September 26, 2017 Mark Bornstein
It’s funny, when it comes to webinar best practices, the one thing that rarely gets discussed is the opening. And openings are important. I have attended and delivered a LOT of webinars in my life and it occurs to me that the most boring section of most webinars is actually the intro. There, the host will greet everybody and go through some kind of housekeeping section that feels like the presenter would rather be doing anything else in the world. It’s often painful to listen to, even if some of the information is important.
Do we will still need to do webinar intros and housekeeping? Sure — they establish the host, set the tone and provide valuable information to the audience about how to navigate the next hour. Can this be done better? You bet. Here are a few tips that will help make your webinar intros much more effective.
Set the tone
So many webinar presenters have a weird misconception by about tone. They believe that webinars have to have a dry, professional, but personality-less feel to them, and tend to speak to the audience in a monotone voice, like they are reviewing tax documents. Horrible!
When you greet your webinar audience for the first time, do it with energy and enthusiasm. Let them know that they are amongst friends. Give them a warm greeting and show them that they are in for a non-painful, and perhaps even fun, hour of education and inspiration. Even if you are delivering webinars for a serious industry such as healthcare or financial services, that doesn’t mean that your webinars should feel emotionless. There is nothing wrong, EVER, with greeting your audience with a smile.
Don’t read your abstract
Another strange thing I see companies do at the beginning of webinars is to read the abstract or email promotion for the event they are already attending. Hey, they are there, you don’t need to convince them again! They know why they signed up and are in your webinar and ready to go. The best way to keep your audience is to get on with the show.
Script the intro, carefully
I often get asked if webinars should be scripted and my answer is always a definitive no… except for intro scripts. There is simply too much detail to review with your audience to try to memorize it all. You have enough on your mind just preparing for your presentation. Also, you want to make sure that you get the instructions right. There is nothing worse than someone stumbling through housekeeping recommendations, confusing the audience before the presentation even begins.
Housekeeping: Be thorough but quick
If you have set up a bunch of features for your audience, you certainly need to point them out. There is nothing wrong with reviewing all of the features of your webinar (free content downloads, Q&A, links to other assets, etc.) but do so quickly. Try to review them in order, perhaps reviewing widgets from left to right to make it easy to follow. And don’t leave your smile at the door. Maintain your happy demeanor, even as you read the script.
Choose one CTA to emphasize
Most of the extra webinar features that you make available to your audience are there to elicit an action. Perhaps you are linking to a free trial or a demo. Maybe you are using your webinar to promote another upcoming event. There is a limit to how much you want to do in your housekeeping, so try to focus on one key CTA that you can emphasize as something that your audience should pay special attention to.
Use a visual
A lot of companies actually create a housekeeping slide to show what is available in the webinar console. The speaker can either highlight what is on the slide or simply let the audience view for themselves during the welcome, saving more time for content. If you do this, however, it’s as important to make sure that you are constantly updating that slide as you customize each webinar console.
Some companies have even made housekeeping videos that run before the webinar starts. This can be a fun way to check the housekeeping box — but it’s hard to make changes to a video, so be aware.
Save the intros
One thing I always thought was awkward is when webinar hosts introduce speakers, then pause to review the housekeeping, then go back to the speakers. The audience can get confused as to who is who, and you end up having to re-introduce the speakers all over again. This is especially true for audio-only webinars. Welcome your guests, review the housekeeping and then segue to your speaker and content introductions. It will make everything flow so much better.
A webinar is just like any other type of entertainment. People can lose interest quickly if the beginning isn’t engaging and the show isn’t easy to follow. Greet your audience with a smile, quickly let them know what they need to know, and get on with the show.