I just saw a webinar that offers little-known secrets for making powerful presentations. At least I tried.
After nearly 15 minutes of introductions, discussions for future webinars, a survey of attendees ‘interests, and citations of speakers’ qualifications, no one had said a word about presentations. Or secrets. As for powerful ones … not in the least.
When presenters forget that they will likely only benefit if their presentation benefits the audience, they always seem to be weak.
Perhaps it’s a symptom of the free model: if we don’t want to pay for something, we have to accept what is given to us (although that’s not really true).
Even pay-to-play is often not on our terms
If you’ve ever bought a VHS tape or DVD of a movie, you need to check out the trailers for the other movies from the distributor or studio. The same goes for cinemas. You bought a ticket to see a movie but first have to sit down through the upcoming attractions. (That’s why I’m coming now that the theaters – when they are open – have seats reserved, 10 minutes late just not to watch trailers.) And a subscription to a public radio or television station doesn’t save you from making promises.
Even if you pay, you will be bombarded with irrelevant content.
Maybe we got complacent. We’ll put up with peripheral distractions as we’ve gotten used to them. This is both unfortunate and a waste of time for viewers.
That’s why I still prefer live theater: when the curtain rises, the play begins. I’m not asked about my reasons for participating, and I don’t have to hear about the playwright’s other shows or the actors’ previous roles. That is why the theater gods invented programs that you receive on the way to your seat.
Online presentations should be something similar. Make it part of the registration process: when people sign up, provide the presenters’ BIOS, and if presenters want to tailor their information to the audience, include a simple survey to learn about the roles and expectations of the participants to experience. Because no one will be able to change a presentation on the fly if this input is made shortly before the start of the webinar.
Since the Greeks first circled an amphitheater stage, they began in medias res – right in the middle of the action. However, webinars assume that everyone knows absolutely nothing. So you start before the beginning and put the audience in the “review” time.
Watch a commercial. Any advertisement. Advertisers have between 10 and 30 seconds to get their point across. And it’s a single point … or it should be. But they don’t spend time in the background. You go from the here and now into the future. You benefit from it – safety, speed, handling, fuel efficiency in cars; Cleanability, lack of irritants, convenience for detergents; Taste, tradition, maybe even calories for beer; Distribution … that’s pretty much all retailer advertising – and put the emphasis on it.
Start at the beginning … not before
Start with the topic of the webinar, seminar, speech, presentation … and put content in context. For example, if the topic involves the use of graphics, there is no need for anyone to learn about the history of diagrams from posterboards to digital animation during the introduction. Save this for the part of the script that explains how to use graphics. Then give a very compact look at how things have changed, from illustrations on easels to overhead projectors, projected slides, digital slides and digital animations.
Do you have something technical to explain? This is a good excuse to ask participants what they already know. You can’t change the graphics you’ve prepared, but you know where to start “in the middle of the action” and can change your comments to reinforce or speed things up.
Of course, you can also include this in the registration survey.
Follow the prohibitions and commandments
As Shawnee Smith said on an old sitcom, “OK, here’s the thing.” Don’t put any barriers in front of the information you need to present. Don’t waste people’s time doing things that aren’t strictly necessary. Don’t make it difficult for attendees to prepare in advance (so they know what they need to know before the presentation begins).
Respect the time and intelligence of the participants. Explain your qualifications … in advance. After the session is over, follow a great presentation with relevant promotions on other content and services.
If you get your job right the first time, there is a chance for a next time.
More resources on great presentations
Five tips for your marketing presentations from good enough to great
Sell vs. Tell: Five ways to reach your audience during a presentation
A 47 Point Guide to First Time Webinar Success