Seven Tips for More Engaging Webinars

 28th April 2010 by gihan

>Webinars are certainly a hot new technology; and if you’re a speaker, trainer, thought leader or other infopreneur, they are a “must know” skill rather than a “nice to know” skill.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t using them yet, and even those who are using them aren’t using them effectively. Here’s a typical comment I saw on a blog about e-learning and webinars:

“While I’ve seen dozens of inspirational or motivational speeches, I can honestly say I’ve never attended a webinar that was anything better than ho-hum. Heck, I’d even settle for one that made me feel like it was time well spent.”

So why is this such a problem? I think it’s because presenters – even experienced presenters – don’t know how to adapt their presentations to the webinar environment. So here are my top seven tips for making your webinars more engaging and effective.

1. Solve their problems.

This is the most important tip I can give you. It doesn’t matter if you have scratchy audio, poor slides, a slow Internet connection, or anything else. If you know your audience’s questions, challenges and problems, and you can answer them in the webinar, you can get away with anything. That’s not to say you should fail at other things, of course. But solving their problems is the most engaging thing of all; and conversely, even the smoothest, slickest presentation will fall flat if you’re not addressing their problems.

2. Get them doing something soon.

Ask them to do something early in your presentation. This forces them to take notice, involves them right from the start, and demonstrates that this isn’t just another boring presentation. For example, you could:

  • Conduct an on-line poll;
  • Ask them to draw or write something on a blank sheet of paper;
  • Leave part of your handout blank, and ask them to fill it in.

Design something that’s easy but engaging. It doesn’t have to involve them sharing anything personal – in fact, it shouldn’t, because that’s too early in the presentation for them to share with others – but it should involve them doing something.

3. Shift energy

As with any presentation, design segments that shift the energy during the webinar. For example, instead of just speaking and showing slides, you could:

  • Conduct on-line polls;
  • Show a video;
  • Ask them to write or draw things;
  • Stop talking for 30 seconds of “reflection time”;
  • Show a list and ask them to mentally pick their top 3 priorities;
  • Ask for live questions;
  • Answer questions sent in advance;
  • Hand over to a guest presenter;
  • Ask somebody in the audience to share a story or case study (ask for their permission in advance);
  • Switch from a slide show to a Web page or some other software;
  • Use the webinar’s whiteboard facility to draw your diagrams during the webinar, rather than just displaying a slide showing the completed diagram.

4. Get comfortable with the technology.

Just as there’s nothing worse than a presenter in a face-to-face presentation struggling with PowerPoint, there’s nothing more off-putting in a webinar than a presenter struggling with the technology. Unfortunately, this happens a lot. So get good!

You don’t have to master all the technology the first time. Your first webinar might be just a PowerPoint presentation. The next time, you might add interactive polls. The next one might include switching to a Web browser or other application. Then you could add a session for group discussion. And so on …

5. Start and finish on time.

One of the benefits of webinars is that they are very time-efficient. Your audience doesn’t have to spend time travelling to a venue, battling traffic, finding a parking spot, hanging around before the event starts, and doing it all again at the end. They have high expectations that you’ll respect their time – even more so than in a face-to-face presentation.

So be sure you start on time and end on time. Sure, technology problems can sometimes delay you; but if you log in early and test the technology, you won’t be delaying others. And there’s really no excuse for you, guest presenters, interview guests and panellists to be late.

6. Deliver great content.

You might have heard that a presentation can have one of four purposes: To persuade, to inform, to educate or to inspire. Most webinars fall into the “inform” or “educate” category – not “persuade” or “inspire”. Your attendees are expecting to hang up at the end with some useful skills or knowledge. You can persuade, motivate or inspire them as well, but don’t make that your main aim – unless that is really clear to them before they register (for example, you’ve clearly advertised this as a sales promotion).

Be clear in your own mind about what you want your audience to learn during the webinar; and tell them these objectives right at the front of the webinar – or perhaps even in the promotional material.

