Even as businesses around the country begin to cautiously reopen, large in-person professional events likely won’t be returning any time soon. Webinars surged in popularity at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to replace canceled conferences and conventions, and many business leaders have found so much success hosting virtual events that they’ve added more to summer calendars.
If you’ve been tapped to be a guest on a webinar, you might be wondering what to expect. Being a guest speaker on a webinar is an exciting opportunity to be a thought leader in your industry and make new connections, but like any other public speaking obligation, it requires careful preparation.
Whether it’s your first time or you want to hone your presentation chops, here’s how you can prepare to nail your next webinar guest appearance.
Step 1: Establish Expectations with the Webinar Organizer
First, talk to the person organizing the webinar to get a sense of their expectations for the webinar. Here’s what you may want to ask if their webinar overview materials don’t include the following:
- Who is the audience?
- What is the webinar format?
- If there is a panel, who are the other guests?
- How much time will you be expected to speak for?
- Are there specific topics or experiences they would like you to speak about?
- Is a slide deck needed?
- Will there be Q&A?
- Can you speak about your own products or services?
- What is the dress code?
- What are the technology requirements?
If the webinar will have a moderated panel, the organizer may want to discuss how the conversation will be structured beforehand. You might want to ask if you can see a list of questions for the panel in advance.
Make sure you have a direct way to contact the webinar organizer. Stay in communication with them should any questions arise.
Step 2: Prepare Your Webinar Script
Whether the host provides concrete guidelines for your presentation or it’s up to your discretion, having a script will help you to stay on track of everything you want to cover.
Even if you plan to use a slide deck, your script should include:
- A personal introduction or bio. The webinar emcee may introduce you, but you’ll likely be asked to contribute. You’re positioning yourself as a thought leader – it’s important to tell your audience how you’ve developed your expertise.
- A brief agenda. Give your audience a summary of your presentation’s key points upfront.
- A narrative arc. Storytelling is a key tenet of effective public speaking, virtual or live. Ground your topic in a clear narrative that shows your audience how it’s played out in real life.
It’s up to personal preference how detailed to make your script. You might write a loose outline with talking points or you can write your script word-for-word, but when in doubt, write more.
Step 3: Find a Suitable Setting for Your Presentation
Unlike live presentations, you have complete control over your presentation background in a webinar. There are two main elements to consider when choosing a presentation location so that you can ensure a professional setting for your speech.
- A clean backdrop. You don’t want anything to visually distract your audience from the presentation itself. Ideally, you’ll present in a setting with minimal decor that’s clean and organized.
- A location that’s free of noise or potential disruptions. For professionals who are working from home during the pandemic, this may be a challenge (though you certainly wouldn’t be the first online presenter to be interrupted by your child, as evidenced by the viral video of a professor’s BBC interview.)
All of our Firmspace proworking spaces feature both of these conditions, as we believe quiet and sleek professional environments are key to heads-down work and collaboration alike. We continue to operate our offices in accordance with CDC safety guidelines, and our spaces are currently available for professionals in search of a setting for their webinar appearance.
Step 4: Get to Know the Webinar Platform and Secure Your Tech
Don’t log in to the webinar platform for the first time the morning of the event. Every platform has a different interface and capabilities, so don’t assume that because you’ve presented on another platform before you’ll have no trouble navigating this one.
Download the webinar application well ahead of time. Then spend some time getting familiar with it. Learn its features and interactive options, such as polls, screen sharing, or music to guide your presentation planning and see which features you’d like to use.
You should also secure access to high-speed internet and a reliable computer for streaming and audio. The last thing you want is for your internet to crash or your sound to drop mid-presentation.
Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice
Even if you’ve shared these talking points before in live venues, it’s crucial to test all the equipment you’ll be using the day of and to see how you feel presenting virtually. Beyond building confidence in your presentation style, practicing is an opportunity to fine-tune the technical elements of your presentation, such as slide transitions or screen-sharing.
If you have time, practice more than once. This will help you trim down or fill out your allotted time, if there’s a requirement. Record your practice presentation so that you can assess what you can improve for the real deal. Or you might present to a live person you trust who can offer outside feedback.
Ace Your Presentation and Build Your Network
A successful webinar appearance begets new opportunities. You’ll be able to develop relationships with the host and attendees, grow your network, elevate your thought leadership in your industry, and maybe even land another webinar opportunity in the process.
If you’re interested in finding a workspace that can enhance your professional appearances in future webinars, check out our proworking spaces.