9 tips to design presentations for webinars – critique of Ellen Finkelstein’s post [Part 2]

wise-webinar-owlWhen you prepare for an online session, do you wonder:

  • How long should your introduction be, and what should it focus on?
  • How much content should you show on each slide?
  • Is it OK to use animations, and if so, what sort should you use – and when?

In this post, you’ll find answers to those questions, and more. It’s part 2 of a review of Ellen Finkelstein’s post called:

9 tips to design presentations for webinars

(Be sure to also check out part 1 for my review of Ellen’s tips 1 to 4.)

In this post, we’ll look at the last 5 of Ellen’s 9 webinar tips, which I’d summarise like this:

 Ellen’s tip My verdict – should you?
5. You can make content smaller, but Rarely
6. Keep animation simple Yes, and use these tips too
7. If you’re new to people, introduce yourself 1st Sometimes
8. Vary your voice Yes, and maybe use other sounds
9. Follow up Yes, through email and social media

You’ll also find these sections near the end of this post:

Click any of those links to jump straight to the relevant part of this post, or just scroll down

 

5.  You can make content smaller, but…   [My verdict: Rarely]Scroll up to Contents ↑

In this tip, Ellen says:

“In cases where you have a lot of data and
might better print it out in a live presentation…
you can instead show it on a slide in a webinar.

However, big and bright will keep their attention.”

If you’ve lots of numbers, put them into a chart, heat map or other visual

Yes, I agree with that last sentence. I think it’s risky to talk about showing a lot of data in a webinar though, because surely cases where you’ve lots of data to discuss should be rare. It’s far more common for presenters to put way too much detail on their slides.

If you’ve lots of numbers, put them into a chart, heat map or other visual (not just a spreadsheet or table) so everyone can make better sense of them. (Numbers in tables are so hard to grasp that having a meaningful conversation about them is almost impossible!)

There are just a few special cases where you might need to show lots of text

Likewise, there are just a few special cases where you might need to show lots of text on your webinar slide, such as:

  • lines of literature, if your audience studies a language (or teaches it)
  • some computer code, if your viewers work in software development
  • the details of a contract, if your audience works in purchasing, legal, or related roles

Unless your webinar fits into a category like one of those though, please don’t subject your viewers to more than about 15 words per slide – as advocated by experts like Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.

 

6.  Keep animation simple   [My verdict: Yes, and use these tips too]Scroll up to Contents ↑

Because of low bandwidth in webinars (and the resulting choppiness), in her 6th point Ellen suggests you keep animation quick and simple, and I agree (even when you’re presenting face-to-face).

Still, it’s often helpful to make items appear as part of a “build” on a slide, to keep your viewers in sync with what you’re saying. And you might even want to intrigue people by showing cues to your content, before you reveal it bit-by-bit as you talk about it.

Whatever animations you use, though, make sure they’re:

  • subtle, so they don’t distract from what you’re saying
  • purposeful, so they help you convey the meaning of your message

A related tip I’d add is to use the technique I call stop Q&A hypnosis (which helps you keep people visually engaged while you answer questions, by switching slides for each question).

Also, I encourage you to test your slides on your webinar platform as soon as you start to develop them. That way, you can be sure you’re using slide features that your platform fully supports.

What’s more, depending on your setup, low bandwidth could also be another reason not to use your webcam the whole time (unlike Ellen). After all, you might prefer to free more bandwidth for your slides (with their subtle and purposeful animations).

 

7.  If you’re new to people, introduce yourself 1st   [My verdict: Sometimes]To Contents ↑

I disagree with Ellen on this, because speaker intros tend to be done badly, and online viewers are less patient than in an in-person audience. So it’s well worth reframing speaker intros (or bios) completely.

Counter-intuitively, your bio should centre on your audience

Craig Valentine (former World Champion of public speaking) published a great post on that very topic. Rather counter-intuitively, he says your bio should centre on your audience.

And for a neat perspective on how to start a webinar, I’d say you can’t do better than Ken Molay’s advice, in his post called Just start already.

Back in Ellen’s post, she says:

“If they do know you… don’t bore your audience at the beginning with your biography.”

But even if they don’t know you, your bio’s still quite likely to bore your audience! So as Craig Valentine suggests, phrase it in terms of benefits to your listeners, and preferably, don’t present it at the start. Rather, deliver some value 1st, then people will be more open to hearing a bit about your background.

They just want to know they can trust what you say

Your audience is only slightly interested in you. Really, they just want to know they can trust what you say.

8.  Vary your voice   [My verdict: Yes, and maybe use other sounds]Scroll up to Contents ↑

I agree with Ellen about standing up, which encourages you to be more dynamic (both vocally and in your gestures). Still, when you can’t see your audience, it’s hard work! So to help you, Nancy Duarte has a clever tip (on video) to put a smile in your voice.

Ideally, have a 2nd presenter (or a moderator)

Here’s another tip I’d add, to make your voice literally more conversational: Ideally, have a 2nd presenter (or a moderator) who you can discuss some aspects of the topic with during your webinar.

If that’s not possible, surprisingly you might find using the chat box can help you here, because people’s chat could easily:

  • Surprise you
  • Delight you
  • Amuse you

Emotions like those are a godsend, as they cause you to naturally vary your tone, so your voice sounds more engaging.

Consider sparingly using sound effects

I’d add a novel related tip, too: Consider sparingly using sound effects, because they stand out strikingly from your voice. As a result, you’ll bring yet more variety to your session.

For instance:

  • You might chime a bell each time you first introduce one of your 3 main points.
  • While you’re waiting for people to respond to a poll (or for your webinar platform to compile the results), you could play music for a few seconds.
  • Or, suppose you’ll ask people a few key questions about your topic throughout your talk. In that case, when someone 1st gets each question right, you might play a brief cheering sound.

 

9.  Follow up   [My verdict: Yes, through email and social media]Scroll up to Contents ↑

A talk should always be just 1 step in a process

A talk should always be just 1 step in a process the audience is going through, so it makes sense to continue the conversation after your webinar.

To help you do that, you might find these resources useful:

Some people’ll send your message to their followers

There’s a big benefit of following up to continue the conversation with your audience, especially if you also use social media (not just email) for that: Some people’ll send your message to their followers, too.

(Getting talked about like that is the last part of the presentation approach I use, called the FiRST framework, which you can learn more about through the menu at the top of this blog’s pages.)

So I absolutely agree with Ellen that you should follow up with your audience after your webinar.

 

Your turnScroll up to Contents ↑

Do let me know what you think.

  • Which of Ellen’s webinar tips appeals most to you?
  • What tips can you recommend for webinars?

To remind yourself of the tips, you might want to review the table at the top of this post. And if you’ve not seen it, be sure to check out my review of Ellen’s first 4 tips, where I added several tips from myself and other writers too.

 

See alsoScroll up to Contents ↑

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