5 Common Webinar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

There are a lot of opportunities to make webinar mistakes during production. The wrong link gets shared to an audience, a power outage takes place, a speaker has to drop out for some unforeseen reason or — and this does happen — the host locks themselves out of their studio or office.

Whatever the reason, webinar mistakes happen. Knowing how to respond to them when they transpire is important. That’s why, last week, our own Chief Webinerd, Mark Bornstein, took to the studio to lay out 2019’s top 10 webinar mistakes and how to avoid them.

We’ve collected five of those common mistakes — in no particular order — for you to review. Let’s take a look now:

1. Repeating Yourself, Repeating Yourself, Repeating Yourself

Webinars need promoting and that means emails — a lot of emails. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations believe email copy is an exercise in repetition and will send you the same email several times while expecting a different result. Einstein had something to say about that.

Instead of sending the same email over and over again, vary its message and vary where the reader is in the sign-up cycle. For example, you can give a high-level overview of an upcoming webinar during your first email send and a personal message from your presenter for the second send. Your third and fourth emails should address audiences who are “on the fence” — those who’ve clicked through an email but haven’t registered yet — shortly before a webinar takes place.

2. Plain Consoles

It’s not the 1990s anymore, so basic grey backgrounds and dated-looking webinar consoles aren’t going to cut it. Plain webinar consoles are just that: dull looking, basic and about as interesting to interact with as a damp cloth. Change it up and make your consoles something your audience looks forward to.

Designing a good console isn’t as hard as it sounds. If your organization has brand guidelines (and it should) a simple solution would be to grab your brand logo, grab your brand colors and create a console based on those two elements. Another simple technique would be to grab any company imagery — so long as it’s not distracting — and use that as your webinar console. Whatever you do, just don’t make it boring.

3. Toxic Slides

Speaking of design. If you’re using slides during your webinar — and the vast majority of you are — make sure they, like your console, aren’t boring or toxic. What do we mean? Well, we mean slides that have too much text, slides that have fonts that are far too small and slides that more design elements in it than a reasonable person can process.

What’s the secret to detoxifying your webinar slides? Simple. Use fewer. In fact, the main element of any webinar should be the presenter and what they have to say — not the slides. If you use slides, they should be easy to read or contain a single image for the presenter to talk to. Remember: attendees want to hear what you have to say — not interpret your slides.

4. No Strategy for On-Demand Webinars

Okay, so you’ve run your webinar and you’re sharing your results with sales. It’s over now right? Wrong. Webinars don’t end after a live production. If anything, on-demand webinars are just as important element in your program as the live event.

With on-demand webinars you can broaden your audience (up to a third, according to the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report 2019) and cement your company as a proactive thought leader. How? Well, you can build out a webinar series, organize on-demand events by topic and even use them to provide a continuing education course. Really, it’s up to you.

5. Panic

Tripping over a few words in front a crowd isn’t great. But not being able to recenter yourself and move on is worse.  You get a shot of adrenaline and things spiral out of control from there. Panic is a common mistake when it comes to presenting a webinar and, really, any type of public speaking. It’s so common it even has a name: cognitive tunneling.

Cognitive tunneling is a common phenomenon where our attention, as a speaker or presenter, is funneled away from where it should be and towards whatever our brain fixates on. As Charles Duhigg describes it in his 2016 book, “Better Faster Smarter: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity,” cognitive tunneling is “a mental glitch that sometimes occurs when our brains are forced to transition abruptly from relaxed automation to panicked attention.”

The key to avoiding a panic-induced breakdown is simple: recognizing it when it happens, taking a breath and moving on. But that’s not always easy to do. Don’t try to hide it if you find yourself in a moment of panic or get locked up during a presentation. Instead, address the issue and move on. Your audience will understand. After all, they’re human too.

We all make mistakes. Even experts. But being aware of the most common mistakes and how to combat them is crucial to running a program of any kind. If you’d like to learn more about the most common webinar mistakes in  2019, check out our Webinar Best Practices Series episode, “The 10 Common Webinar Mistakes in 2019…And How To Avoid Them.” And remember: relax and practice, practice, practice.

Mastering the Webinar Introduction Script

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.

Master the webinar basics:

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.