Webinar Speakers: Making the most of every speaking opportunity

Quick Summary:

Successful speakers share key habits that make their content memorable and stand out. By continuously applying these habits, speakers master the art of getting the most out of every speaking opportunity. Webinars provide speakers with an opportunity to reach larger audiences in less time. Webinars also have a specific set of characteristics that differ from in-person presentations.

In this article, we share nine habits shared by successful webinar speakers. Some of the habits are applied before the webinar begins, while others apply when the webinar goes live. By successfully applying these habits, webinar speakers better engage their audience, create audience satisfaction and loyalty, but also ensure that the production value of the webinar is flawless.

There are two types of people in the world. Those who are amazing and engaging speakers, and those who are not. Ok, that may be a little harsh and perhaps not entirely accurate. But we do all recall seeing speakers in videos, webinars, or on stage that have us in the palm of their hand, who enrapture us, have us entirely mesmerised and who we cannot wait to tell others about.

Think of these five examples. I would hazard a guess that at least one of these is amongst the speakers who you love to listen to:

The enemy of audience engagement and satisfaction is a speaker who is unable to achieve those two outcomes. If they are unable to engage their audience, or they are unable to leave behind an audience that is delighted with the content they just witnessed, I would argue that the speaker should go back to the drawing board.

We spend a lot of time with webinar speakers to ensure that this is not a situation they find themselves in. Yet, sadly, there are many webinars that go ahead regardless of whether a speaker is prepared to deliver value to their audience. There is, however, a solution to this problem. Read on to find out more.

Our audience’s time is limited and valuable

Our audience’s time is limited. And it is valuable – to them and to us. We can never take this time for granted, because our audience has a free choice of who they want to give this time to. In order to earn the right to take some of our audience’s time, webinar speakers must always consider how they can provide value that is – at least – of equal perceived value to the audience’s time.

If webinar speakers provide less value they will lose their audience and the speaker has failed to honour the audience’s time.

At the very moment you are reading this article (thank you for your time, by the way!) your audience is engaging with your own content. Can you be sure that your audience is getting the value they deserve from your content?

If they are not, you must act quickly to change that. If they perceive insufficient value from one piece of content, this perception can quickly spread (possibly unjustly so) to other pieces of your content. In the worst-case scenario, your audience will share their negative perception with others.

Use Psychology to your advantage

There is a strong psychological principle at play in this situation. It is called the “Halo Effect” and if you don’t make a change, this negative perception can manifest itself and remain unchanged for a long time. This is called the “Conservatism Bias” which can be devastating to content creators. We explain both principles in our article “The Psychology Of Webinar Success”. Read it as soon as possible.

The big question therefore is this: How do we ensure that webinar speakers create the value that will engage their audience and create audience satisfaction and loyalty?

WebinarExperts’ customers run 100s of webinars every year. Our team has compiled the top 9 habits shared by successful webinar speakers. These factors enable webinar speakers to rise above others and, as a result, delight their audience.

What is the missing piece of the puzzle?

For the purpose of this article, we will assume that some of the speakers’ core capabilities such as confidence and subject matter knowledge are a given.

So, what are the missing pieces of the puzzle that make some webinar speakers more successful, engaging, and delightful to listen to than others?

We have compiled the nine most impactful aspects for speakers who present online, and divided them into three pre-webinar and six in-webinar habits.

Three Pre-webinar habits of successful webinar speakers

  1. Focus on preparation
  2. Apply care and attention
  3. Ensure availability (for producers and organisers)
  1. Focus on Preparation

Our first-hand observations and experience show that webinar speakers who take the time to prepare tend to be more successful at engaging and delighting an audience. This may appear to be an obvious point, but in practice this is not always the case.

Preparation comes in different forms. The most successful webinar presenters cover all of these forms of preparation.

  • Short-term preparation

For webinar speakers, this typically covers the immediate content of the slideware, demo, panel discussion, or any other content presented on the webinar. This preparation allows for the confident delivery of the specific webinar content. It also allows the speaker to answer most content-related questions live on air.

  • Long-term preparation

This includes how webinar speakers hone their overall skillset for a wider range of topics within the subject matter. This enables webinar speakers to provide additional context, examples, and content as the situation arises. As a result, the speaker’s webinar content will come across as more natural and valuable, more responsive to the audience’s areas of interest, and the delivery of the content will be more confident, comprehensive, and cohesive. Webinar speakers who prepare in this way are able to better understand the audience’s needs, challenges, and areas of specific interest. With this insight webinar speakers will be more attuned to their audience and more likely to deliver value.

