11 webinar etiquette tips for presenters and attendees

Now that we’re spending more time at home on our computers than ever before, it’s a great time to brush up on webinar etiquette.

Webinars allow brands to connect directly with their audience. On the other hand, consumers can increase their knowledge on a subject. It’s a win-win when done right, but not all webinars go well. I once attended a webinar on email automation tips which was actually a full demonstration of the product. Yikes.

Then you have situations where the presenter is late or the participants have a little too much a lot of fun in the chatroom, not really the best experience for both sides.

So let’s see how presenters and participants can contribute to more productive webinars.

1. Set the tone.

Each webinar format is different. For example, some focus on education, with the presenter only stepping in with the audience for questions. In other cases, the setting is more interactive.

That said, let your audience know what you want from them early on.

Send a reminder email to your attendees a few days before the webinar and include a section on guidelines. Make sure you answer the following questions:

  • Do participants need to have their cameras and microphones on or off?
  • Is participation encouraged? If so, how?
  • Is there any preparation work?

You can also remind your attendees of these instructions at the start of the webinar, as people log on.

2. Present what you expect.

Imagine ordering a moderately good steak from a restaurant and getting a piece of chicken instead. This piece of chicken might be delicious, but that’s okay because it’s not what you ordered.

Meeting expectations is very important when trying to gain the trust of your audience. For webinars, there are few things more frustrating than anticipating a presentation on one thing and getting something completely different. Shifting can be confusing and result in high sink rates and low engagement.

Additionally, each type of webinar has a purpose and is aimed at a unique audience. For example, workshop participants probably do not have the same intentions as those attending product demos.

With that in mind, resist the temptation to turn your webinar into a promotional opportunity (or something else) if that’s not on the agenda.

3. Do a practice round.

The technical difficulties are disappointing. They interrupt the flow of the presentation and can be difficult to recover. One way to avoid them is to practice ahead of time.

First of all, familiarize yourself with the hosting platform you will be using. Find out where the main features are, such as:

  • Share your screen.
  • Play audio and / or video clips.
  • Showcase participants and adjust their audio / video settings.

You may want to consider having a moderator to assist you during your presentation to monitor the chat room and help get things going.

Once you feel confident navigating the platform, give it a try for the presentation from start to finish. This will let you know how much time you need to spend on each section to meet the schedule.

4. Read the questions and answers aloud.

When you attend a presentation in person, there is usually no guessing game when someone asks a question because you can hear it being asked. Online, things work differently.

Depending on the hosting platform you are using, you will likely have a question and answer feature that allows attendees to ask questions directly to the host. This means that other participants will not know who asked a question and what the question was.

As such, presenters should always repeat questions aloud before answering them, so that the audience understands the context of the answer. However, keep the participant’s name anonymous, unless the participant has requested otherwise.

5. Make the webinar accessible.

Webinars can be great sources of information, but can be missing accessibility features necessary to reach all audiences, including those who are deaf, hard of hearing (HoH) and visually impaired.

Start by reviewing your hosting platforms. Applications like Zoom and Google Hangouts have built-in captioning and live transcription functions. You can also send your participants the presentation slides ahead of time, making it easier for non-native speakers to familiarize themselves with the content.

Depending on your budget, you can hire an interpreter to sign your presentation for your deaf and / or HoH audience. If that is not possible, consider video relay service providers who will connect your audience with performers during your presentation.

For the presentation itself, use high contrast colors to make it easier for visually impaired participants to see your slides.

6. Save the session.

When host a webinar, you can only have a percentage of your subscribers to the live session. Due to scheduling conflicts, many people rely on video recordings to review missed sessions.

While not absolutely necessary, it is a great way to deliver value to users who are interested in your brand but cannot attend live sessions. You can limit access to the recording for a week or two after the live session and add a password to access the images for added security.

1. Be on time.

Webinars generally follow strict agendas, which means there is very little room to catch up if you missed part of the presentation.

To fully enjoy the webinar, make sure you are on time. There is usually a grace period of one to three minutes for participants to log into the hosting platform.

To be safe to play, join the webinar a few minutes in advance in case you have trouble signing in. This will give you enough time to contact the webinar host for assistance. You can also set reminders in the days leading up to the webinar to make sure you’re ready for the start of the event.

2. Talk to amplify, not distract.

Think of the “Chat” box in a webinar as a classroom. Except in this case, you can’t whisper to the person right next to you. Everything you say is loud enough that everyone in the room can hear it and interact.

With that in mind, your contribution should only be to amplify what the presenter is saying.

For example, let’s say you are attending a webinar on email marketing automation. The presenter explains the benefits of setting up email sequences after a prospect takes a specific action. You can chime in the chat to add how effective this practice has been for your brand.

However, it wouldn’t be so helpful to introduce a conversation about email click-through rates or dive into your experience using a particular automation platform.

As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t look like it’s presented, leave it out of the chatroom.

3. Don’t interrupt.

As a presenter, interruptions can really throw you off. It disrupts your thinking process and it may take you a second to get back on track, no matter your level of experience.

Muting the sound to add your entry should only be done if the presenter has spoken to it. As a professional courtesy, do not interrupt the presenter unless they explicitly state that they are welcome.

Instead, wait for a call to action. The presenter can have a dedicated questions and comments slide, or they can ask out loud if anyone has anything to add.

4. Avoid self-promotion.

Self-promotion during someone else’s webinar is like blow out someone else’s birthday candles, it’s in bad taste.

If prompted, it is appropriate to mention your brand when it comes to the content of the presentation. What you should avoid is attempting to lead other participants to your brand through your website and social links or other strategies.

By following a few simple steps, you can help create a more positive webinar experience that everyone enjoys.

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