Understanding your audience
In our article 9 Key Habits Of Successful Webinar Speakers we talk about the importance of the speaker’s ability to empathise with their audience. This empathy creates connection and lays the foundation for understanding your audience.
To create authentic webinar content, you must first understand your audience inside and out. Know their pain points, interests, and expectations. Only by truly understanding your audience can you craft content that resonates with them on a personal level.
You might achieve this by having been in the customer’s shoes in the past, meaning you may have been a customer of your current employer yourself. No doubt, there is no better way to know your audience.
If this is not the case, understanding comes from active listening and spending time with customers. Creating a forum of open and honest conversations, as well as information exchange, provides an opportunity to learn more about your customers’ challenges.
This insight doesn’t have to come from in-person meetings alone though. You can also augment your insights through information derived from other webinars.
In The Power Of Webinar Formats we talk about how to use different webinar formats to address the diverse content requirements of audiences at different maturity stages. One such format is the “Ask The Expert” webinar where an expert answers a wide range of audience questions, rather than presenting content. The audience’s questions provide an insight into your (prospective) customers’ challenges, as each question comes from a specific point of interest.
Armed this with insight, you can now create content that resonates with your audience, because you have listened to and understood their challenges.
The Pitfalls of Sounding Rehearsed
Even when speakers truly know and understand their audience, they can still sound rehearsed when delivering a webinar or talk. It’s normal. You want to make sure you don’t forget any important points, so you rehearse a talk track. You may have deep knowledge. but you prefer to use a talk track to keep you focused on the essentials. Completely relatable.
Yet, when the delivery of the rehearsed talk track sounds like a script, it can detract from its effectiveness. Participants may perceive such webinars as insincere, leading to decreased engagement and trust.
Common pitfalls include:
- Overly Formal Language: Using jargon or overly formal language can alienate your audience
- Lack of Interaction: Failing to engage with participants or answer their questions in real-time can make your webinar feel like a monologue
- Monotone Delivery: A lack of enthusiasm or a monotone delivery can bore your audience.
Even when your preparation time is short, you can employ strategies to sound more natural and engaging. In fact, using these strategies may even save you time AND make your delivery sound more authentic.
Strategies To Sound More Natural and Engaging
When a speaker shows natural authenticity in their delivery, it is instantly engaging. Why? Because it feels familiar. We all have conversations in our daily lives, which are natural and authentic. We recognise and know the format and we’re comfortable with it. So, when a talk is delivered in that style, we connect with it more easily.
You may think that an in-person talk or presentation is different. It takes place in a more formal setting, and you want to sound professional. Conversations can be had afterwards. But there are elements of conversations that can be built into your talks to make them sound more relatable, authentic, and natural.
This is partly the reason why many of us are happy listening to a podcast for 90 minutes, but a talk of even half that time would seem like it dragged on for hours.
So, what can you do to make your webinars sound more authentic and engaging?
- Incorporate Anecdotes and Personal Stories: Inject personal anecdotes to add a human touch to your content
- Use Conversational Language and Tone: Speak in a way that feels like you’re talking directly to your audience, not reading from a script
- Encourage Audience Interaction: Incorporate interactive elements like polls, surveys, and Q&A sessions to keep participants engaged
- Practice Active Listening: During Q&A sessions, actively listen to participant questions and respond genuinely.
Did you notice it? Three of the four points above will actually save you time or give you time back, which you can use to think and react to your audience.
Anecdotes and personal stories are already in your brain and you don’t really need to rehearse or prepare them. You have told them before and because you have experienced them yourself, your recall of them is easier and more natural.
Audience interaction is effectively active participation. During this time, you don’t need to remember a talk track (i.e. less time/need to rehearse) and as an added bonus you get insights into what your audience is thinking about and interested in.
Practicing active listening, means you’re not talking. Again, this means you hand control to your audience to share their thoughts and views. You learn something from that, and it naturally turns into an authentic conversation.
When you apply these strategies to a webinar, you are in effect scaling the concept of conversational marketing. You are taking a one-to-many format (the webinar) and putting it to work as a conversational marketing tool. Conversational marketing is usually a one-to-one experience for the audience, but with a webinar you are now using its core principles at scale. You are doing this not to replace the need for one-to-one engagement, but to enhance and extend it.
Preparation is key, knowledge is the enabler
When it comes down to it, you cannot get around preparation. It lays the foundation for a solid piece of content. But by itself you may struggle to sound natural and authentic. The danger is that you just deliver a rehearsed talk track, which will sound scripted.
This is particularly true for more conversational content such as panel discussions. An unrehearsed panel discussion can easily descend into an unstructured and uninformative conversation. Ad hoc questions will receive unprepared answers, which can even be detrimental to the content or one of the parties on the panel. Depending on the dynamic of the panel, one or more members may not get the airtime they deserve, if one speaker is overly dominant and not guided by the moderator.
Instead, a clear agreement on the questions along with a plan on who the question will be posed to first, second, third etc will create an easy-to-follow format. Panel members will know what to expect and the content will be structured and clear for the audience.
A simple format to follow is this:
- Question 1 is posed to panel speaker 1, with speaker 2 providing commentary after speaker 1
- Question 2 is posed to panel speaker 2, with speaker 3 providing commentary after speaker 2
- Question 3 is posed to panel speaker 3, with speaker 1 providing commentary after speaker 3
Knowledge of the subject matter and of the audience’s challenges and pain points will give you (or your panel members) the empathy, understanding, and context to relate to their needs.
Knowledge of your subject matter and of your audience’s challenges and pain points will give you the empathy, understanding, and context to relate to their needs.
Combined, these two aspects form the foundation for an authentic and natural response. That is what your talk should be: a response to a need by showing a solution. Don’t assume you already know the need. Ask first, then listen, and finally react. If you lead with what you think you know and deliver a talk track to address it, you may find that your audience will perceive your content has rehearsed and less relevant to their needs. It will feel like you are pushing your own agenda.
There are many other aspects that make up a good and engaging webinar. For more information, take a look at these articles:
9 Key Habits Of Successful Webinar Speakers
How To Create Better Webinars
The Real Secrets Of Successful Webinars
Or check out our video podcasts or their audio versions for more conversational formats.
There is no doubt that an authentically delivered webinar, which adds value to your audience’s day, is the pinnacle of the content pyramid. Your audience loves it and will come back for more. You will build your company’s (and your own) brand and get deep audience insight in return.
Spend some time reviewing your previous webinars and talks. It’s ok to struggle with this. Listening to yourself critically is not easy, but with time it becomes second nature and forms the foundation for continuous improvement. You got this. And your next webinar will step up a gear and delight the audience. Good luck!