The combination of short and long-term preparation techniques ensures that there is an overall minimum negative effect from a lack of preparation on the delivery and format of the webinar. In contrast, a lack of preparation in this way can easily lead to webinar content that is more rigid, limited, less relatable, and less relevant. Each of these will lead to lower engagement rates and lack of audience satisfaction.

  1. Apply care and attention

Time is a scarce resource, especially for good speakers who are in demand across the organisation. This can often lead to webinar speakers being recruited from a diverse range of teams. When combining scarcity of time and a second-choice speaker who may be less qualified than a first-choice speaker, the focus for preparation tends to fall on the “short term” preparation mentioned above. This can lead to a reduction in attention to detail or indeed a decreased level of knowledge by the chosen speaker.

By comparison, a more highly qualified first-choice speaker will, by default, have a higher degree of knowledge and is therefore better able to apply care and attention to the content, as well as questions (and answers) arising from the audience during the webinar.

Care and attention are key for all speakers, but a lack of care and attention is more likely to occur when time is scarce.

  1. Ensure availability (for producers and organisers)

Over many years and 100s (if not 1000s) of webinars, we have observed that the most successful webinar speakers make themselves available to webinar organisers, as well as the webinar producers, in the lead up to the webinar.

It usually doesn’t involve much time, but it is crucial to the success of the webinar. Being available mean that overall planning, coordination and alignment between the different stakeholders and contributors runs smoothly.

Part of the organiser’s, producer’s and moderator’s role is to ensure the webinar speakers and their content are shown in the best way possible. Many aspects contribute to this goal, including a smooth content flow, engaging interactivity, and flawless technical execution of the webinar.

Being available to organisers and producers ahead of the webinar ensures that speakers and moderators are aware of the planned logistics and the webinar’s format. In return, webinar producers and organisers receive insight into the speaker’s content and intended interactivity. Without prior alignment it’s likely that the production value is impacted negatively.

This creates a negative audience experience, which reflects primarily on the speakers. This negative perception can have devastating long-term effects (see The Psychology Of Webinar Success).

At a minimum, webinar speakers and moderators should be available for the following:

  • Initial kick-off call between webinar speakers, moderator, organiser, and producer
  • Alignment call for logistics and the webinar’s presenter interface
  • At least one content dry-run between all webinar speakers and the moderator
  • 30-minute pre-call immediately before the webinar goes live

Six in-webinar habits successful webinar speakers

In addition to the three pre-webinar habits, successful webinar speakers also share six in-webinar habits. These build on the positive impact of the three pre-webinar habits.

It will come as no surprise that the majority of these six habits centre around the audience’s experience and satisfaction. In order to be as successful as possible, webinar speakers should…

  1. Focus on providing value to the audience
  2. Consider what the audience sees and hears
  3. Involve the audience
  4. Empathise with, and inspire, the audience
  5. Make content timely and relevant
  6. Tell relatable and engaging stories
  1. Focus on providing value to the audience

The most successful webinar speakers will always put the audience at the centre of their content delivery. These speakers understand that the audience is the ultimate beneficiary. A satisfied audience that has been served with great and valuable content will eventually turn into pipeline and customers.

This focus begins during the content preparation stage, but ultimately the delivery of the content is where the audience recognises that they have been fully considered and served.

It can be easy for webinar speakers to focus on their own organisation’s interests when it comes to presenting content. “We want the audience to know XYZ, so we’ll present that content”. However, if the audience wants to know about ABC, instead of XYZ, then a speaker should focus on the audience’s interests instead.

That is not to say content on topic ABC should not be included. However, it should not be the focus or indeed the majority of the content. It is perfectly legitimate to include educational content on related topics, as long as it provides value to the audience that is related to the original content and doesn’t miss the mark.

Value is also created in the form of interactivity with which the audience can engage. In this context, it is important for webinar speakers to design their interactivity to be a “give and take”. For example, when running polls, the audience should get some insights and value in return for answering the poll question. Using polls to only harvest data from the audience will not provide any value to the participants and, therefore, be less effective.

Remember, it is always better to run multiple webinars to get a message across in its entirety, than only running one webinar with the full message, if that leaves the audience devoid of practical value.

  1. Consider what the audience sees and hears

The best webinar presenters take a step back and consider what the audience’s online experience will be. Presenting on a webinar or digital event is very different to an in-person presentation with a physical audience. There are no verbal or non-verbal cues to observe and certain content pieces and jokes receive no immediate response from the audience.

The audience’s experience is dominated by five main aspects: content quality, content delivery, audio quality, video quality, and the webinar interface itself. The most successful and popular webinar speakers focus on getting each of these aspects right in equal measure. An imbalance between these aspects can derail a speaker’s presentation and lead to a negative audience perception.

