A recent survey by Baretz & Brunelle found that since COVID-19 struck, the number of webinars being produced and delivered by law firms and other professional services firm have greatly increased. The survey found that neither side of the webinar equation—the firms that produce them, nor clients who attend them—are having a uniformly positive experience with webinars. So, there is a lot of opportunity for improvement!

I have over 15 years’ experience creating, producing, presenting, and delivering top-rated webinars and webinar series, and I regularly train, coach, and support lawyers and other professionals on how to do so. So, in an effort to help you optimize your webinars, I have summarized below at least 13.5 ways to do so:

1. Remember: prior preparation prevents poor performance (the 5 “Ps”). To put your “best foot” forward, make sure to schedule time to plan, prepare, and practice to make the most out of your webinar performance and the maximize results you attain from your time, effort, and presentation. Make sure to work with a skilled copywriter to come up with a compelling title for your webinar, one that resonates with clients/prospects, and will capture their interest enough to register

2. A best practice is to offer webinars that are no more than one hour in length (including Q&A), but since the coronavirus crisis, 30-45 minutes is ever better.

3. Ask yourself: what are your webinar presentation objectives? i.e. what do you want to see result from your webinar presentation? If your objective is to get new business opportunities from the webinar, remember that the main hurdle in using webinars to make a strong connection/impression with prospective client attendees, is that you are not physically in the same room with them and therefore are unable to meet them in person, one to one, shake their hand, make direct eye contact, etc. The reason this is a hurdle to developing a strong connection is that in-person contact is an important factor in many (but not all) decisions to hire outside counsel. Therefore, you may want to plan for ways to insert audience/attendee interaction into your webinar presentation well before you deliver it. To overcome the lack of in-person, physical contact with attendees, if you are not already very familiar with the audience interaction features of the webinar/video-conference system you will be using, look into them, ask about them, and get training on how to use them optimally. For example, many webinar programs allow the audience to ask questions, annotate, highlight, create callouts, insert short videos, chat, and/or answer polling questions. You may want to use one or more of these features to engage your audience, interact with them, and retain their attention.

4. Plan at least 20-30 percent of your allotted presentation time for questions/comments and prepare two or three proactive questions in advance. Such as, “One question I am often asked is….”, or “Another issue related to X that I am asked about is…”, etc.

5. Remember to prepare and script “housekeeping” remarks that include what you are going to cover and how the audience can interact with you. Be sure to mention:

a. That you will be emailing a copy of the slides used immediately after the webinar (if you have not sent them ahead of time – which is a much better approach). It is much more useful for the audience to have already received the slides that you will use during the webinar well ahead of the start time so that they can follow along and take notes in the most organized manner for them. If you plan to send your presentation slides ahead of time, also create and send  a “how to” slide summarizing the exact steps audience members need to take to ask questions or make comments. Title it “Tools You Can Use During this Webinar.”

b. That you welcome questions and comments and let attendees know the ways they can ask questions and/or make comments using the appropriate audience interaction feature.

6. In terms of the content of your presentation, prepare/package it in chunks or lists. Make sure to summarize what you are going to cover at the beginning of your remarks and summarize what you covered at the end. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them. Make your presentation title and remarks inviting and enticing. For example, do not prepare your slides or plan to discuss “COVID-19 Update,” which is bland and mundane. Instead, perhaps package and discuss “Top Five Current Workforce Challenges.” Do not put more than five words across and five words down on any single slide. Use colors, graphics, images as appropriate (but make sure if you use only material you own, not copyrighted material).

7. Build “calls to action” into your presentation at appropriate points throughout, but especially at the beginning and end of your presentation. For example, in the beginning, let attendees know they can ask questions or make comments and describe how to do so. At the end of your presentation, have a slide with a list that suggests/offers specific, additional materials, a suggested reading list, site links, etc. where they can find out more about what was covered. Be sure to include a slide that contains (at least) your LinkedIn page link that invites attendees to ”connect with”/”follow” you (and other links as appropriate such as your Twitter handle, etc.). You may also want to include a slide that lists exactly how to sign up for your firm’s relevant emails (maybe even provide a list of the various emails/publications your firm distributes). Encourage the entire audience to contact you in coming days/weeks if they have additional questions, and make sure to include an end slide that says, “thank you” and shows all your contact information.

