A webinar is a great vehicle for thought leadership and demand creation, but what separates the ho hum webinars from the home run webinars?

While delivering valuable and timely information is key to a home-run webinar, it simply isn’t enough to hold the audiences’ interest and spark that curiosity to learn more. The real challenge is how to connect with your audience.

Having moderated hundreds of webinars, here are some strategies that I use as sure-fire connection builders. I’d love to hear what’s been successful or not so successful for all of you!

1.    Use attendees’ names early and often
Monitor the chat/Q and A and verbally respond back to what you see there. No incoming chats? No problem. Just pick a few names from the attendee list and offer a warm hello to them and all the others on the event.  Starting off with interaction helps get off on the right foot.

2.    Invite questions throughout
Be sure to tell attendees how to ask questions and specifically invite them to submit questions right from the start. It is also important to let attendees know when and how you’ll be dealing with questions that are coming in.

3.    Tell attendees about who else is in the audience
Attending a webinar can feel isolating. Help create community by giving some simple demographics based on information that you have gathered through the registration process. Poll your audience on something that they might like to know about each other. Sharing poll data is another great way to create connection and let them know that they are not alone in whatever challenges they might be addressing.

4.    Leverage social media
Leverage social media by offering a hashtag or a Facebook page for the event so that attendees can tweet and connect offline. You and any of the speakers on the event can also participate in this post-event dialog. Remember that the webinar is just the start of the connection and conversation.

5.    Deliver on what you have promised
Review the promotional material and be sure that you are delivering on what you have outlined in the invitation to the event. A webinar is most often the start of your relationship with a client or prospect and delivering on what you have promised is the first and most critical step in establishing trust and thought leadership.

6.    Offer anecdotes and concrete examples
Share anecdotes or real life examples of the points that you  are making.  People attend a webinar to access experts they wouldn’t normally be able to hear from. Be sure that the you  are going beyond the theory and giving practical tips and ideas.

7.    Offer engaging visuals and lots of white space
A large part of the key to connecting is getting the audience to tune in and listen. If the slides are cluttered with too much text, you’ll lose the audience as they start reading, or worse, they may become frustrated and simply check out. Take time to review your slides and challenge yourself to create more white space and include more engaging graphics.

8.    Use voice variation and dialog to engage attendees
One thing that I love about webinars is that I can present to hundreds of people while wearing my bunny slippers (Ok, so I don’t really own bunny slippers, but you get the idea.), but the flip side is that the audience is not a captive one. In an instant, they can be off surfing the web, checking email, or playing on their smart phones.

Use your voice to its fullest by gesturing and smiling as you speak, create a dialog between two speakers or speaker and moderator to keep up the energy and hold the attention of your audience. Finally, steer clear from reading a script. Reading a script is the fastest way to lose an audience. Notes are fine, but reading word for word is not. I’d even go so far as to record your dress rehearsal and listen to it so that you can hear how you sound.

9.    Leave time for live Q and A
Holding a live Q and A allows attendees to hone in on what interests them most. It gives an opportunity for a two-way dialog between expert and attendee, and it gives insight in terms of what the attendees are  focusing on.  During the Q and A don’t miss this opportunity to put tip #1 into practice and use attendees’ first names as you address each question.

10.    Follow up is key
Always lay out how you plan to follow up on unanswered questions and then stick to the plan. Following up when you say you will is a great way to delight attendees and enter into an ongoing conversation that could mean a conversion from lead to customer. Attendees who have asked questions are engaged, so be sure plan how you will execute this step well before you go live.

When it comes to connection, the devil is in the details. If you take care of these details, you’ll delight your audience and be well on the way to establishing trust and laying the groundwork for an ongoing conversation. May all of your webinars be a home run!

Do you have any tried and true strategies to add to the list?

Lori Dearman|Executive Director of Production|WebAttract