A 3-step guide for IT professionals appearing in Webinars

Technology professionals should seize the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, but not without some preparation. Let us help you get camera-ready

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Vendors may be the ones producing webinars, but for obvious reasons they like their customers to be the stars.

Oftentimes, vendors will ask their customers to share stories or expertise, providing more compelling content than, say, a sales pitch.

It’s a great way to raise your profile, and there’s also the possibility of getting product discounts or other perks. If you’re a network admin, you may not have the opportunity to participate in webinars as often as the CIO or IT manager, but if you’re looking to move up the corporate ladder, positioning yourself as an expert through public speaking engagements could help.

But many IT pros may be more used to being behind the scenes — not in front of a camera or microphone. So if you’re camera-shy, here are a few tips from the experts to help you get webinar-ready.

1. Real time vs. Recorded, Audio Vs. Video

Not all webinars are the same. Some are video; some are audio. Some are pre-recorded; some are streamed live. One that’s pre-recorded means you can do another take if you mess up, but keep in mind your idea of perfection may not be the same as the person recording you.

If you’ll be reading from a script, ask to see the script before committing; if you find it’s overly promotional you may want to negotiate the wording. If it’s unscripted, ask to see some questions in advance to help you prepare. If it’s a live Q&A with audience participation, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the webinar’s focus and audience, to prepare the best you can.

2. Talk To Your Peers, Not Screens

Ken Molay urges presenters in The Webinar Blog to “go big” and put more energy and enthusiasm in their voice than they’re used to, particularly if it’s an audio-only webinar. “People simply cannot understand how boring their normal speaking voice sounds on a 20-, 30-, or 40-minute presentation to a remote audio-only audience,” he says. And practice the presentation ahead of time to get comfortable with timing and flow.

The tricky part is that you’re speaking to an audience you can’t see. Webinar speakers typically make the mistake of speaking to the computer, rather than to the people who are listening in on the other side, says Sarah Lloyd-Hughes, founder of Ginger Training & Coaching. “We get overly formal and forget what really connects to the people [on] the other side of the webinar platform: humour, personality and fun.”

But there are specific techniques that can help if you’re nervous, such as looking directly at the webcam to make “eye contact” with your audience. You can also record yourself ahead of time and review the footage to see what’s working and what’s not.

Lloyd-Hughes also recommends strategic pauses (but not too long, or your audience might think there’s something wrong with their audio). “Get into a rhythm: short burst of words/break/short burst of words/break,” she says. “This also has the added benefit of getting rid of the dreaded ‘UM.’ Tony Blair speaks in this way and is just brilliant!”

3. Know Your FAQs

Being prepared is important, but if there’s a live Q&A you may be required to think on your feet. And even if you’re prepared with answers to frequently asked questions or supplemental talking points, you can’t predict every question — including negative comments and confusing multi-part questions.

“Try to anticipate the tough questions and prepare your responses ahead of time,” says Lisa Marshall with The Public Speaker. “You’ll want to practice diffusing loaded questions. At times, these questions do include legitimate concerns that should be addressed, but it is very important not to react emotionally to a loaded question.”

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s perfectly acceptable to admit that, and get back to the person after the presentation. Of course, there’s the possibility that no one will actually ask any questions, so make sure your host has a few pre-prepared questions to avoid that awkward chirping-cricket scenario.

You don’t have to be a polished public speaker to participate in webinars. In fact, the more “real” you are, the better.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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