7. Start before you’re ready.

Webinars can be unsettling and nerve-wracking, even for experienced presenters. You can’t see your audience, you have to manage lots of new technology, audience members themselves might be struggling with the technology, and you don’t have as much control over the “room”.

The only solution to this is practice. You don’t have to throw yourself in at the deep end; but if you’re not even willing to try the shallow end, you won’t learn how to swim.

Don’t make your first webinars high-risk events. Start with small groups, not large audiences. Offer no-cost webinars first, before you start charging money. Get somebody else to manage the technology for you. Write a script for what you’re going to say.

Do whatever it takes! Webinars aren’t going away, and they are fast becoming a key delivery method for experts to connect the world with their material.

Want to know more about webinars?

Webinars can be one of your most powerful marketing and educational tools – if you know how to run them properly.

My book "Webinar Smarts" covers nearly everything you need to know about planning, preparing, promoting and presenting powerful and profitable webinars.

If you’re interested in tapping into the power of webinars in your business, this book is for you.

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>Six steps for dealing with a hostile or indifferent audience

 20th April 2010 by gihan

>Whether you’re delivering a presentation in person or electronically (by teleseminar or webinar), you might sometimes find yourself dealing with a less-than-ideal audience. They might be frustrated, annoyed, angry, upset or even just indifferent. How do you bring them around – or at least to the point where they’re willing to listen to your message?

Here’s a six-step process, which I call “Offer 3”. Use this before your presentation during your planning.

1. Know your OUTCOME.

It’s easy to focus so much on their attitude that you forget your outcome from the presentation. What do you want to achieve as a result of your presentation? Knowing this ensures you remain flexible in everything else you do. It also guides you in dealing with the audience, because everything you do to deal with their attitude should be leading towards your outcome.

2. Understand their FEELINGS.

They’ll act on feelings, and justify it later on logic. The better you understand their feelings, the better you’ll be able to tailor your message to take these feelings into account. Don’t judge or interpret their feelings – simply understand and respect them.

3. Know their FRAME.

Their frame of reference, or point of view, is probably different from yours. This is where you look for their logic, reasoning and thinking; and compare it with yours. For example, you might not have all the facts, or they might not have all the facts.

Also recognise that everything they’re doing has some positive intent (for themselves). For example, a dominant person who’s always arguing with you might not be doing it to be rude; they might be protecting their status among their friends in the audience. This doesn’t excuse their behaviour; but it gives you an opportunity to work with them rather than against them.

4. ENGAGE them.

Of course, your message always has to be engaging, but this is even more important with a hostile or indifferent audience.

In particular, put more time into answering their four “Why” questions:

  • Why This? What are the benefits of listening?
  • Why You? What authority do you have?
  • Why Now? What is the urgency to take action now?
  • Why Me? Why is this a good fit for them?

5. REFRAME their concerns.

Is there a way that your message does address their concerns – even though they might not realise it?

For example, if you’re addressing salespeople who’ve been taken out of the field to attend a compulsory sales training course, and they’re impatient because they’re losing valuable time with prospects, demonstrate how your training gives them more time in their day.

This step isn’t always relevant or appropriate, but it’s very effective when you can use it.

6. Look for a THIRD option.

Don’t make it a “You vs. the audience” confrontation. Look for a creative third – and fourth, fifth and sixth – option that allows both your needs to be met.

For example, if you’re addressing busy people for a two-hour program, is it possible to offer a summary version in the first 20 minutes, and then give people the option to leave at that point if they don’t need to stay for the rest of it? Even giving them the choice will improve their attitude, and many of them will elect to stay anyway.

Finally, with a hostile or indifferent audience, it becomes even more important than ever to do these things well before your presentation. The worst thing to do is to turn up unprepared for that audience, and be forced to tackle these issues on the spot.

