Last week I did something professionals do all the time. I attended a webinar. It was advertised by an HR company I follow and the ad was effective and engaging. It highlighted three HR professionals who would be hosting the webinar and the core topics they were covering.  

It seemed like it was set up to be an extremely informative webinar where I could learn from HR leaders about core challenges and concepts relevant to HR professionals around the world today. So it’s not surprising that I was expecting to walk away from the webinar with new ideas and direction for how to approach the challenges facing HR.   

Sadly, I was both mistaken and disappointed. What could have been a great opportunity to learn, turned into what I can only describe as listening in on a loose and freeflowing conversation between all three hosts that was not only hard to track, but that lacked clear direction. Although the conversation was lively, it covered very basic topics that I come across every day in my reading but without the structure you’d get in an article.  

R.E.S.P.E.C.T 

You can have as many brilliant and successful people on your webinar (or presentation) as you’d like, but if you skip over what’s needed to prepare, you’re going to disappoint your audience.  

If you plan to host a webinar, presentation, panel, or anything that has people taking time out of their day to sit down and listen to you, you’ve got to take steps to prepare. Respect the time your audience has dedicated to listening to you, hoping to learning something.  

Define your goal 

You may have a great topic for your presentation, but if you don’t define your goalyou’re going to have a hard time untangling your topic into a clear story that your listeners can follow. This is especially true if you’re presenting with multiple people.  

You may all be experienced leaders with informed opinions, but without sitting down and defining your goal as a group, everyone is going to come to the presentation with a different goal in mind. This lack of structure is guaranteed to come across in your conversation.  

So sit down, and hash it out. Figure out what you want your listeners to walk away with. Is it a list of actionables they can use in their practice? Or a new way of thinking about an old topic? Or a better understanding of the drivers behind an issue? Whatever it is, figure it out beforehand and structure your presentation to support your goals.  

Visuals, visuals, visuals 

It may seem like a lot of work, but a webinar without visuals is like a foreign movie without subtitles. You may be able to follow along with the plot, but you’re going to lose a lot of the subtext at the very least.  

It takes work to capture and maintain people’s attention. You aren’t going to get it just by putting a few slides together with bright pictures and the questions you’ll be talking about on them.  

Break down your talking points. Go back to your goals and trace them into what you want people to take away from your presentation. Then write it down and put it on their screen. This will help your listeners process what you’re talking about and it will help you to stay on track as you talk. Listeners truly appreciate useful and informative slides. I have yet to attend a webinar and not had someone ask if the slides will be available after the presentation.   

Practice! 

Ok, you may be rolling your eyes at this one, but it can’t be stressed enough. I felt as though I was listening in on a phone conversation between three people who wanted to chat about their jobs. They interrupted one another, went on tangents, and it was hard to follow them 

Practice the presentation all the way through multiple times. Ask yourself at the end of each run-through what you think your audience walked away with. Ask yourself if it was clear and concise or if you went on unnecessary tangents that should be cut out of the actual presentation.  

This is a great opportunity for you to parse away any extra material that might clog the flow of the presentation and muddy your talking points and common goal. Figure out who is going to talk and when so you’re not interrupting each other and can step in for support if someone strays off topic.  

Even if it’s just you presenting, practice will help you clarify in your mind how you want to talk about the subject and what parts of it matter the most. When it is clear for the presenters, it’s clear for the listeners.   

If you’re going to ask people to take time out of their day to listen to you, you owe it to them (and you) to come prepared. You know you’ve got something worth talking about, otherwise you wouldn’t be there.  So show it! Treat your presentation like the valuable offer it is. Your audience will thank you, I promise.  

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Photo by Teeramet Thanomkiat