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Secrets of Successful Webinars
By ,
September/October 2015 Issue

Mary Ellen’s Top 10 Tips for Successful Webinars

While a well-planned and well-executed webinar appears effortless, there are a number of simple tricks that can often mean the difference between a professional-quality webinar and one that doesn’t reflect well on you or your information center.

1. Record your webinar! Even registrants who have every intention of attending find at the last minute they can’t.

2. Start on time. Don’t wait to begin until all the regis trants log in; expect no more than 30%-60% attendance of those who register.

3. Insist on having a practice run-through with your presenters to make sure everything is working properly. Most presentation problems can be identified and prevented by doing a dry run before the webinar.

4. If possible, go through the presenter’s slide deck before the webinar. If there are so many slides that the presenter will have to spend under a minute per slide, encourage some judicious pruning so that the presenter is able to cover the provided material in the allotted time. Having too much information is a disservice to your audience; the material should fit the scheduled time.

5. Make sure presenters have slide shots of anything they plan to demonstrate live. Sites go down, connections are slow, and some things just don’t go as planned. Having a backup means the webinar can continue smoothly.

6. Encourage your presenters to make the webinar as interactive as possible, with a survey, poll, quiz, or other technique. Remember, people are taking the time to attend this webinar live rather than wait for the recording. Make it worth their while to attend the live event by offering opportunities to interact.

7. Go with the flow. When the unexpected happens, take a deep breath and think about the next step you can take. If the presenter loses her internet connection, can she call in and have you “drive” the presentation for her? Maintain a sense of humor, and keep the audience and presenters informed about when the problem will be resolved or if the webinar needs to be rescheduled.

8. Practice using all the features of your webinar hosting service until you feel comfortable with them. Do you know how to hand over screen control to a presenter? Do you know how to start, end, download, and edit a recording? Can you switch your display from a screen to webcam? Do you know how to start and close a mid-webinar poll?

9. Find ways to include as much interaction and personal touch as possible. If possible, ask the presenter to use a webcam at the start of the webinar so that the audience can see the person behind the voice.

10. Send out your evaluation form to the audience immediately after the webinar. Catch them while the webinar is still fresh in their minds so their comments will be more relevant and useful.

Backstage Buddy Notes: Cathy’s Tips and Tricks from Behind the Scenes

A key part of a great webinar is great support. For that, we recommend recruiting a backstage buddy to your webinar team. You may already have a support team available. However, if you don’t yet have a team, tap your network. If your colleagues also want to learn how to produce webinars, consider exchanging backstage buddy duties for each other.

A backstage buddy helps the presenters and moderator stay focused on delivering the presentation and interacting with the audience. A backstage buddy may do these tasks:

  • Monitor questions and chat messages from the audience.
  • Answer common or easily answered questions via text or chat.
  • Queue up and prepare audience participants during live Q&A.
  • Respond to reports of technical issues, and take care of them in the background.
  • Silently alert the presenters and moderators about upcoming questions, time constraints, or other issues that might affect the presentation.
  • Filter questions and comments for the presenter.

All of this is done behind the scenes, largely unheard and unseen. The following are Cathy’s tips for being an irreplaceable member of the webinar team.

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Mary Ellen Bates (, fact-checks her dogs when they make their “I’m starving” eyes.

Cathy Chiba owns Dauratus Research, based in Vancouver, BC.



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