Why your business ruined webinars for everyone

How many invitations to a webinar do you receive on a daily basis? I probably receive about 10 via the various newsletters and marketing emails I receive each day. And I’ll admit that marketers have done an excellent job at getting me to read the messages, with catchy subjects and interesting event titles.

And how many have you attended in the past year?

Of those, they were all terrible, right?

It’s because companies and marketers don’t know how (or perhaps they forgot) to create great webinars. The formula is frighteningly simple too.

Webinars suck, and it’s your company’s fault. But that’s okay, you can change this with a few steps I’m about to outline below. Take note, because I can’t possibly stand sitting through another one of these crappy events or have my staff waste their time falling asleep while they could be generating ROI for my business.

Here are the two “do nots”. I’m starting with these, because you’re doing them now and you have stop as soon as possible.

1. Don’t ever talk about yourself or your company for more than 20 seconds.

It’s okay to say, “My name is Dan and I’m the CEO of XYZ company and I have a background in civil war dentistry”. You need to establish credibility. But do so in less than 20 seconds or else it becomes vain and you’ll lose your audience right out of the gate. And better yet, have someone else introduce you and keep it to 20 seconds. And don’t say crap like, “I built a XYZ company 10 years ago and sold it to Microsoft”. That just tells us you probably got lucky with your timing, now you have a wheel barrow of money, and you should probably be retired. The fact you sold a company and are rich doesn’t give you credibility within a specific industry or regarding a specific problem we’re facing.

2. Don’t ever talk about your product.

Unless your webcast is entitled, “A 30 minute demo of my product, XYZ”, then don’t ever talk about your product for more than 10 seconds. People don’t want your product, so get over it. They want to know how to solve a problem. So help them. If your product helps solve a problem, then talk about how the problem got solved and pepper in the fact that the customer used your product to solve that problem. But that’s it. No features, no pricing, no benefits, nothing. Stop being salesy. If you think the audience wants to learn about your product, you are completely wrong. The audience has a problem, and you solved it, and that’s what they want to hear about.

Okay, so now you know what not to do. Here are five things you can do that will help you attract more people to your events, increase your credibility, and most importantly, convert more attendees to customers.

1. Keep it short.

There’s no reason a webcast has to be 60 minutes. Keep it short. Some of the most powerful presentations are short because companies have found a concise and eloquent method for demonstrating the fact that they solved a problem. And if you cannot do the same, then you’re not communicating it well. A short presentation will not infer the problem is simple or easy to solve. It will merely demonstrate you have a 100% firm grasp on what the audience wants and how you can help. A 30 minute presentation is probably sufficient.

If you want to allow for Q&A, that’s okay, but I suggest NOT doing this. I know what your thinking… “This guy is crazy, you always have to allow for Q&A!” Well, do you know what happens if you allow for Q&A at the end of your event? Attendees start to leave slowly and the audience attention dwindles. So the last impression you are making is to leave people annoyed that they have to listen to another customer with a completely different business ask a question that you don’t care about. What a waste of time. And you’re ending on a fizzle not a sizzle. Don’t do Q&A. The customers with the real questions, they’ll still have them tomorrow. So make it clear at the end of the event that if someone has a question, here’s where to send it… In other words, give folks a very easy method for getting their questions answered offline. And that’s a great lead development strategy as well. Reel ’em in.

2. Tell a story

For the love all things good and decent, don’t read your slides. Keep bullets to 3-4 word phrases and only 3-4 per slide. Tell a story that starts with a problem and ends with a recognizable, repeatable, tangible solution.  Humans, since the dawn of time, have been story tellers. Create a clear story board that the audience can identify with and guide them through your case study. It flows better and the audience will stay engaged. Polls are an okay method for engaging your audience, but that’s scripted and can disrupt your flow. Just ask questions and let the audience use their imagination. Isn’t their imagination stronger than poll results?

3. Provide a takeaway

The audience is attending because they need help or inspiration with solving a problem. Leave them with something they can download other than your slide deck. Maybe this is a one pager of best practices, a list of additional resources, a video, an infographic, you get the idea.

4. Provide a clear call to action (CTA)

At the end of your webinar, you should have a clear CTA. And even better if it’s a homework assignment tied to your takeaway (#3). For example, maybe you have a checklist that helps people do an assessment of their problem. Give them the checklist… or give them direction on what the next steps are towards getting started solving their challenge.

5. Provide an offer (optional, but recommended)

You are probably doing a webinar to generate interest and leads for your business, products or service. So provide some sort of offer. Don’t make it too salesy like “if you sign up today, you get half off”. Business people don’t like to be pressured or rushed. But you can still make it time sensitive. “Sign up by the end of the month and we’ll provide 20 additional hours of support”. Or, “sign up for a product demo this week and you’ll receive a 20% credit, an iPad or a date with my cousin, Becky”. An offer is a great way to continue the conversation without being too salesy and to provide some additional value for the folks who attended.

Okay, so hopefully this is all pretty straightforward. Most of us have all these ingredients, we just need to reassemble them into a better package. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to a better webinar experience. And I and my staff, on behalf of all your future webinar attendees, thank you!