5 Tips for Better Panel Webinars

This article was originally published on JD Supra. Shared with permission.

Done right, panel discussions bringing together several experts are an excellent way to make your webinars stand out: they provide your audience with multiple perspectives on a single problem, they generate lively, in-depth dialog amongst peers and, with leading business and industry speakers on the slate, they enhance your credibility and authority.

But panels come with their own set of challenges. Here are five do’s and don’ts for ensuring the success of your panel discussion webinar.

1. Do: Organize a Practice Run

It’s always a good idea to do a dry run when you’re leading a panel discussion. With webinars it’s critical.

…participants should know each other and what to expect from the discussion

Of course participants should know each other and what to expect from the discussion: questions, answers, timing, speaking order, etc. But they also need to become comfortable with the webinar technology – like speaking to an invisible audience, identifying and eliminating noise issues, and changing slides.

Organize a practice run ahead of the event to make sure everyone’s up to speed and ready to go once the webinar starts.

2. Don’t: Ignore Diversity

Putting together the right panel can be at times more art than science. You want skills, experience, and personalities that complement each other, not cancel each other out.

You want skills, experience, and personalities that complement each other…

A panel that’s diverse – crossing gender, culture, race, or age lines, for example – makes for a better webinar, with richer discussions highlighting a wider range of experience and appealing to a broader audience. It may require you to cast a wider net when you’re looking for speakers, but your audience – and your speakers – will be glad you made the extra effort.

3. Do: Focus on Expertise

The most successful – and the most memorable – webinars are built around true experts who share their knowledge and experience with participants.

Your audience relies on you to bring them valid insight, credible expertise, and a meaningful perspective on the topics being discussed. And to ensure their satisfaction, as well as the success of future webinars, you need to deliver.

…include speakers with backgrounds that resonate with your intended audience.

Spend time getting speakers with backgrounds that resonate with your intended audience. If your webinar targets corporate counsel, for example, include an in-house lawyer who’s resolved the issues you’re discussing. If you’re aiming for attendees in a specific industry, bring in a thought leader from that sector. If you’re discussing government oversight, a federal or state regulator adds valuable authority.

4. Don’t: Offer Panelists a “Speaking Opportunity”

You may have experienced this yourself (I know I have): a conference organizer or discussion leader reaches out to you with a “great opportunity” to present at his event.

Don’t be that person. You’re asking an expert to participate on your panel. You’re asking them to share their knowledge with your audience. You’re not doing them a favor: they’re doing you one, and your request should make that clear.

There are several ways to say that – “we hope to bring together a group of leading experts, and hope that you can join us,” and “it would be an incredible honor if you were to speak on our webinar” come to mind – and none of them include the words “speaking opportunity.”

5. Do: Have a Contingency Plan

The best way to ensure that your webinars go off without a hitch? Expect the unexpected.

I encourage all of my clients to have a contingency plan that works in place before every webinar. This is particularly important when you’re leading a panel discussion with multiple presenters.

Expect the unexpected.

What could go wrong? Dropped calls, lost internet connections, power outages, computer crashes, missing panelists, etc. Chances are you’ll never need it, but if you do, a contingency plan will help you avoid an awkward and unpleasant webinar if anything should go wrong.

Five Tips Legal SMBs can use for Surprise Webinars

As a part of SMB Week, we’re highlighting the webinar tips, tricks and hidden secrets any small organization can deploy for better webinars. This article was originally published on jdsupra.com.

Most webinars are part of your firm’s long-term strategy: they’re programmed and planned out well in advance. So what happens when big news that you need to translate for your clients breaks on short notice? More to the point, how can you develop and deliver a meaningful webinar in 24 hours? Here are five suggestions:

1. Work with Seasoned Attorneys

You need subject matter experts of course, but your webinar will go more smoothly when you’re working with lawyers who are familiar with the format, who have done webinars before, who are comfortable with the pace, the provider, the ways questions are asked and answered. Attorneys who’ve already presented webinars for your firm will be able to focus their limited preparation time on the topics to be discussed rather than how the webinar works.

2. Send Personal Invitations

Mass emails announcing presentations on important topics can work when time is on your side, but on a quick turnaround it’s better to send personalized messages to those contacts most affected by the issues you’re discussing (your profiles of clients and past webinar attendees will tell you who those people are).

Craft your message to make it clear that you know the topic is relevant to the invitee – because they’ve attended similar webinars in the past or downloaded a white paper on a related subject, for example – and remember that the goal of your webinar isn’t to transmit knowledge, it’s to build and enhance relationships with the people in a position to hire your firm. Personal invites can do that.

3. Don’t Overthink the Slides

One of the most time-consuming tasks for developing a webinar is the preparation of slides. That’s because, by and large, people tend to try to cram too many ideas onto their slides, to list all the points they’re covering, to fill up the blank page with words. When you’re on a short deadline, the best way to get around this is to stick to the essentials and limit your bullets to the principal points of the discussion. Use the words – and images, if you can – to accent your presentation instead of recapping it. Leave attendees with concepts they can remember.

4. Invite the Media

Clients and potential clients aren’t the only ones who benefit from your insight and perspective on timely legal developments. Journalists too will appreciate your timely explanation of the impacts that changes in the law, for example, will have on the companies and individuals for whom they are writing. You’ve probably already got a list of reporters who cover these issues, those who’ve quoted your lawyers in the past or called you for background or attended your press conferences. Invite them to your webinar (with a personalized invitation, of course).

5. Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

You’ve heard it before, but that doesn’t make it less true: seeking perfection can get in the way of producing something good. When you’ve got less than 24 hours to develop, publicize, and stage a webinar on a breaking issue, you have to be realistic about what you can achieve. That doesn’t mean settling for a sloppy presentation or a glitchy webinar, but it just might mean letting go when things aren’t perfect.

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With immediate analysis of current developments, your lawyers get out in front of the issues affecting your clients’ ability to do business. And with a well-produced webinar, you develop valuable collateral that later audiences can access on-demand, when their schedules permit and when they’re ready to act on it. That’s a win-win for everyone.

Is there anything that you would add to this list? I’d love to hear about it.

For more information about how ON24 helps legal firms conduct top-tier webinars, check out the legal section of our website.