I recently gave a presentation on this topic at the Presenters Network meeting in Manhattan and thought I’d share with you my points for designing presentations for webinars.
By the word “design,” I mean both the visual design of the slides and the design of the content.
Webinars have many advantages over live presentations:
- No travel (time or cost)
- Greater reach (all over the world)
- Easier follow-up
- Availability of a recording
They also have some disadvantages:
- Difficulty of keeping people from multitasking
- Lack of engagement between the presenter and the audience
The points below address these disadvantages.
1. Use and design for the webcam
The webcam lets people see you, like they would in a live presentation. This helps create more engagement. Your audience gets to know you–and hopefully like you. Simply put, it’s more like a live presentation. Try to come into their living room — or office!
If the webinar platform you’re using puts the webcam where it might cover your slides, leave a space on the slides for it.
But because you don’t have to use the webcam, webinars are great for introverts and poor speakers. You can print out your script and use it. I don’t recommend hiding behind the slides, but most people do.
2. Use the interactive features
To engage viewers, use the interactive features of webinars:
- Chat: Ask viewers questions that they can answer in the chat and let them ask questions in the chat that you can answer verbally
- Polls: Use polls to inform yourself about the audience’s views and to inform the audience about the views of other audience members
- Whiteboard: You can “scribble” on the screen to emphasize points
As with any presentation, you need to do change ups regularly, but do them more often during a webinar. Depending on your topic and audience, consider the following:
- Ask a question
- Ask for questions and answer them
- Do a mini-workshop
- Do a poll
- Tell a story or give an example
- Do a demo
3. Use more slides
To keep the attention of your audience, use more slides. I recommend at least 2 per minute. Of course, some webinars are technical and content heavy, so use your judgment. If you’re a market researcher and have been asked to present your research so executives can decide whether or not to launch a new product, you’ll need to provide your data in detail and will probably spend more time on each slide than you would if you’re an inspirational speaker.
4. Force your audience to look at the slides to understand what you’re saying
Designing your slides to be essential to the understanding of your presentation helps to prevent people listening with half their mind while they check their email.
For example, you could say, “What you see on this slide explains the process clearly.” This brings your multitaskers (if they’re listening at all) back to your slides.
5. Text and images can be smaller, but…
Because your audience is right up close to a monitor, your text and images can be smaller, as on a website (like this one). In cases where you have a lot of data and might better print it out in a live presentation so your audience can read it, you can instead show it on a slide in a webinar.
However, big and bright will keep their attention.
6. Animation does NOT display well
Unfortunately, webinar software does not give as much bandwidth to the slide as it does to the webcam window and animation will be blurry and blotchy.
Keep animation simple and clean. For example, use the Appear animation instead of the Fade animation and don’t use too many animations quickly one after the other.
7. If people don’t know you, introduce yourself first
In a public webinar, it’s more likely that people won’t know you, so go ahead an introduce yourself at the beginning.
But if they do know you — whether you’re speaking to people in your company or even to prospective clients who know who you are — don’t bore your audience at the beginning with your biography.
8. Modulate your voice more
Even if you use the webcam, you need to use your voice more to keep the attention of your audience. Sound enthusiastic about your topic!
I recommend that you stand up for a webinar just as you would for a live presentation. Standing gives you more energy and you’ll project your voice better.
9. Always follow up
As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the great advantages of webinars is the ability to easily follow up with your audience. You can ask them for feedback, add them to your email list, and post the recording so people who didn’t make the webinar can still watch.
Click here to watch a 15-minute recording I made based on my presentation. You’ll need to register and then specify any convenient time to watch it. This will create an event on your calendar and send you an email with a link to watch. Log in with the same name and email you used to register.
Do you have questions about webinars? Leave a comment below! And do share this post with your colleagues using the Share buttons.
I’ve given in-person presentations before without a hitch, but I can imagine that webinars are a little bit different. I’ll definitely have to keep these tips in mind, thanks for sharing!
Great tips. I especially like #2 (use interactive features) and #4 (“force” people to look at the slides). The latter’s not one I’ve heard anyone suggest before, and I think it’s excellent.
You could even combine those 2 tips by asking people to type (in the chat) their thoughts about what you show on the slide. That’d really keep them tuned in!
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Great tips – like Craig, the advice to use more slides and force people to look at them struck me as a great point I’d not thought about before.
Clare, glad you found it helpful!
Really great tips Ellen, thanks! Do you have any example of what are good type of powerpoints presentations used in webinars? I am used to present in conferences, and just use full page pictures, with text to the minimum, but I guess for webinars it is different (I have no experience with speaking at Webinars)
Marina, Full page pictures are as good for webinars as they are for live presentations. But I would recommend more slides in a webinar, since it’s so easy for your audience to multitask.
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