Webinar: one of the most powerful tools to close a deal.


Webinars have been around for a while now, and, therefore, they’re not considered the sexiest media by marketers any longer. It comes as a surprise, though, that, among the social media available, they are demonstrably the one that brings in the most number of conversions and sales. Pretty sexy, in my opinion, huh?

Webinars are a social medium, because, just like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, they boost the creation of a community and generate a lot of interaction between the participants. The sessions themselves have a limited length of time– 75 min is the usual – but, just like a live in-person event, they bring people together who can then sign up for your company’s website or Facebook fan page and become a member of a community just like any other.

Most webinars are done live, although, depending on the software or service you choose to use, the session can and should be recorded for later viewing, in case some of the participants cannot make it at a certain time of the day.

I remember the first time I ran a webinar – facilitating the presentation of famous authors of a publisher I used to work for – with the objective of educating the participants on the new methodology of the English language teaching material we were launching, and, as a consequence, selling the material to the school or teacher who might feel it fit their needs. Being the first time on my own, I was kind of nervous, but then I relaxed and started to have a good time myself. The speakers, at first, were a bit stiff themselves, but then they got in the mood (of course, we all had rehearsed and had been carefully trained many times before) and the session was as a huge success.

Customers watching a webinar

Customers watching a webinar

There are basically three phases to a webinar: the promotion, the session itself, and the follow-up. If all these phases are implemented properly and carefully, the event will go as smoothly as it should, otherwise the session will flop, and the conversion rates and sales results will be disappointing. After all, a webinar is like any other marketing tool for collecting leads and selling the product. Some webinars are so powerful that the conversion from prospect to lead to buyer occurs during the session itself, and the client either makes the purchase online after the webinar or requests the visit of a rep to complete the process. Let’s talk a little bit about each of the phases of a webinar:

The Promotion: creating the buzz

After deciding on the best webinar provider for your company and having had extensive training on it, organize your first event. This does not differ much from how you promote your live in-person conferences, except for, in your communication with the customers – be it online (email, banners, Facebook posts); print collateral/invites that your sales people will hand out to VIP clients; or even phone calls – make sure to reinforce the main advantage of the webinar: the customer will be attending a high-quality session and interacting with people from all over the world from the comfort of their own home or the desk chairs in their office. Many clients still resist the concept of webinars initially, as they will have never taken part in one. Even the reps, if not properly trained, can damage your effort by not explaining to the customer the value of attending a session under these ideal conditions. All the clients need is a computer with an Internet connection. Remember to send out invitations to the event a least 30 days before the session, and be prepared to send two or three reminders afterwards if you feel the registration is low. By the way, make the registration process very simple (ask only for their names and email addresses). You can add more details about them later.

The session and its different parts

When the great day arrives, make sure you, as the facilitator, and the speakers, who will probably be in different parts of the world, get together online at least 30 min before the session starts in order to run some technical tests of sound and image and make sure everything is in fine. There are always some customers who arrive early, either because they are excited, or because they themselves want to make sure they can get in easily. Greet these people warmly, explain them that the session will start in X min (remember they might be in very different time zones) and ask them questions such as how they found out about the session, where they are watching it from, are they alone or with other people, etc., to warm them up. The webinar provider usually has a forum section (or chat room) where the participants can chat with each other by entering their questions, answers and comments in writing. So expect a lot of interaction among them even before the session starts.

When the time is right, introduce the speakers, present the agenda of the webinar (it is a great help for the audience to know what is going to happen, so show a slide with bullet points telling them the plan). In the phase of the preparation for the webinar, ask the speakers if they would feel comfortable telling a story related to the content they will be presenting to open the session. We love stories and this is a great way to break the ice. Of course, the story ideally tells of a problem and its solution – which will be the product/service you are promoting. The speakers mustn’t make it too long, as some attendees will want them to jump straight into the content itself.

Then the speakers start the session per se. If the speakers decide to make it more interactive – which I strongly recommend – they should ask questions during the presentation and teach the audience how to react by using the different buttons available on the dashboard on their end of the interface of the webinar provider: they can say YES/NO, they can insert emoticons in the chat section applauding a point the speakers made, or laughing at one of their jokes. They can also make comments in the chat section. They love it.

