Making IT happen
“Can you guys hear me?”
“Is my video on?”
“Hey guys, wanna meet my cat Harold?!”
“Phil, Phil, P-H-I-L – You’re not on MUTE!”
“Where are my headphones……”
Kid walks in “I LOVE BAAAAANNNNAAAAANNNAAAAAAS!!!!!”
Sound familiar? Welcome to our “New Normal” of business conducted predominantly on webinars and video calls! Though a lot of this makes for fantastic memes, it isn’t always the best way to conduct business, especially in the government world.
So, in these ever changing and evolving times, we thought we could help by outlining some Best Practices on attending and hosting successful federal webinars.
1. Log in early. A couple of minutes prior to your webinar log in and make sure you don’t run into any technical problems before the webinar starts.
2. Mute. Check that you’re on mute. Then, go back, and check again. There is nothing more distracting to a presenter than background noise, kids screaming, spouses asking questions, dogs barking, and even, toilets flushing!
3. Look Professional. Don’t show up with your hair unbrushed, t-shirt backwards, and pizza stains. You don’t need to get fully suited like you’re showing up for an interview, but presenting yourself professionally represents yourself and your company well.
4. Make yourself comfortable.Have a glass of water or a snack ready to go prior to the webinar starting. That way you won’t have to get up during the presentation.
5. Have a presentable background. No need to go all Martha Stewart and redo your work space (though, with working from home being a long-term plan for many of us, adding in some plants, nice photos, and creating a relaxing environment is good for your productivity!) But nobody needs to see unmade beds, inappropriate posters, or wine bottles piled up behind you!
6. Write down questions. Keep a pen and paper close by to write down questions prior to and during the webinar so that when it comes time for Q&A you don’t miss your opportunity to ask questions.
7. We can see you. Be Aware that Everyone is Watching YOU– WE CAN SEE YOU AND EVERYTHING HAPPENING BEHIND YOU! That means if you need to blow your nose, text a friend, start yawning uncontrollably or a kid runs by sans-clothes – everyone can see! Turn off the camera for those special moments please!
8. Stay focused. We all have the urge to multitask the, but try your best to give yourself the hour to fully focus on the webinar and make the time you spend on it truly worth it.
1. Promote your event. Increase your audience by promoting your webinar at least 1 week prior to your event.
2. Enable social media sharing. Make it easy to share your event in an effort to maximize attendance. #sharingiscaring – except when it comes to germs 😉
3. Know your audience. In a time where we all feel far apart, are there things you can mention that help you connect better with your federal audience? Do a little homework on the people and companies attending. Adding in a personal touch can be the difference between being one of the many vs one they remember.
4. Include presenter bios. On your registration page be sure to include brief bios about each presenter, as well as a short overview of what the webinar is about.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice! Presenting on a webinar is completely different than in person. Often it feels as though you’re speaking into a giant silenced void. It is hard to present when you cannot gauge audience reaction, sound quality, or feedback from visual cues. Do your jokes fall flat? Is there something you mention that needs an additional visual aid? Even if it’s a briefing you have given time and time again, it is integral to rehearse, rescript and repeat
6. Timing is everything. Webinar fatigue is REAL. Establish your webinar length according to your content and audience. There is nothing worse than having to attend a long, drawn-out, disorganized presentation. Try to hit that sweet spot around 45 minutes. And if it is going to run longer than an hour, make time for a break mid-way that allows your audience to grab a drink, use the restroom, stretch etc.
7. Be concise. Limit the amount of text on your slides. Become a storyteller rather than a reader of slides. Use visuals and graphics. But also, take out slide transitions, as they slow a presentation down, and often create gaps.
8. Ensure you are visible. If your camera is slightly off and your attendees can only see your eyes it can be very distracting.
9. Check your audio quality. Prior to presenting and make an effort to eliminate any background noise.
10. Don’t leave your office door open. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of presenting and have a “colleague” (child, cat, dog, spouse) walk in and interrupt because they didn’t know. Best practice to close your door and place a “Webinar in progress. Please do not disturb.” Sign on the outside of your door.
11. Dress Professionally You are representing your company and yourself. No need for a tux or ball gown, but make sure your outfit mirrors your professionalism (at least on top. On the bottom, we know, anything goes!)
12. Engage with your federal audience. A big draw to webinars is the fact that it’s an interactive platform, offering participants the opportunity to ask questions and get personalized instruction, advice and feedback from an expert. If you have the opportunity to make it a bit “fun” and “interactive” – DO IT! You can also engage via Q&A, polling questions, trivia games, etc.
13. Utilize the chat function. Some participants feel embarrassed or uneasy asking questions or interacting on their cameras, especially on very large presentations. Therefore, in the beginning, encourage participants to drop questions in the chatbox throughout the webinar. Have someone who is NOT the presenter (VERY IMPORTANT), sort through questions then, at scheduled Q&A times, ask the questions on behalf of the audience member.
14. Have a call to action ready. During the presentation tell the audience members what you want them to do with the information you just taught them on the webinar. Incent them to get back in touch. It could be entering their names into a raffle, gift cards, etc. But create a way for you to get in contact again to continue the conversation.
15. Record your presentation! I’ll say it again – PRESS RECORD. Many times people think they can attend, but another meeting, call, cat/child emergency comes up, and they can’t. Make sure you look through your list of RSVPs and attendees, and those who missed out, ask them if they’d like a recording, and follow up. As they say, the fortune is in the follow up!
16. Follow up. Reach out to each attendee individually. Granted if your webinar has 100s of attendees, this can be difficult. But a short “thank you for attending, do you have any follow up questions” directly to a participant can go a long way.
We genuinely hope you found these Best Practices useful! If you made it to the end, go get yourself a treat and give yourself a pat on the back!
If you want some more great Best Practices or Lessons Learned lists, we recommend: