When webinars go horribly wrong

We’ve all been there…

Attending a webinar that’s nothing more than a sales pitch, presented by one presenter with a monotone voice and no personality!  You DON’T want your customers or prospects to ever experience a bad webinar, so what can you do to avoid the obvious pitfalls?

Today the team at Newton Day was asked to step through some of the horror shows they’ve experienced and highlight ‘what went wrong’ and how to avoid it. 

Here’s what we came up with!

1. Being ‘unable to join’

Sounds silly doesn’t it, but sometimes visitors struggle to join webinars.  Sometimes, it’s because of technology challenges and glitches with platforms.  Generally, it’s human error.  For example, it might be that the organiser has setup the webinar to manually ADMIT attendees and hasn’t had time to check if any attendees have arrived late.  We would always recommend you have someone in your team take charge of managing the attendees on the webinar including monitoring arrivals, keeping tabs on the comments and feedback, running the polls (and maybe even doing some analysis on feedback while others are presenting).  Always, always, always rehearse and make sure everyone is familiar with the platform you’re using. 

2. The ‘stuttered start’

Watching a screen full of presenters, sitting behind their office desks waiting to begin isn’t a very engaging first experience.  But it’s quite common when organizers suggest—‘hold on for a moment everyone, we’re just waiting for late arrivals.’  There are a few ways to avoid this awkward beginning.  The most obvious solution is to start on-time no-matter what.  Another is to setup a holding page that’s a bit more interesting to view than the bored faces of your presenters.  You can create an attracting holding slide with your company logo and a background on it.  Even the title of the event and ‘starting soon’ is preferable to the faces of yawning contributors!

3. From hello to a ‘corporate pitch’

There’s nothing worse: To attend a webinar only to find the presenter launches into a diatribe about how awesome his or her business is, even before any explanation is given of what the audience will learn and what benefits will come from investing 45 minutes with you and your team.

4. From corporate pitch to ‘personal plugs’

I lied.  There is something worse than an unwanted corporate pitch at the start of a webinar.  It happens when one of the presenters interrupts the webinar to start waxing lyrical about their accomplishments, the really important people they know, and how many great testimonials they’ve got on their LinkedIn!! I may be wrong, but I don’t think your audience agreed to spend 45-minutes of their day online with you to hear how awesome you are—even if that’s the case.

5. Never giving the audience an opportunity to participate

Modern webinar platforms offer fabulous opportunities to engage with audiences during a webinar.  The most notable contributor to audience participation is the Poll.  It’s now an engrained feature of modern webinar platforms like Go-to-Webinar, Webex Conference, and Zoom Webinars.  It surprises me still, how many organizations put together a webinar, then don’t offer their audience ANY opportunity to contribute.  I expect, like most businesses, the presenters have more to learn from the audience than the other way around.  Listening during a webinar is every bit as important as doing the same in a face-to-face seminar.  It helps to identify ‘what matters most’ to your audience and increases the options you have at your disposal to move interest into actions later.

6. Leaving without a reason to say hello again

Like any other sales call, it’s a REALLY bad idea to:

1. Not to recommend a next step

2. Leave it to your audience to make the next move

I know organizers find it really hard to work out a plan to transition from a webinar ‘presentation’ into a sales cycle.  The challenge is qualification.  If you don’t know why the individuals attended, you probably also don’t know where they are in the sales cycle, or the kind of solution they’re looking to buy.  But then, you have opportunities to find all of this out!  You could do one or more of the following:

  • Make an attempt to pre-contact registrants and find out what they were hoping to get from the webinar.
  • As a poll question early on in the presentation to find out what your audience is most interested in.
  • Give attendees a reason to get back in touch with you; perhaps a piece of knowledge or a trial system; something that’s likely to cause them to want to get in touch, such as a 45-day implementation plan, or a free Risk Register with all of the most common issues pre-populated.
  • Recommend a next action step; such as a free trial, a pilot, an online course, etc.

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In summary

It’s not so difficult to avoid the Webinars from Hell run a great webinar but sometimes it pays to follow the simple steps we recommend in our Guide to Webinars.  Find it here.

Also, you may find it more helpful to work with a team that’s used to the processes, content creation requirements and planning steps needed to make it work.  If that’s the case, get in touch with one of our team and we’d be delighted to walk around your ideas for a webinar (or webinar program) and offer suggestions on how to make it work.

Ian Tomlin Pic

Ian Tomlin

CEO Newton Day

Ian Tomlin is a business management consultant, having led a career as a CEO, marketer, tech innovator, and business writer. He founded and is CEO of the marketing and innovation company Newton Day where he helps businesses tell their product stories and make conversation with their customers. His writing includes fourteen titles including the 60-Minute Expert series of ultimate ‘how-to’ guides for practitioners. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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