8. Audience polling questions are an effective way to insert audience interaction into a webinar and retain audience attention. If your presentation is a half-hour long, use only up to two polling questions. If your presentation is one hour long, insert an audience polling question every 10 to 20 minutes to break up the pace and retain attention. If you have never created, used, and responded to the results from audience polling questions before, practice several times before you use them during a webinar, which will avoid fumbles/bumbles and delays.

9. If you are hosting and/or leading the webinar, make sure to alert your in-house video-conferencing support team on the date and time of the webinar. Ask them to help you one hour before the actual start-time of the webinar to be sure all connections work. If you will be hosting the webinar using Zoom, WebEx, GoToWebinar, etc. ask your assistant/secretary to check to be sure it is working at least two hours before the webinar is scheduled to begin.

10. A few days before the webinar, set up two computers to conduct a test-run to practice and see exactly how you will look to webinar attendees when speaking/presenting in front of a computer/your laptop. It is best to have your chair adjusted to a height just slightly below the web/video camera lens itself. It is always better to look up to the camera lens rather than down (looking down can make you appear haughty/snobbish). If your head is above the lens, it will also cause you to slouch and poor posture is not good for any presentation. To make your best webinar appearance, try and keep your head level with the web/video-cam at all times, look straight into the lens itself and avoid looking at your own image on the screen because this will cause your eyes to shift back and forth, which could make you appear “shifty” to attendees.

11. Start up your webinar program at leasta half-hour before the scheduled start time. A half-hour before start time allows you plenty of opportunity to adjust your chair height, ensure proper lighting, close all desktop tabs/programs that may be open on the computer you are using, clear the area around you and within webcam sight, test the microphone/camera, etc. Start the webinar on time no matter what glitches may have arisen.

12. Delivery and speech tips – The below are where most professional fall short when presenting a webinar. They fail to optimize the tools available (many described above) and fail to optimize their use of their face, eyes, gestures, and voice. If you have not received formal, one on one training to optimize your online presentation skills, consider doing so.

a. Your pace/rate of speech should be moderate, but not fast. The more technical/detailed your remarks are, the more methodical you may want to deliver them. For practice, consider mimicking your speech pace as you recite The Pledge of Allegiance out loud.

b. Speak clearly and at a volume of at least six to seven (on a scale from one to ten).

c. Avoid speaking in a monotone.

d. Increase volume or inflection to show enthusiasm or emphasis on certain words, i.e. Welcome to today’s webinar!

e. Choose your words carefully.

f. Strategically, use the golden pause.

g. Prepare and use a “spice” or “surprise” every 3 to 5 minutes to retain attention.

13. Make sure to record the webinar. Then consider: posting it on your firm’s website and your bio page, posting it on YouTube, offering it to your LinkedIn connections in a post, sending the link to key referral sources, others who may find it of interest/use, etc. Have the webinar transcribed, then edit and convert the content into an article, a client alert, and/or posts for LinkedIn, Twitter, and other relevant social media sites.

This article was adapted from content contained in these two, best-selling books:

 “Master-Level Business & Client Development Activity Checklists”https://www.amazon.com/Master-Level-Business-Development-Activity-Checklists/dp/1732945322/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=julie+savarino&qid=1596558997&sr=8-

“Survive and Thrive Post-Pandemic: A Guidebook for Legal and Professional Services Providers” –  https://www.amazon.com/Survive-Thrive-Post-Pandemic-Guidebook-Professional-ebook/dp/B0892CBYWY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=julie+savarino&qid=1596559051&sr=8-1