your Audience in a Web Conference

The last thing you want is to get the feeling that the audience of your web conference has been spirited away to the lands of email, instant messenger, and YouTube in the middle of your presentation. Here are 5 attention-getting ideas:

1. Polls
This feature should be built in to your web conferencing platform. Make some polls ahead of time to see if your audience is grasping your key points, or make things up on the fly. Use polls to assess interest level (by seeing how many of your viewers respond), too. It's hard to shirk a question that's being asked of you directly.

2. Rewards
Incentives like gift certificates, a free consultation or other service, or other industry-appropriate gifts don't have to be expensive in order to grab your audience's attention. Whether you use them as sign-up bonuses, offer them randomly to participants who complete a meaningful (not just multiple choice) exit survey, or give them as prizes for the most insightful question or comment during a presentation, rewards are sure to keep everyone on task.

3. Live Q&A
This works for similar reasons as #1 - if your viewers know that you're presenting live and taking the time to answer questions during the presentation, they'll be more inclined to pay attention. After all, they may have questions, too!

4. Invite a Guest Speaker
...especially if you're doing a series of presentations. Even if you can't afford to invite someone of note, the change in voice and presentation style alone will wake up your audience. (This one requires some advance planning, but you could always just plan to split presenting duties with someone else in the office or an offsite colleague.)

5. Take a "Commercial Break"
Every 15 minutes or so, plan to take a quick break - maybe this is the time for a poll or Q&A, maybe it's a chance to show an appropriate comic panel or play a quick video clip. Maybe your break can be as simple as switching gears and going from presentation to live demonstration (or letting the group "test drive" your product using application sharing) - just make sure to offer something different from time to time.

Bonus: Liven Up your Presentation
This one isn't quite as quick to implement, but make sure to brush up on presentation skills, even though your audience will be virtual. A lively, upbeat tone and engaging, well-designed visuals make it very difficult to tune out on your presentation.

Bonus #2: Remember Your Audience
Write down the defining characteristics of your audience, like industry experience and/or demographics. Remember what time of day it will be for your participants, and what it's like to be at the office at that time of day. Then, run through your presentation as if you were an audience member, and be very honest about what you see. Don't be afraid to drastically reduce text on your slides or spend more time on demonstration and less on presentation.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Web Conferencing and the Sales Cycle

When do you use web conferencing in your sales cycle?

At the beginning, to generate leads? In the middle, to showcase product information and build excitement? At the end, to clarify details and collaborate on the final result? All of the above? (Feel free to let us know in the comments.)

In an article from (Marketers are Coming Up Short on Web2.0), I found some good news and ...strange news. The article briefly analyzes trends from a recent Knowledgestorm study on B2B lead generation. The good: 20% of decision makers watch webinars every week. The strange: only 11% of those who responded to the study contribute webinar content on a weekly basis.

The result? "'Perhaps vendors need to put webinars up front in their sales cycle, and put more effort in increasing the frequency of their webinar offerings,' according to Anne Holland, content director for MarketingSherpa."

That's right, according to those statistics we need more webinars. Web presentations are an effective (and cost-effective) way to introduce your offerings to the global market. While you can use them any way you like, the stats featured in this article do suggest that the demand exists for early presentations - that probably means broad product overviews and demonstrations that are designed to create buzz and bring in leads, rather than more focused, detailed presentations that would fall more mid- to late-cycle.

Not sure where to get started to showcase your product with a webinar?
  • Work with your marketing team to create an exciting slide presentation that covers all of the important facts about your product and allows you time to present sufficient detail. Be sure to include polls about important points or features to make sure your audience is following your ideas.
  • Plan a product demonstration (consider sharing the presentation remotely if your audience could benefit from a "test drive") that goes along with the slides to engage your viewers
  • Create a basic script for timing's sake, but be prepared to deviate from it as questions arise during the presentation (attendees are not shy about raising hands or initiating chat during most web presentations)
  • Remember to leave time at the end for additional "test drives" and Q&A
Once you've got your presentation together (and you've tested it in a presentation-like situation to avoid embarrassment), get the promotion wheels turning! Send an email news bulletin, post information on your website, or create a press release to announce the upcoming demonstrations. Schedule your presentations based on demand - don't be afraid to add more sessions if your webinar is popular!

Let us know how it goes! Questions about improving your webinars? Leave a note in the comments - I'll do my best to help.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Business Communication Carnival!

We'll be hosting a business communication blog carnival, with the first edition arriving on August 1st. If you have any tips, tricks, or tools to share to improve business communication, whether they're for audio and web conferencing, meeting productivity, or any other aspect of business communication, we'd love to hear them! Just drop me a line at liz "at" with a link to your article by midnight on July 30th.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Advanced Conferencing Features Now Available!

We've expanded our audio conferencing features to include many useful in-call functions for the moderator/host as well as the participants! Now the host can:

  • Mute/unmute all participants
  • Start "sidebar" or breakout conversations (call someone who's not participating in the call and speak to him privately or bring him into the conference call)
  • Lock/unlock the conference
just by pressing a few digits, all without leaving the call!

Participants can also mute and unmute their own lines (though the host's controls override their unmute options) - a great feature for those calling in from cell phones or other phones without a built-in mute capability. Remember - not everyone wants to hear your typing or coffee drinking.

For more information on these options or other audio and web conferencing features, visit or leave a comment so I can get back to you. We're always working hard to add new features!