How to Run the Perfect Live Webinar
Live shows are the best, aren’t they? You attend to see a great performance, but things get really interesting when something goes wrong. Just think about it—whenever there’s a flub in a Super Bowl halftime show, that’s the only thing anyone remembers from the performance.
While disasters may be entertaining for the audience, they’re not fun for the performers. As webinar organizers, we want to make sure your audience talks about your amazing content, not silly mistakes.
To make sure your next webinar runs smoothly, here are my foolproof tips for running the perfect live event.
First things first: get your webinar set-up organized and situated. Here’s what I suggest:
- Two Monitors — If possible, set up two monitors. Dual monitors make it much easier to view the webinar, field questions, conduct polls, etc., simultaneously.
- Decluttered Workspace — Make sure you close all non-essential programs while the webinar is taking place. Definitely turn off any programs that have pop-up notifications or other alerts. You don’t want to be thrown off your game by an IM from your coworker with a hilarious GIF.
- Quiet Space — Broadcast your webinar from a quiet room with good lighting. You don’t want it to sound like you work in Starbuck’s or look like you work in a cave.
- Audio — Use a quality microphone or headset, preferably connected via USB to help prevent audio issues
- Internet — A hardwire connection to the Internet is preferable to wireless or WiFi hotspots. If possible, confirm that your panelists and organizers have a hardwire connection to the Internet for their computer.
This is when things get real and, hopefully, when you iron out any last-minute kinks. Start your webinar with your organizers and panelists about 30 minutes before the actual start of the webinar. At this point, attendees will not be able to see your screen or hear you — not until you hit, “Start Webinar” and then “Start Broadcast.”
First, confirm everyone is logged in and has the correct controls. Once everyone is logged in, do an audio check. This is when you check for any background noise or echoes. Practice muting and unmuting yourself and tell participants to mute their lines when they aren’t speaking to avoid any unnecessary background noise.
Then practice handing off presenter role if multiple panelists will be sharing their screen.
Go over logistics and roles and make sure everyone understands their job during the webinar. This brings me to the next section…
Up to this point, you’ve had a lot of different people involved in the webinar creation. But who do you need during the live event? I recommend the following:
- Presenters – Your presenters/speakers are your headliners; you need them there to attract an audience and to share exclusive information with your attendees. Presenters have controls to share their screen, share their webcam, and answer assigned questions.
- Moderator – This is a type of presenter. You need just one moderator to make sure the webinar moves forward at a good pace and that each presenter is given time to contribute — especially for panel-discussion-type webinars. Moderators usually introduce the webinar and panelists and go over housekeeping items.
- Organizers – This is who is scheduling the webinar and running the controls. This person will start, record, and end the webinar. They can see all incoming questions and assign to the presenters. Organizers can also be presenters, but you don’t want to overwhelm this person with too many tasks.
- People to flag/field questions – This person needs to be a webinar organizer or co-organizer so they can see questions as they come in and assign them to the appropriate presenters.
The Curve Ball
Plan for the unexpected! You want to create a backup plan whenever possible. For example, you have a hardwire connection to the Internet, but the power goes out. What do you do? Follow this to-do list before the live event:
- Print the presentation – If for some reason you can’t see it on your screen, you can wing it with a printed version of the slideshow.
- Write down the phone number to rejoin – You can continue to contribute to the webinar over the phone; just make sure the phone number is written somewhere other than your computer.
- Have a backup presenter – Practice screen sharing and keyboard/mouse control with presenters so the transition is seamless, and make sure someone can take over the presentation if something goes wrong.
- Make another panelist an organizer – Take some pressure off the organizer and make sure the webinar can continue even if the main Organizer goes offline.
Now that the webinar is live, you need to engage your audience. Use your webcam—attendees want to see who’s talking and connect with the speakers. Use polls, hand-raising, and conduct live Q&A sessions to help keep your attendees attentive and interested.
In our recent webinar benchmark report, we found only 40% of marketing webinars use engagement features, and that number is even lower for training webinars.
The whole point of a webinar is to engage your audience with rich educational content, so be sure you’re using at least a couple interactive features.
- Prepare canned questions — Have a couple of canned questions on hand in case no questions come in. You want to avoid awkward silences, so come prepared with some easy questions that could spur other attendee questions.
- Remember to record — You can use your webinar video for countless other content pieces. Just set your webinar to record when you start broadcasting and chop up the footage later for blog posts, social posts, YouTube videos, tutorials, etc.
- End webinar for everyone — You don’t want any stragglers hanging out in your webinar after you’ve left, listening to your post-webinar chatter. Make sure you end your webinar for all participants.
When it comes down to it, a perfect live event is all about preparation. You need to prepare your workspace, prepare your contributors, prepare for the worst, and prepare to be engaging. Once you have all those boxes checked, your live event should go off without a hitch.