Friday, September 28, 2007

Plan Your Best Web Conference

Web conferencing is all over the news this week - it looks like it's really taking hold across the business landscape! I attended a few myself recently, and learned many new things about how to hold a good web conference (and how to hold one that's memorable for all the wrong reasons). Here's what I learned this week:

1. Use the Power of PowerPoint
There are so many resources online to help you improve your slides. Take advantage of them! This week I was subjected to 10 point font, slides with 12+ lines of text, unlabeled graphs, and the 2 slides/minute pace, none of which helped the presenter make his point. Overall, remember: less is more, graphics are great, and your words had better work for you.

2. Speak Up
Bad headsets and muffled microphones were in style this week. I should be so engaged by your presentation that I shouldn't notice your lousy audio quality, but just in case, test your audio beforehand to see what it sounds like. If every third word is just a burst of static, adjust or replace your microphone. Consider having separate audio and web rather than streaming it all over the internet - all-in-one seems more convenient, but it can be tricky for novices to get online audio to sound good, and those with slow connections could miss important words.

3. Plan...and be Polite
It was obvious that there hadn't been any effective planning for this week's worst web conference. The moderator kept handing off questions to the wrong host, the hosts weren't listening during the Q&A and didn't have their answers ready, and the session degraded very quickly as the presenters (one a c-level executive) looked more and more foolish.

Talk to your co-host(s) and moderator beforehand about how the event will be structured. Run through your presentation several times. Be prepared for Q&A, which means you have to be knowledgeable about your subject beyond your slide notes. Attendees are more savvy than you think they will be - web conferences have to work now that the novelty has faded. If something goes wrong during the event, be professional and recover quickly. Don't start placing blame during the presentation, especially if you are archiving your webcast for future downloads!

4. Use the Features
Something that all of this week's conferences did well was polling - using quizzes to keep the audience engaged and to tailor the content to the audience's interests. Some things that I could have seen a lot more of were screenshots and hands-on demos (especially in the smaller conferences); this week's presentations were very talk-y and didn't keep my scant attention very well.

5. Use Common Sense

Turn off your cell phone (c-level executive!). Deliver content that has value, rather than a summary of what's already available on your website, especially if that's where your participants registered for your web conference. DO NOT READ OFF OF YOUR SLIDES. Arrive early. Be confident and composed; while web conferencing offers a chance for more "informal" meetings, this is still a business setting. Friendly jokes, customized content, and time with individual participants can be great, but emotional outbursts and inadequate content or preparation are absolutely not!

I'll be attending more web conferences in the future, so I'll let you know how these next meetings go. If you have any web conferencing tips (or anti-tips) to share, feel free to leave them in the comments.


Joseph Smith said...

In an age when event budgets are being cut and broadband Internet access is rising, webinars are becoming increasingly popular. Webinars are web-based seminars, that usually include over 30 participants and are used to conduct presentations, workshops, lectures and large-scale meetings. Since webinars are held online, they allow companies to save money on travel, catering and venues, all of which are costs commonly associated with face-to-face seminars. However, due to their large attendance, webinars need careful planning in order to be successful. This is why those planning on web conferencing need to take their time to ensure that they properly go through all the necessary steps which will ensure the webinar’s success.

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