I Don't Think Your Webinar Is Welcoming
One thing that is probably missing from your webinars and digital events...
Hey friends! It’s been a minute. If you forgot who I am, you probably subscribed from my Twitter profile, @amandanat. I’ve been heads down with work and life, and I didn’t have much to say so I didn’t want to waste your time. But after this edition, your life will change forever.
I go to a lot of webinars. Sometimes I’m presenting in them, occasionally I’m hosting them, and frequently I’m joining as a regular attendee.
I see the same mistake over and over again. I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself. That mistake essentially boils down to one thing: lack of warmth.
I get it. You’re not hosting your besties for cookies and tea.
We’re all in work mode, and we’re just trying to learn the best practices from each other.
But it’s the reserved nature of most webinars that result in:
Awkward back-and-forth between the host and presenter(s)
Lack of participation in the chat (assuming the hosts were brave enough to enable this)
Silence during Q&A
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to fix all these issues. You just need to be friendlier. More direct. And warmer.
Make people feel comfortable.
You’ll want to spend the first few minutes allowing attendees to trickle in. You will also fight every fiber of your being from saying, “Let’s give folks a feeeewww minutes to trickle in.”
If you can swing it, play some dance music as attendees fire up Zoom. But if that feels off-brand for you, don’t force it.
What you must do is kick off with a no-fail question that attendees answer in the chat. This is a question that sparks an immediate emotional reaction and can never result in a wrong answer. It’s an ice breaker, and your only goal is to get people to respond. They’re unlikely to answer if they feel like they’ll be judged for being wrong.
So ask a question like:
What’s your guilty pleasure grocery store snack?
What was the last song you got stuck in your head?
What TV show are you currently watching?
But there’s more. You actually need to warmly engage with the answers. Do it out loud:
“Ok, I love Flamin Hot Cheetos… but I have to admit I prefer Flamin Hot Fries.”
“‘In a minute I’m-a need a sentimental man or woman to pump me up.’ Gosh, Lizzo is the best.”
“After being burned by the last season of Game of Thrones, I’m not sure I can start House of the Dragon. But ok, I bet you’re right and it’s awesome. Maybe I’ll check it out this weekend.”
Just have fun. It’s only 5 minutes and it’s so much better than asking people about breakfast.
Ride that momentum.
Now that you’ve set the tone for a friendly and welcoming atmosphere…
…You’re not done.
You have to keep it going. You now know people know how to use the live chat. Your next job is to make sure they keep using it.
Establish some ground rules.
Not everyone knows they can (or should) keep participating in the chat. Give them that permission and give them the guardrails. Tell them you want:
Note-taking. Ask people to drop in notes or quotes that resonate with them during the presentation.
Reactions. Tell people they can feel free to give their feedback real-time. They can even reply with an emoji if that makes it easier.
Engagement. Give them a heads up that you’ll have some questions or prompts during your presentation, and that you want people to feel comfortable engaging in the chat. (This one’s an advanced tip. Only do this if you have prepared prompts. Running a presentation is hard enough. If you can’t think of ongoing questions on the fly, don’t force it.)
…Any or all of the above.
Make them feel seen. Literally.
This one’s tough. At this point, you’re not only giving it your all in a prepared presentation — or extemporaneously speaking on a virtual panel — now I’m asking you to do all that while engaging with the chat and attendees.
Here are some ways you can do this:
Use attendees’ names. If you’re giving an example or asking a follow-up question, consider calling out an attendee’s name. Try: “For instance, let’s say Nancy is facing this situation…”
“Yes and” their reaction. If an attendee drops one of their insights into the chat, be sure to acknowledge it. Thank them or even add onto it.
Doing all this is very much like mentally being in two places at once. Part of your head is in your presentation. The other part is, well, virtually networking. But this is truly what being a good host is all about.
Engaging with the chat, acknowledging people’s reactions, and calling out people’s names will all help you make a lasting impression.
I’ve been running webinars as a marketer for about 8 years now. But I only recently learned good hosting from experiencing cohort-based courses. And frankly, the “no-fail question,” isn’t even something I came up with. I learned that from Maven, where I built my Content Marketing 201 course. (By the way, my last cohort of the year is next week, on Sept. 20th!)
Maven also just relaunched their website with the Maven Marketplace, making it easier for professionals to find courses that are most relevant to their skillsets. There, you can check out classes from my friends Chris Tweten, Joe Portsmouth, Krista Seiden, Amanda Goetz, Arielle Jackson, Dave Kline, and many more. Many of these cohorts start in the next few weeks, so be sure to take a look right away.
The Google Analytics 4 Bootcamp with Krista Seiden: Krista was one of the first people developing educational resources for GA4. (At least, from what I’ve noticed.) She’s now my go-to whenever I have questions.
Email Marketing 101 with Joe Portsmouth: Joe has been a lifecycle marketer for several years now, with deep experience growing DTC businesses. Email marketing is still a mystery for emerging businesses, and it’s the most valuable channel you can invest in. Start here.
Backlink Building at Scale with Chris Tweten: I really like Chris’s honest and friendly style. He’s been hard at work building out this course and you’ll learn what you need to know about building links for your SEO strategy.
MGMT Accelerator with Dave Kline: Dave is one of the most generous and empathetic leaders I’ve met. I’m not currently in a people management role, but he and I took the Maven course-building course together so I got to watch him create this curriculum. He teaches the people management lessons I wish someone taught me when I was in a more traditional office role.
🍰 Petits Fours
Four bite-sized blurbs linking to interesting content.
🔸 When you overthink that definitely awkward email you sent: Basically, how I feel about every online interaction I have.
🔹 Stock your bar cart with these items: Making great cocktails at home doesn’t mean getting the most expensive spirits. It means using high-quality mixers. Here’s a starter shopping list, courtesy of Rand Fishkin.
🔸 More on Zero-Click Content: Sorry to be self-promotional here. But I recently joined Metadata’s Demand Gen U podcast and if you’re at all interested in modern content marketing, I really believe this is worth your time. Start with the short video clip. If it doesn’t resonate, then move on with your life.
🔹 You can do a lot in one life: From my friend Stew Fortier, a collection of four incredible feats from various occupations.
🍚 Crispy Salmon Bowls
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 carrot, grated
1/4 daikon, grated (same amount as carrot)
8-10 ounces salmon, sliced into 1-inch cubes (skin on, if you like skin)
Juice of 1 lemon
Old Bay seasoning
Spicy mayo (mayo + blob of sriracha)
1 stalk green onions, chopped
Nori seaweed, sliced
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add 2 pinches of salt. Toss in grated carrot and daikon. Let sit for an hour (or at least 30 minutes). You can probably even let this sit overnight but I don’t know, I’ve never tried this.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In another mixing bowl, toss together salmon, lemon juice, a few glugs of olive oil, and a ridiculous amount of Old Bay seasoning. Maybe even 2 tablespoons of Old Bay. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
Make rice, make spicy mayo (if using), chop green onions, slice nori, and make yourself a cocktail.
Roast salmon on parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Then broil on high for 2 more minutes.
Plate your dish:
Rice in bowl. Top with salmon. Daikon-carrot salad on one side. Drizzle spicy mayo on the salmon. Sprinkle over green onions, furikake and seaweed.
I usually send this on Sundays…
But I skipped over a month, I’m already off schedule, I suddenly felt inspired to write, and so I wrote all this in one sitting and now I am hungry so I need to just hit send omg I’m not going to proofread this because YOLOOOOO.
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