Would you like to know more about preparing for any audience – even one that’s hostile or indifferent? I cover this in more detail in my book Magnetic Messages: The Art and Science of Persuasive Presentations.

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>Scrabble on the iPhone illustrates Fast, Flat and Free

 13th April 2010 by gihan

>My parents love playing Scrabble, so I grew up with it in my home. Here are two iPhone apps for Scrabble:

Actually, I lied. The one on the left is not the official iPhone app; it’s a Scrabble-like game called “Words With Friends”. It costs just $2.50 (or free if you don’t mind ads), allows me to play against opponents anywhere in the world, and I can even have multiple games running at the same time.

It’s the perfect example of how the principles of “Fast, Flat and Free” have changed Scrabble. The classic board game is the opposite: Slow, Bumpy and Expensive. In other words, you play one game at a time, with opponents in the same room, and the game itself wasn’t cheap to buy.

The owners of Scrabble had the opportunity to create the Fast, Flat and Free equivalent … but they didn’t. So somebody else did.

In fact, there is an official Scrabble iPhone app, which I also own (It’s the one on the right in the pictures above). But that’s about $10-15, only allows one game at a time, and is much more restricted when finding opponents. Words With Friends appears to be at least 10 times more popular, and it’s not surprising to see why!

Beware! The same could be happening to your products and services. Are they already tapping into our Fast, Flat and Free world? If you don’t do something about it, somebody else will!

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>Don’t Get Fooled Again, by Richard Wilson

 28th January 2010 by gihan

>Wilson takes on pseudo-science, political doublespeak, groupthink and denialists – and others – in this readable introduction to scepticism.

This is by no means an in-depth analysis of the topics covered, nor is it a comprehensive coverage of the field. Rather, Wilson exposes us to some of the principles of thinking sceptically, drawing on examples like AIDS denialists, the flawed thinking before and during the Iraq War, and the smoking-cancer controversy.

The points are made by stories and anecdotes, much in the way of a magazine or newspaper, rather than drawing on the science. However, that doesn’t make it less valuable. As an introduction to scepticism, and a way to spark an interest in curious laypeople, it does its job well.

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>Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

 14th January 2010 by gihan

>Nudge is another in the long line of books about social psychology as it applies to influence and persuasion. The first ground-breaking book in this genre was Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, and I’ve yet to come across any other book that matches it (For me, Predictably Irrational is the next best, but still a distant second).

Nudge is a book about decision making, particularly in areas of social policy. The authors suggest that decisions can never be presented in a completely neutral way, so any decision-making involves an inherent bias. That bias can be turned to good, to “nudge” people in a particular direction.

They present a lot of research in many areas of life, including marriage, investing, environmentalism and organ donation. In areas that involve social policy, it seems to me that they have one solution for everything: Leave it to the market, but don’t let the market lock out competition.

For example, consumers have a huge and confusing array of choices when signing up for a credit card. Thaler and Sunstein recommend that we don’t regulate the credit card companies and their marketing. Instead, allow them to promote their products in any way they choose (legally), but also force them to give their customers simple electronic access to their account, including fees and charges. Rival companies could offer to analyse a customer’s account, and make a better offer. In this way, customers get the benefit of a competitive marketplace, and we as a society facilitate, rather than regulate, trade.

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The Hedonist’s Guide To Getting Things Done: Goal Setting Made Easy

 8th January 2010 by gihan

Most goal-setting programs are hard. The system might sound easy, but achieving the goals is difficult. It usually takes discipline, willpower, a strong mindset, hard work, sacrifice and struggle.

No wonder most people fail at their goals or New Year’s Resolutions!

I’ve got a different approach to goal setting: This year, choose, plan and achieve goals that bring you joy, ease and happiness – not only when you achieve them, but along the way as well.

Now I know this flies in the face of many (most?) goal-setting programs! So be warned that what I’m going to share here might be controversial, confronting or conflicting with other advice you’ve seen. But hey – if you do embrace my advice, you will enjoy the next twelve months. So what have you got to lose?

