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Catastrophe… or Opportunity? How to Deal with the Unexpected

August 23rd, 2017 Mark Bornstein

It’s funny, one of the biggest fears I hear from people that deliver webinars is their concern that something will go wrong, especially during live webinars. I feel completely the opposite. I love live webinars because of that “anything can happen” reality. It makes them exciting and fun.

Now before you call me crazy, hear me out. First, if you do enough webinars — and I give literally hundreds every year — something will eventually happen. My list of unexpected webinar moments is long. I remember presenting once and the phone trunk in the entire building went down, effectively eliminating my ability to present… for five minutes. I have had laptops die, power go out, guest speakers drop off, and in one case, I almost lost my voice in the middle of a presentation.

Things will happen, it’s how you deal with them that matters. Here are some of my tips for avoiding danger and preparing for anything:

Build in as much redundancy as possible

Never present on a cell phone, but have yours close by in case your landline goes down. Make sure you have a power cord for your laptop. Have another computer close by, so if yours goes down, you can do a quick switch and continue presenting. Have a printed copy of your slides so, in case your computer freezes, you can continue the conversation.

Practice Your webinar

I can’t tell you how many times I have built a webinar deck only to find out live that the animations, order, or transitions I built didn’t work right. I learned my lessons the hard way. Once you have built your deck, go through the entire thing in show mode and confirm that everything works as it should. A few hours later, do it again. I guarantee that you will find at least one other mistake.

Don’t wait till the last minute

There are a lot of little things that can go wrong if you don’t allow yourself the time to discover and fix them. Make sure that every presenter is on the webinar thirty minutes in advance. Check sound levels and quality. If someone’s phone or video line isn’t working well, you will have time to change.

Don’t panic!

Even with all of the preparation in the world, the unexpected will happen. I actually love those moments. Yes, they will often vault your heart into your throat, but how you deal with them is what matters most. My advice? Grace and humor. Don’t freak out, don’t panic. Be honest with your audience about what is happening; people love human moments. Have fun with it. If you handle that moment with grace, your audience will like you even more. They will relate and it will make you, or your speaker, more relatable.

It’s just real life, and people like real a lot better than canned. So, do what you can to avoid the tiny mistakes, but when something happens, just roll with it. Your audience will stick with you and you may find that a potential disaster turns into your best webinar ever.