We are so used to seeing a perfect setup and delivery on TV that a low-quality production is quickly noticeable and will be judged accordingly. This is even more true since Covid and WFH have increased the volume of video calls workforces participate in every day.

Linkedin is full of posts of speakers sharing their home studios, with semi-professional setups including high-quality cameras, lighting, microphones, and backgrounds. It is a worthwhile investment for regular online speakers who have the audience experience in mind.

  1. Involve the audience

In a world where social interaction is important and highly valued, it seems counter-intuitive to sit behind a webcam and present to a large audience on a one-way livestream. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of webinars cannot be denied.

In this conundrum, it is important to focus on how the audience is included in the experience rather than being passive bystanders.

The best webinar presenters achieve this through a variety of tactics, designed to appeal to the audience and genuinely involve them.

One of the strongest ways to achieve this is through emotive content that audiences relate to and empathise with. This approach establishes a strong connection between the speaker and their audience before any action has even been taken by the audience.

This connection provides the basis for traditional engagement and interactivity where the audience takes action in order to be involved. This can include poll questions, live Q&A or ‘Ask The Expert’ sessions, surveys, as well as the provision of downloadable assets that provide additional insight and value to the audience.

Webinars can also be used to create a digital pathway to a physical audience experience. Just because some events are digital and others are in-person, doesn’t mean that they cannot co-exist or indeed serve each other.

  1. Empathise with, and inspire, the audience

Knowledge transfer is only one of many aspects of a successful webinar. In a business setting it may be seen as the core feature of any webinar, but just by itself knowledge transfer can be very mundane and even boring.

The most successful webinar speakers create content that shows empathy with the audience’s situation and challenges. The acknowledgement of a challenge leads to an opportunity to address it. When webinar speakers start with this acknowledgement, their audience will automatically be more receptive to their content’s message.

As with any good story, the identification of a challenge (or enemy) combined with a sense of urgency, sets the stage for a possible solution and a positive outcome.

When content is presented in this way, the audience will be inspired to take action. An inspired audience is more likely to be engaged, retain information, have an increased motivation to take action, become more creative and innovative, and ultimately have a higher degree of loyalty to a speaker’s content. Combined, these benefits have a positive impact, which in turn boosts outcomes and performance.

  1. Make content timely and relevant

Ryan Reynolds is perhaps best known as an actor (e.g. Deadpool), but he is also behind some of the most viral brand advertising, which has turned him into a Billionaire, including Mint Mobile, Aviation Gin, and more recently Wrexham FC.

A major contributing factor behind the success of his brand marketing is an ultra-quick content production team (called the Maximum Effort Team), which creates content within days of unforeseen newsworthy events taking place.

As a result, this content is extremely timely and relevant to its target audience and often goes viral.

While speakers may not have a full quick-reaction content team behind them, they can still make their content relevant and timely for their audience. And the most successful webinar presenters do exactly that.

By contrast, a presentation that has not been changed for 12 months and has been presented many times over is much less likely to engage and inspire. It is either out of date, over-used, or too generic to add value to an audience.

Making regular small (or big) changes to content in order to keep it current and interesting is a big part of appealing to an audience.

  1. Tell relatable and engaging stories

Storytelling is a much-used term when it comes to presentations. But many speakers struggle with the concept, especially if they present infrequently or with little notice.

Storytelling is not necessarily about telling a story. Sounds strange? Let me explain. A speaker doesn’t need to know (or acquire) stories to build into their presentation. Stories do help to support a point or concept, and some stories are amazingly visual and inspiring, but many stories have been over-used exactly because they are so good.

So, what do you do if you don’t have great and inspiring stories of your own? You can apply storytelling techniques to your content.

Instead of presenting content as product feature after product feature after product feature after product feature, speakers can apply different story arcs to their content.

For example, here are some simple steps to follow to make content more engaging and relatable by applying storytelling techniques (credit: Alex Banks and Sachin Ramje):

  1. Name the enemy / state the challenge
  2. Create urgency
  3. Agitate the problem
  4. Offer the missing piece of the puzzle
  5. Spark Intrigue
  6. Sell benefits, not features
  7. Show, don’t tell
  8. Build Trust
  9. Demonstrate the potential
  10. Show your long-term vision

If you are a regular (or even infrequent) presenter, compare your content to the storytelling techniques above. How many of them feature in your content – and in what order?

We can all be better storytellers. And we can all become successful presenters. We just need to know how and perhaps get a helping hand here and there. The result will be engaged and happy audiences that become loyal to your content. With a loyal following, you can further grow your audience and inspire them to take action. These positive benefits will compound over time and your results will scale.

This article was written with some of the storytelling techniques mentioned above. And if you have come to the end of this article, it seems it worked. So glad it did. You can do the same, so start today and let us know how you get on.

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