The title of this article is tongue in cheek. A hedonist is purely motivated by pleasure, perhaps even selfish pleasure. I’m not suggesting that’s appropriate as a way of life. But I do think we spend way too much time in our life doing things we don’t want, that we’re not good at, with people we don’t like, and without getting any reward. Why not do something different this year?

Heck, there’ll be plenty of times when life isn’t perfect. Sure, you might get stuck in traffic, fight with your partner, struggle getting the kids to sleep, do work that you don’t want to do just because it’s in your job description, or force yourself to be more disciplined at work. But those things are going to happen anyway. Why would you deliberately schedule more of those things in your goal setting as well?

So do yourself a favour when you’re setting your goals for the year: Don’t create goals and activities that involve struggle, complication, hardship and sacrifice. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, especially if you’ve done other goal-setting programs. But hang in there – I’ll explain …

I’ve got ten guidelines here, broken down into three areas: Choosing the right goals (4 guidelines), planning (3) and taking action (3).


1. Do what you love

It’s surprising how many people set a goal because they think they “should” do it, or they “need” to do it, or somebody else wants it for them. Those goals are the first to go when life gets in the way.

So only choose goals that you want to achieve. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say you should only choose goals that you will love to achieve. This isn’t about being selfish; it’s about choosing wisely.

2. Love who you’ll be

Think carefully: Are you going to be happy – truly happy – with the person you’re going to become if you do achieve your goals?

If you get that big promotion, will you be OK spending more time away from your spouse and kids? If you go on that carrot juice diet and lose 20 kilos, can you tolerate having to gaze longingly and wistfully at chocolate cake from now until the end of your life? If you get all those business travel opportunities, can you cope with spending wasted hours in airports, taxi queues and hotel rooms?

Be sure you’re willing to accept all the consequences of achieving your goal.

3. Think big

Most people don’t fail because their goals are too big; they fail because their goals are too small. Those goals are easily forgotten or tossed aside when something bigger comes along. So make sure you set big – but achievable – goals.

As Jonathon Kozol says, “Pick battles big enough to matter; small enough to win”.

4. Know the reason why

It’s not the “what” and “how” of a goal that motivates you; it’s the “why”. Sometimes you’ll end up with something that wasn’t exactly what you imagined, but it still achieves the same result.


5. Love what you do

Plan to enjoy the journey. If it takes willpower, discipline or sacrifice to achieve your goal, it’s harder to do and easier to slip up. Instead, make it fun!

It’s no fun to crawling out of bed an hour early to exercise, but perhaps you can make it fun by exercising with a friend, so you make it a social event as well.

It’s no fun to set aside 10% of your income for wealth creation, but what if you also set aside another 10% as “play money”, to be spent on fun and frivolity?

It’s no fun to call past customers to bring them back into your fold, but what if you invited them to a cocktail party instead?

6. Hang out with people you like

Life’s too short to spend with people you don’t like, love, inspire or are inspired by.

Decide who you want to spend more time with this year, and make sure they’re part of your journey. They don’t have to be actively involved in helping you achieve your goals – although that’s a bonus. But make sure they’re around. And be especially sure you don’t neglect them while achieving your goals.

7. Get help

Whatever your goals, there’s a good chance somebody else has already achieved them. So find the right mentors and ask for their help. You might have to pay, or you might not. Either way, it’s the best way to fast-track your success.


8. Start before you’re ready

You won’t have all your preparation complete. You won’t know exactly what path to follow. There’s always a reason not to start today. But if you’re waiting for the perfect moment to get started, you’ll be waiting a long time. The perfect moment is now.

9. Take a big step first

A rocket uses most of its fuel in escaping the Earth’s atmosphere. After that, it takes very little energy to keep going.

Many of your goals – especially the biggest and most important goals – are similar. Don’t start with baby steps; start with massive strides. The good news is that often just a few strides can make a big difference, and then everything else is easy.

