Give ’em what they want

Since the beginning of time or at least since the Webinar was invented over a decade ago the standard format has been akin to a lecture.

45 minute presentation followed by 15 minute Q&A

This simply is not how people like to consume content anymore (not sure they ever did). People are used to being involved in the conversation and all the data we have access to indicates that the more people interact with a webinar, the more they get involved by asking questions and the more positively they rank their experience.

In my last post The Imitation Game I tried to provide inspiration for your webinar program by having you think about the webinar as a “show” rather than a convention of corporate communications bound by an agenda format lacking excitement. In this post I will aspire to provide you with the recipe for taking your content from didactic to fantastic!

The “interview technique” webinar that breaks the dynamic of the lecture while still maintaining the single presenter model is the format to focus on. To accomplish this format you will need:

  • One presenter with a deep knowledge of the subject being discussed
  • One host with a working knowledge of the topic and a good understanding of the audience (usually someone in marketing…maybe you!)

Step One: Throw the PowerPoint Away

Often times a webinar is first conceived as a deck. A mish mash of past presentations that has been created with a beginning, middle and an end to be delivered by an expert in a linear format. The best of which have been trial tested at a conference or in boardrooms with customers and the worst of which try to tell someone everything they wanted to know on a topic but were afraid to ask. The deck is an integral part of the webinar but should be the final step not the first! The first step is defining a compelling topic and defining who you are talking to.

Not sure who your audience is? Check out this great tool from The Streaming Network’s Webinar Survival Guide for help!

Step Two: The Talking Points

Now that you know who are talking to and what you are talking about it is time to meet with your presenter. The goal of the meeting or the presenter’s preparation is to provide you with 10-15 talking points which speak to the topic and the target audience. The topics don’t necessarily need to be linear i.e. each topic does not to build upon one another but rather they should encompass all content you or rather your presenter believe would be important to your audience.

Step Three: Define Your Questions

Out of the talking points you will likely find that most of them follow a pretty concise narrative while a few of them are flyers, items that often come up when talking to customers that might be a myth or maybe a half-truth propagated by a competitor. Take those topics that follow the concise narrative and create questions that will drive your presenter to answer using the talking points he or she has provided. Call those Questions 1-10. The other questions that don’t fully follow the narratives become audience questions, filler questions or comments that the host can add at various points each of which is important to the anatomy of your show.

Step Four: Re-Write Your Questions

Go back to considering who your target audience is and try to write the questions from their point of view. If you believe you have already done so then read your questions aloud just to make sure they sound human and are not full of industry double speak or jargon alienating your audience.

Step Five: Get Your PowerPoint Out of the Trash!

I know I told you to throw it out but now that you have the content pretty much mapped out you need the visuals to support. Grab the deck that got the planning process started and match the existing slides you have to the talking points your presenter provided in the order of the questions you have created.

Step Six: What About the Extras?

The flyers, myths or propaganda from a competitive school of thought should be used to help get the audience into the mood to participate. I like using one as an audience question very early in the webinar to create trust with your audience that if they submit a question it will in fact be answered. Since we know that only 7% of a webinar audience are generally inclined to ask questions I like to reserve the other extra questions for my Q&A period in the event there are not enough questions to carry the full hour or to prompt the audience to get involved.

Step Six: Get The Buy In From Your Presenter

Do a dry run with your presenter so they are comfortable with this format. After they are done thanking you for doing their work for them they will likely need some reassurance that this format will work. At that point you can show them this blog or this example

In the end you should have a script that resembles the following agenda:

Host Introduction – 3 minutes

Review logistics for using the webinar console, housekeeping items and introduce your speaker

Prepared Questions 1 to 3 – 10 minutes

Broad questions that set the stage for what will be discussed during the webinar and provide background on the topic.

Audience Question (extra question # 1) – 3 minutes

Mix in one of your extra questions as an audience question early to establish trust with your audience that you are listening to encourage them to participate.

Prepared Questions 3 to 7 – 20 minutes

This is the meat of content where you will deliver the majority of narrative you set out to in the Webinar.

Formal Question and Answer – 15 minutes

This is where you answer real questions from your audience and/or the other extra questions you had prepared. Remember you always run out of time and you never run out of questions!

Your Moment of Zen – 3 minutes

Give your presenter an opportunity to comment on the webinar as a whole, cover off anything they think they might have missed or reiterate any important topics that may have come up in the Q&A

The Close – 2 minutes

The host wraps up the event thanking the presenter and audience for their time, plug any resources or promotions and talk about the next webinar or event.

Matthew Ley

Matthew Ley

Matt Ley is the current President and co-founder of The Streaming Network. Starting his career in virtual events in 2007, Matt is an industry veteran that is passionate about helping customers stand out in their industry with compelling virtual events that people want to attend. The driving ambition for Matt is that virtual events are not a utility for information distribution but an opportunity for firms to create a competitive advantage. Matt is an accomplished speaker, moderator and a sought-after thought leader.

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