How to Do a Webinar without Putting Your Listener into a Coma

February 10, 2010 | Benny Shaviv

Presenting in front of an audience is tough. Most people are not very good at it, and it takes either natural talent or years of practice to become a really effective speaker and presenter, even in front of small groups. If you have ever noticed good public speakers, it seems like they almost make love to the audience. In the age of SaaS, webinars have become the de-facto standard for the majority of sales presentations, and if you are like me then you probably attended many of them that put you in serious risk of going into a coma. The difficulty is in the fact that you are not there right in front of the listener and you have no control of what they are doing. You can’t make love to the audience, you can only have phone sex. And just like phone sex (so I’ve heard) chances are that if you are boring, the listener is not exactly doing what they say they are doing…
Here are some tips to delivering online presentations / webinars that will dramatically increase your success rate:

1. Shut the frack up!
This is by far the most important tip to doing effective webinars. If the listener starts asking a question – shut up and listen. If the listener interrupts you – shut up and listen. If the listener so much as passes gas – shut up and listen! This is your only way of knowing if you really have her/his attention, this is your only way of knowing if you are on the same page, this might be your only chance of getting back on track in case you are somewhere in mental wonderland and your listener is doing emails. He/she may have decided to take the phone off mute and ask a question or two in hope of getting you to address something that actually interests them. It doesn’t matter if you were just about to tell them that after signing up for your product their laptop will sprout a fountain of gold from the keyboard; if the listener wants to say/ask something – listen to them

2. Stop to ask for directions
Since you are not in front of the listener, you don’t know if you are hitting the right spots. Its just you, a computer, and a worn-out office phone. Before you start your pitch, ensure to ask the user “what are the most important issues for you?”. Then while you are presenting often ask the user if you are addressing the right items of interest, and listen carefully to the answers. And for items that you feel are relevant but the user didn’t specify, you can ask at a later point in the webinar – “now that we have covered the items that you told me were important to you: A, B, and C, I feel that also K and L could be very interesting for you, they usually are for customers that care about A, B, and C. Would you like me to cover those as well?”

3. Get professional help
The only thing worse than a boring bullet ridden presentation, is a boring bullet ridden presentation where a salesperson is trying to prove their Powerpoint graphic editing skills. Unless you are selling squares and circles, please don’t try to be a graphic artist. Build a proper presentation that is attractive and coherent, and do it with the assistance of a graphics professional (if you think you don’t have the budget, you would be amazed what a freelancing graphics college student can do for a very reasonable cost). I also highly recommend grabbing the most creative person in your company, and signing them up to assist with this task. Get them to contribute creative ideas for the graphics & images used to empahsize your point, and please please please do not use a ton of bullets.

4. Tell short stories
For each topic that you have (and you will only cover some of them, per the listener’s interest) have short stories ready. Don’t just read out a set of features, but describe a story around the topic. This can be an example of another customer and what this particular capability has done for them, this can be a description of life without this benefit and a related horror story, or this can be a day in the life of a user. The sky is the limit, and people love a good story. But just make sure to keep it real, don’t lie and don’t tell stuff that sounds like you are reading a marketing pamphlet. Keep it real.

disclaimer – Inkblot test displayed is fictional, if it resembles any persons that you know (whether real or imaginary) it is purely coincidental. Also, no frogs were harmed in the process of creating this blog post.

This post was originally published feb 2 on Benny’s blog on bennyshaviv.com

Benny Shaviv: Ex software techie gone sales & marketing. He blogs about sales & marketing in the SaaS & startup world on http://bennyshaviv.com Benny is also the Co-founder of VC backed SaaS provider plmplus; previously he managed international sales teams, key customers, and lots of techie stuff before that. Benny can be reached on twitter via @bennyshaviv or on benny at bennyshaviv dot com

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