How to FIX the #1 mistake when you present online (Includes example opening lines)

If you’ve read my recent post called
Do you make this #1 mistake when you present online?, you’ll know it asserts that the top mistake of online presenters (such as in webinars) is time-wasting, and it names 3 of the biggest symptoms:

  • Spending too long on introductions
  • Staying on the same slide too long
  • Fixating on interaction instead of value

In that earlier post, you’ll find those 3 problems laid out, but you won’t find any solutions. So that’s where this post comes in.

Below, you’ll find ways to solve each of those 3 problems:

  • Grab attention with a great opening, rather than spending too long introducing the speaker or the webinar tools (like the chat window).
    If you must do introductions, don’t actually do them at the start! That might sound odd, but it makes more sense to engage your audience first. And you can engage them most effectively by showing some of the value your talk will deliver. (After all, that’s why they’ve come!)

    Then, once you’ve got people hooked, they’ll give you more leeway to spend some time on housekeeping. (All the same, respect them and their time – at all times.)

    Straight after you announce the start of your event with a short statement like “Welcome to the webinar!”, here are 3 of the best ways you can open:

    • Spark people’s mind’s eye, like by saying:

      “Think about a time when you received great service. Recall how you felt. Remember what you said to people about it.
      Well today, you’ll discover 5 ways to give your own clients that same great service too.”

      Or by saying:

      “Imagine having clients who sing your praises on Facebook and Twitter. In the next 40 minutes, you’ll see our model for fostering fans like that.”

    • Ask a rhetorical question, like:

      “If you could attract higher-value clients, how would that change your approach to your business? [Pause]
      In this session, you’ll learn a 3-step process to do just that.”

    • Begin with a relevant story, like by using one of these opening lines by Patricia Fripp, former president of the National Speakers Association in the US.

    For more examples, see Start strong – 3 gripping ways to open your talk.


  • Make each slide easy to digest, so you don’t stay on it too long. Here are 4 tips for you: (The 1st 3 are all sections from the same post.)
  • Gather data in the registration process, rather than fixating on interactions (like polls) during your event. Then you can shorten your session by about the amount of time you’d spend on feeble live interactions!
    For instance, often webinars poll people about their level of knowledge of the subject. Although that’s slightly more accurate than asking the same question during registration (because typically many people who register don’t attend in the end), it also wastes time, and the big drawback is you can’t easily tailor your content to suit the results.

    So instead of a live poll, ask people to (optionally) rate their knowledge when they sign up – and let them know their answers will affect the talk’s content. Then make a bar chart out of people’s answers and show it near the start of your talk – just like you would with a live poll.

    That way, depending on the results, you can say something like:

    “About 60% of you have no experience in this subject, and 30% have very limited experience, so we’ll spend about of our time on the basics, and on slightly more involved content.”

    In this example, you could also send an invitation to a follow-up event specifically for the other 10% of people who have the most experience, which you can’t so easily do with live polls.

There you have it, then – numerous ways to avoid wasting people’s time when you present online. As always, I’d love to hear your viewpoint

Now it’s your turn

  • What’s your pet peeve about how people tend to present online?
  • Do you have ideas for better ways to present in online events?
  • Please have your say below.

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5 thoughts on “How to FIX the #1 mistake when you present online (Includes example opening lines)

  1. I’m definitely a fan of capturing as much information from your attendees before, during and after your online events/meetings. We see a lot of webinars and there is nothing worse than having a presenter speak to an audience that has absolutely no interest in what they are saying… you see them drop off the attendee list like flies!

    We advise people to include a field within the registration process to prevent this from happening – something like “what are you hoping to gain from this webinar?” or “what’s one key takeaway that you expect from this webinar?” Capturing this information early achieves 2 things – it gives your presenters a chance to tailor their presentation to your audience’s expectations and makes your attendees feel as though they are really part of the whole process and gives them an extra reason to join on the day.

    However… make sure your presenter is willing to take on the feedback and tailor their content, otherwise it will come back to haunt you!

    Happy Conferencing!


    • Thanks Sara – what an excellent tip! I love the idea of getting the potential audience to mentally invest in the event before it even takes place.

      Ken mentioned that some people will be put off attending because of the extra complexity when registering (though it’s probably good to make the questions optional, so people don’t actually have to expend any more effort). Still, I’d say it’s better to have a smaller, more committed audience than spreading the registration net too wide and having people drop like flies.

      Thanks again for your contribution!


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