Obviously I’m not suggesting you do dangerous things, like suddenly taking up squash if you’re unfit. But if it’s OK to start walking for 30 minutes a day, start walking. Don’t “build up to it” with unnecessary little steps – e.g. buying new sneakers, starting a journal to record your progress, telling all your Facebook friends, shopping for a new T-shirt to celebrate the start of the journey, and plotting the optimal walking route for different weather conditions. Sure, these small steps are easy, but it’s the first big step (literally in this case) that matters.

10. Do something every day

Do something towards at least one of your goals every day. After all, why wouldn’t you? These activities are fun, not a burden or a chore. So, in addition to working towards your goals, you’re adding some fun and enjoyment to every day of your life!

More importantly, at the end of the year, you will have taken 365 steps – enjoyable steps – towards achieving your goals. That’s 365 more than the average person.

So that’s it. Those are my ten guidelines for easy goal setting.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best for making 2010 the best year of your life.

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>SuperFreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

 5th January 2010 by gihan

>Levitt and Dubner have followed up their runaway bestseller Freakonomics with another rollicking read about people, the world and everything – seen from an economist’s viewpoint.

This book, like the first, dips into many areas of life – including prostitution, terrorism, child safety and climate change. Again like the first, there’s one area that’s a particularly hot topic. In the original, it was the link between abortion and a decrease in crime rates; in the sequel, it’s global warming. Being a controversial topic, it’s not surprising that this section of the book has been scrutinised and taken apart by its critics (The flip side, of course, is that it gets media attention and sells more books – which might have been the point all along). I don’t know enough about the climate change issue to comment on whether the authors’ view is accurate or not, but I do point out that not everybody agrees with it.

Although nothing in this book is likely to change anything in my life, I still found it to be an entertaining read.

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Professional Speakers – A Protected Species Fast Becoming an Endangered Species

 10th November 2009 by gihan

A few weeks ago, I attended Matt Church’s excellent two-day “Speech Building Boot Camp”, where Matt laid out a 27-step process for crafting a powerful presentation.

It was so methodical and logical that it got me thinking, “Gee – anybody can present a brilliant speech using this method!”

But that’s not true.

The process was for writing a speech, not for delivering it. When it comes to delivery, you need other skills. Different skills. Skills that most people in the world don’t have.

We’re lucky as professional presenters, because we do easily what most people are scared to death to do: Stand up and speak in front of a group.

Even though other people might have better ideas, or be more passionate about something, or can write more goodly than we can, most of them can’t present it well.

It comes naturally to us (after years of hard work, of course!), and it gives us a BIG advantage.

Until now.

The Internet has changed all that.

We still have that advantage over most people, but it’s becoming less and less relevant. Why? Because they have other ways of getting their message across to people.

Take Natalie Tran, for example – Australia’s most-watched YouTube user:

Whenever she publishes a video, she gets over half a million hits – sometimes over a million (This is my favourite, by the way).

She doesn’t do it for money (In fact, she turns down advertising and sponsorship offers). She does it because she has something to say and she’s found an audience on-line.

I’ve never seen Natalie Tran make a live presentation, so I don’t know whether or not she’s a good presenter. But who cares? She’s found a different delivery style, and she’s a star!

What about YOU?

Are you embracing the new opportunities the Internet brings you for delivering your material? This is not just about using the Internet as a marketing tool; it’s also about using it as a delivery tool.

Here are some examples:

  • On-line video (like Natalie Tran)
  • Creating on-line PowerPoint and Keynote presentations
  • Converting your material into iPhone applications
  • Conducting webinars
  • Using on-line forums and chat rooms to facilitate discussions
  • Delivering audio and video (not just text) e-courses

If you’re resisting them, I’m worried for you. I really am. The Internet isn’t going away. Our status as a protected species is rapidly dwindling. Do nothing and you’ll be an endangered species instead!

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