Five easy (non-technology) ways to make your webinars more engaging

If you're an experienced presenter but are new to webinars, be warned that it can be difficult to keep a webinar audience engaged. They are impatient, easily distracted, and won't wait around during a boring presentation. They don't have to face the public pressure of walking out of a room, so they will just hang up!

One of the most important tools at your disposal is your slide deck. In a webinar, these are not just a visual aid; they are the visuals. So you should definitely put more work into your webinar slides.

There are also some fancy things you can do with technology, such as switching between windows, turning on microphones, "drawing" on your slides, running polls, showing your webcam, and so on. As you get more experienced, you might start doing these things.

But there are some other things you can do as well, and they don't involve any technology. Here are five simple ideas to make your webinars more engaging.

1. Show Them a Preview

Before the webinar starts, do you just show them a boring "Please wait" screen? You can be far more engaging by playing a preview slide show of what's coming up.

This is easy: Make a copy of your PowerPoint slide deck, remove the slides you don't want to show in the preview, add a 15-20 second automatic transition between the rest, set it up to loop automatically, and then save it. You can then play this before the webinar starts for the early birds who are waiting for you.

2. Solve Their Problems

You can get away with almost anything as long as you're solving their problems, answering their questions, and helping them achieve their goals. So:

  1. Be sure you know their most pressing issues (from experience, by running a survey beforehand, or by asking at the start of the webinar)
  2. State them at the start of the webinar so the audience knows you know them
  3. Keep on track during the webinar by continuing to address these issues
  4. Stop Often for Q&A

The most boring webinars are just one long lecture, which might as well have been a recording the audience could have watched in their own time! Sometimes there's a short Q&A session at the end, but even that format isn't very engaging.

Instead, stop often during your webinar for questions about the material you have just covered. Tell your audience you will be doing this, give them a bit of advance notice before you stop (e.g. warn them on the previous slide), and then stop for questions. You'll be far more engaging, and the audience gets to ask more relevant questions.

3. Stop Often for Q&A

The most boring webinars are just one long lecture, which might as well have been a recording the audience could have watched in their own time! Sometimes there’s a short Q&A session at the end, but even that format isn’t very engaging.

Instead, stop often during your webinar for questions about the material you have just covered. Tell your audience you will be doing this, give them a bit of advance notice before you stop (e.g. warn them on the previous slide), and then stop for questions. You’ll be far more engaging, and the audience gets to ask more relevant questions.

4. Ask Them a Question

Turn the tables on them, and ask them a question from time to time. This could be something you want them to answer in public, or it could be a question you want them to answer for themselves. Even if they answer it privately, the mere act of asking the question gets their minds thinking actively, not just watching passively.

5. Do a Quiz or Puzzle

Asking a good question is powerful, but so is asking them to think creatively. If you can find or design a quiz or puzzle that you can link to your material, use that in your webinar to make it more engaging. For example, I used this puzzle in a webinar about building your social media platform:

I showed the puzzle, asked people to share their answers, and gave a prize (one of my books) to the first person with the correct answer.

The key is to make the puzzle relevant; otherwise it's a meaningless waste of time. In my case, the puzzle needed creative thinking to solve, so I was able to say that you also need creative thinking to stand out in social media.

What can YOU do in your webinars?

None of these five ideas are difficult; it just takes a commitment to being more engaging in your webinars. But if you're not engaging, you'll lose them. So pick one, two or more - and add it to your next webinar!