When you finish the content part of the session, you or your speaker need to put on your sales hat, and smoothly, transition to a sales close. Ask if they liked what they heard so far, if they have any questions and whether they are ready to purchase it. This is called CLOSING in sales, and you need to do that, if you are using the webinar for business. Afterwards, set up a quick Q&A slot: 15 min max. They can ask questions about anything: the content of the session or the product/service itself. Some will buy on the spot, others will need more time to think about it. Fair enough. For those who need more time, you will establish the third phase of the webinar:

The Follow-up

Both live in-person events and webinars need to pull the prospects along the sales funnel leading them to make a purchase. After the even,  you will hopefully have many converts, but they need to actually take the action of buying your offer. This third phase is essential: your reps could schedule a demo at their office to continue the conversation; you could set up an email marketing campaign highlighting the benefits of the product and expanding on what was not said during the webinar; you can send them more info via an ebook or brochure. However, don’t lose track of the participants of the webinar. Make sure they join your community (website, blog, Facebook fan page, etc). Otherwise, you will be just wasting your time as a business person.

There is a lot of info about webinars on the web and many tips on how to conduct them. The more you read about these sessions, the more confident you will become to start producing them. They are very effective. Don’t miss on this opportunity to close deals.

Au revoir.

Jorge Sette.

 

 

 

 

Six Tips on How to Give Outstanding Presentations


I have spent most of my professional life involved in giving presentations one way or another. They were of many different types: lessons – as I was a teacher for many years; product presentations – as a marketing manager for publishing houses; training sessions – for teachers and salespeople; motivation talks – for publishers as a freelance speaker. Therefore, I believe I have enough experience and expertise to impart some tips to beginners in this fascinating field of presentations, although I believe that even those with a bit more experience will also profit from the tips below, as one can always learn.

Honing your presentation skills

Honing your presentation skills

1. PowerPoint or Keynote: if you have these very similar softwares, don’t waste a lot of time brooding over which one to use. It does not really matter, they basically have the same functionality and they will only serve as a visual support for your presentation. Therefore, use the one you are more familiar with. Don’t forget there’s always the option of using neither. PowerPoint has been overused for almost two decades now, and some people cannot stand it any longer. Especially because many people use it as a teleprompter, rather than as a tool to show visuals that may highlight your point or make it clearer to your audience. Never – let me repeat this – never use PowerPoint as a teleprompter.  Now and then, write down your speech or presentation and just memorize it or deliver it with the help of some cue cards. Take a look at some TED talks to know what I mean. Your presentation will come across as much more energetic and interesting if you do this.

2. Start your presentation with a bang: this could be either a joke, an interesting quote or an activity that will involve your audience as a kind of warm-up. If you make them do something right at the beginning, it will take the pressure off of you before you start your brilliant delivery, and will also infuse them with energy and get their minds focused.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare: there’s no good spontaneous talk. You need to know what you are talking about, and rehearse how your message will be delivered. Don’t try to wing it. I had a boss once who would spring presentation assignments at me at very short notices. I had a hard time persuading her this would not reflect well on our team. It would make us look unprofessional. Yes, sometimes you need to enlighten people who are above you on the corporate food chain, otherwise the damage can be catastrophic. Take Steve Jobs for example: he would prepare relentlessly and worry about every minute detail of his presentations for maximum impact. He was right.  Also, remember there’s usually a question and answer slot a the end of most presentations, so make sure you know a lot more about the subject than the fraction of it you presented. A presentation should only reflect the tip of the iceberg of the speaker’s knowledge and understanding of the topic. Learn all you can about it before putting yourself in the position of an expert and speak from the podium.

4. Use slides frugally: if you choose to use PowerPoint or Keynote, do not use too many slides, or write too many words on each of them.  You can aways give the audience a handout with the summary of your presentation at the end. Slides are for occasional pictures, short phrases or inspiring quotes. Filling a slide with one hundred bullet points with a small font and read them out loud to your audience will not increase your popularity as a good speaker.

5. Tell stories: love of storytelling is universal. People from all cultures and all ages enjoy a good story. So make sure you tell them during your presentation. They can be personal anecdotes  (which are very effective, and lend your whole talk a more personal and intimate tone) or they could be stories you either made up or read in books, the Internet or newspapers. If you structure your presentation using the backbone of a story, you will be surprised at how much more effective it will be.

6. Involve your audience: nowadays most people have the attention span of a goldfish and will not sit quietly through a long and boring presentation. If they stay, you will notice most of them will be checking their smartphone screens for the latest Facebook update. On the other hand, there is no need to be a stand-up comedian to keep their attention. A simple trick is to involve them and make them participate actively throughout the session: ask questions, get them to give you their opinions, set up an electronic voting system.

I guess that is all for today. There are hundreds of books and posts on the Internet that can help you hone your presentation skills. I would strongly recommend you watch TED talks regularly – they are not only informative and fun, but they can also teach you techniques on how to speak in public well. If you were to choose ONE book on presentations to study, I would recommend Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. It is surely one of the best books on presentations I have ever read.

Would you like to share with us any additional tips on how to present well? Please leave your comments on the blog as you leave. Don’t forget to rate this post.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette