How to Make Web Seminars More Effective

By Geoffrey James

With travel becoming more difficult every day and sales territories expanding into global markets, the idea of conducting customer meetings remotely has never looked so attractive. While Web seminars can be incredibly powerful sales tools, your sales efforts will fall flat if you just use the technology to put a talking head on customers’ computer screens. Here’s how to do the job right.

1. Let your goals determine the technology. It’s always a mistake to decide on a Webinar technology before you decide how you want to communicate with your customers. Do you want two-way communication? Do you want to give a demonstration or play a demonstration video? Do you need to archive the Webinar for future playback? Make sure the technology you select supports the features you need and that you troubleshoot the technology before you use it in a real event. It’s a good idea to review all possible catastrophes and come up with backup plans. For example, you’ll want a backup plan if, for example, the presenter loses the connection or if some attendees can’t hear the presenter’s voice. Be prepared for anything and you’re more likely to have a successful event.

2. Treat the Webinar like an important public meeting. Use email, instant messaging and phone calls to keep attendees focused on the event. Create a welcome slide that lets attendees know they are at the right location and what they can expect from the meeting. Start and end on time. Because Web audience members are sitting quietly in their offices reading email and checking the clock while waiting for the event to begin, a slight delay in a face-to-face event can seem like a lifetime. Webinars are more complicated than teleconferences so you might need a technical support person to handle logistical problems and keep the mechanics of the event working smoothly. For major Webinars, you might consider hiring a professional moderator to act as the voice of attendees who type questions.

3. Make the Webinar something special. The best way to increase attendance is to offer attendees the opportunity to interact with a recognized speaker. Another way to boost attendance is to offer a valuable door prize at the end of the program or a special gift to those who register, sign on and attend the entire event. Be sure you make the entire Webinar interesting, which means keeping it from being a series of talking heads. Instead create a multimedia experience that includes video clips, shared spreadsheets, explanatory slides, instant polls and other experiential elements. Be sure the event is fast moving and appealing, so attendees stay from their email and other distractions. You don’t have to use every feature of the Webinar software, but your presentation material, whatever the format, should be exciting and high quality.

The above is based on a conversation with Curtis O’Keefe, vice president of sales Communique, a provider of audio and Web conferencing solutions headquartered in McLean, VA.