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3 Simple (Yet Powerful) Features Every Webinar Platform Should Consider Adding

June 1, 2013

My advice for webinar platform providers

Photo credit: User laughlin on flickr via photopin cc

Introduction

I’ve planned many webinars and attended a whole lot more. Webinars are a tried and true vehicle for communication, lead generation, training and more. That being said, the user experience could be even better. Let’s cover three features every webinar platform should consider adding.

1) Scrolling tickers.

Scrolling tickers would be useful in webinars

If you’ve ever presented a webinar, you know that without fail, these two questions are asked every time:

“Will this webinar be available on-demand?”
“Will the slides be made available for download?”

This information should be provided to viewers at the beginning of the program (or, throughout it) – NOT during the Q&A portion at the end. But how can this be accomplished? With a scrolling ticker placed within the webinar console (a la CNN, as shown above).

Pre-programmed ticker messages.

The ticker could be programmed with a set of messages to be run in rotation. With regard to the slides, the messages could be:

“The presenter’s slides are available in the ‘files’ folder [above]”
“Slides will be posted to our blog immediately after today’s webinar”
“Slides will be emailed to you right after today’s program”

You’d program a similar message with regard to the on-demand archive.

On-the-fly ticker messages.

Webinar planners (or moderators) could then submit ticker messages on the fly, providing comments in context to the presentation.

Examples:

Re-share a great quote the presenter just said
Remind viewers to submit questions
Invite viewers to visit the presenter’s web site
Invite viewers to visit your web site

2) Enhance the “Q&A Slide”

How most webinars end

[Do I really need to stare at this for 25 minutes?]

Let’s say a webinar is 45 minutes long. The presenters complete their slides in 20 minutes and spend the next 25 minutes on Q&A. This means that the ending “Q&A slide” remains on the screen, unchanged, for 25 consecutive minutes!

This is a pet peeve of mine.

So here’s how to address this: dynamic slides. When presenters select a question to answer, they click an element in the presenters’ console. A new slide is rendered containing the question text. The webinar planner can choose a setting which determines whether the submitter’s name is shown next to the question.

Now, as viewers join the webinar in the middle of a presenter’s answer, they’re able to see the precise question being answered. Use this with the “on the fly” ticker messages and your Q&A session just got 200% more effective.

3) Copy SportsCenter’s rundown graphic.

Add a rundown to your webinars

In 2007, according to Wikipedia, ESPN’s SportsCenter introduced a “rundown” on the right side of the screen (later moved to the left). The rundown listed, from bottom to top, the upcoming highlights (or stories). If you see your team’s highlights listed in the rundown, you’ll stick around and wait to see it, thus keeping you viewing SportsCenter longer.

I’m NOT suggesting that a webinar rundown simply list the heading of each slide, a la the slide outline in PowerPoint. Instead, presenters should be asked to map out the primary segments of the webinar. And it’s these segments that should be listed in a rundown.

In a live webinar, the idea is to interest viewers in subsequent segments (to keep them around). In the on-demand archive, the rundown segments are clickable, allowing viewers to navigate directly to that segment.

Conclusion

OK, so perhaps these features aren’t as simple to implement as I might think. But they are powerful. Add these three features to your platform and I guarantee that your customers will produce more effective webinars.

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Why B2B Webinars Stink And How To Change Them

April 30, 2011

Pictured: Audience members in a typical B2B Webinar.

Introduction

We all attended lectures in college that seemed to go on for hours without end. The professor was dry and not engaging.  Today’s B2B webinars are similar to college lectures – they’re long, they’re often dry and they do not invite attendees to participate (aside from those 10 minutes of Q&A at the very end). In today’s world of social engagement, B2B webinars should be more Twitter chat than college lecture.

The Need for Change

Too many of today’s B2B webinars amount to a product pitch.  If you’re fortunate enough to have 10% of your audience be “late stage” leads (for your product offering), then a product pitch may be effective, if it delivers the information needed to make a final decision.

What about the other 90%, however?  They range from early stage to mid-stage, so they’re not ready for a product pitch. Instead, they probably have some questions that your presenter(s) could answer. So instead of lecturing to them, invite them to join you in a conversation.

How to Change: Engage Your Audience Ahead of Time

I don’t know why some webinar presenters guard their presentation like it contains the secret location of The Fountain of Youth. These days, transparency rules, so why not show your potential audience what you plan to talk about? You’ll gain valuable feedback to ensure that your message delivers on what your audience wants.

So post the preso on the web.  Allow anyone to comment on each slide.  Then, allow users who have registered for the webinar (perhaps you’ll need to assign them a login/password) the ability to edit your slide a la wiki (i.e. so that changes can be tracked and backed out). Now, you’re really onto something: a presentation tuned to what your audience wants. And, by engaging your audience beforehand, you increase the chances that they’ll attend the webinar.

How to Change: Conversations, Not Presentations

Your webinar viewers could be twiddling their thumbs or typing away on their keyboards (back to you). The choice is your’s, which would you prefer? Webinars should evolve to conversations, not presentations.  Similarly, the slide deck should evolve, too.  The new slide deck doesn’t include deep information about your products.  Instead, it lists “topics for discussion,” that cover issues relevant to your prospects. If you’ve engaged with your audience beforehand, then you already know what topics they’d like you to cover.

Of course, presenters should still have the opportunity to tell their story, but the story should enable the conversation and not define it. So tell a short story, have it seed the discussion and then invite your viewers to join the conversation.  Do this by embedding chat rooms, tweet streams and other relevant social networks directly into the webinar console. Your viewers will thank you – and, they’ll learn a lot from the other viewers, too.

The Benefits of Change

  1. Pre-webinar engagement can lead to higher registration and attendance numbers.
  2. Your viewers leave happier.
  3. You generate engaged prospects, not a generic list of leads.
  4. By engaging with your prospects, you’re able to better qualify them!
  5. By starting a conversation, you enable your sales team to continue that conversation.

Demand Generation Conference

I’ll be speaking at DemandCon in San Francisco on May 20, 2011, on the topic of demand generation and virtual events. In my session, I hope to avoid the same sins that I’ve outlined in this posting.


Webinar Evolution

October 6, 2010

Introduction

Do you attend webinars?  If so, what is your satisfaction level with the experience?

Webinar Q&A

I was attending a highly captivating webinar last week.  The speaker had delivered a great, crisp presentation and was doing a great job answering questions during the Q&A period.  While viewing the webinar, I tweeted the following:

Needed in webinars: tool for producer to dynamically insert Q&A topic on screen – better than seeing static closing-slide image

When presenters complete their presentation and transition to Q&A, the viewer is left with a closing slide.  That slide remains unchanged for the duration of the Q&A session.  Couldn’t the moderator play a role here by generating some updates that appear in the webinar player, adding some context to the presenter’s answer?

That’s one of many ways that the webinar experience can evolve.  About a year ago, in fact, I wrote a posting about applying Web 2.0 features to webinars.  Here’s a link to that posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/from-web-2-0-to-webinar-2-0/

Let us know your thoughts – how can webinars evolve?


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