How many webinars have you attended where it sounded like the speakers really didn’t have their act together? Or worse, the sound was downright horrible and you couldn’t hear them and you start to check your email, or worse, bail from the webinar.
The first clue that there’s a problem is a webinar starting late, and then you can tell in a matter of moments that they sounded like they were not at all prepared, relaxed or inspired, and the sound was not crisp, thus robbing the audience from participating in an engaging experience.
I’m going to discuss some ways to mitigate this as well as provide a checklist on what to do before you go live, during this important final sound check.
Your speakers whether or not they are all in the same location, or scattered across the world, need to sound like an ensemble of thought leaders that projects confidence and authority.
In addition to having the speakers practice their transitions and cues in the weeks before going live, establishing a final sound check is a great way to prevent and mitigate a disaster from happening for two reasons:
The first is human nature, people, especially speakers who are often thought leaders and are busy people, and they will often put off until the last minute getting ready for the webinar. Many fall victim to the myth that, “I’m a great presenter, I’ll just show up and wing it”. Wrong!
The second is technology, especially audio, which is the Achilles heel for all webinars, always seems to act up just before going live, and can be most disruptive to not only your speakers nerves, but also to the audience. Poor audio can make or break the webinar.
The solution is to have your speakers and moderator meet an hour before going live, as this creates a virtual green room, where people can get comfortable and bond, review any last minute changes, etc. It’s also an opportunity to fix any unexpected technology issues, which are always better handled when people are relaxed, rather than glitches showing up at the last minute before the webinar begins.
Here’s a best practice tip, and for it to work, you have to be firm and look out for your speakers best interests. It’s easy to get a lot of push back from your speakers that they don’t have the time to either rehearse, and while they are busy people, it’s their “personal brand” that’s going to be on display. Once they understand that you care about how well they come off as well as the webinar, they will usually relent, back down and agree to participate in dress rehearsals and the final sound check, especially if you offer them the flexibility to work around their schedules. In fact, once they do get into the groove, they will often ask for another dress rehearsal to perfect their portion!
Here’s my recommended final call checklist, and remember to always have everyone’s mobile number handy in case you need to call them and vice versa. Don’t forget to have handy the support or help desk number of your webinar hosting provider, they can be a true hero in time of need.
1. Have everyone log in an hour before you go live as it will ensure everyone can get on without any issues. It’s a good idea to have folks reboot their PC and if a wizard is available to optimize connection to the webinar hosting platform, have them run it.
2. Keep all other applications other than PowerPoint if that’s what you use, closed, such as email or any other apps that have pop-ups or make sounds.
3. Silence or put on vibrate your mobile phone and silence your landline phone. Put a sign on your door that says “Live Webinar In Progress – Please Don’t Knock or Disturb”.
4. Make sure you and your speakers have a hard copy of the slides printed out, and this should be printed in Notes Page View, so any talking points or other cues are highlighted.
5. Do a final sound check of all speakers to make sure they are optimally miked.
6. Run through the slides, practice transitions and hand offs between moderator and panelists.
7. Review polls, surveys and procedures for facilitating Q/A at the end of the webinar.
8. Review your Plan B with the speakers, that is brief them on what to do if there’s a technical issue such as the slides not advancing, or the sound goes out. Make sure all speakers if they are using a USB headset via VoIP, that they also have a have a landline number handy to dial into, just in case.
9. The moderator should launch the welcome screen 15-20 minutes before going live, and continue to speak with all speakers and organizers in sub conference. Now is a good time for everyone to take a quick stretch break, and come back for the final sound check ready to go live.
10. Two minutes before the hour, do your final sound check, mute all non speakers, and on time at the top of the hour, have the moderator welcome the audience and treat them to some great content and conversations.
Remember, this is live production and theatrical in nature, so have fun, it’s about connection, not perfection.
If you’d like to learn more about other best practices around the sound check, please click here to download a free copy of my eBook The Five Things You Must Know About Webinar Audio or any of my other eBooks.
To your webinar success!