7 Major Mistakes You Must Avoid in Your Webinars

Do you want to put people to sleep with your webinars?  Bore them to tears?

I knew you didn’t!  Of course we want to create awesome, engaging webinars that provide helpful information and have our audiences leave thrilled — and just waiting for our next one.  ;)

So I’ve called in an expert to share with the MAJOR mistakes we’ve got to avoid.

Today’s post is from guest blogger, Susan Joy Schleef of Presentations With Results, Inc.  In the past 6 weeks, Susan has taught approximately 500 attendees around the U.S. (and a few from other countries) on 10 webinars, in addition to facilitating another 25 webinars taught by her co-workers at a large non-profit organization where they are rolling out a new software application.

7 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Webinars

By Susan Joy Schleef

Webinars are all the rage in the business world – and with good reason.  They are an efficient way to communicate with many people at one time all around the globe.

In addition to presenting webinars, I also attend a lot of webinars, in relation to my fulltime job as a technical trainer as well as related to my parttime business as a presentation strategist.  Once in a while I see a fantastic webinar; far too often they are lackluster; and occasionally I attend one that is so bad I leave halfway through!

Audiences will often put up with bad webinar delivery because they really want to hear the content being shared.  But why not improve your delivery skills and change your webinars from merely good content to a great overall experience that makes it easier for your audience to absorb the content?

Here are the 7 biggest webinar mistakes I see every day:

1. Spending too much time talking about yourself, your company, and your product or service.

Your audience really doesn’t care that much about you.  They want to know how you can help them!

Building rapport on a webinar is different than in a one-on-one sales conversation.  You can help create a sense of rapport and connection by watching your language and using “you” instead of “you guys” or “all of you”.  In a webinar situation, each audience member is typically sitting alone at their computer.  So speak to them as individuals.

2. Focusing on what your audience needs, rather than what they want.

They may not know what they need in relation to your expertise.  Even though you can tell them, they may have resistance to making the required changes.  Obviously that’s not a good way to attract people to your ideas.  Instead draw them in with the promise of something they desire.  Once you have their attention, then you can start to suggest what they might need.

3. Boring verbal delivery, including monotone voice, reading from a script, speaking too slowly, or a lack of enthusiasm.

It is always best to speak with passion, but even more important on a webinar where your audience cannot see you.  Practice speaking in a casual manner and energizing tone.  You can keep a script or notes by your computer, but don’t read it word for word.  The audience can tell and you will sound stilted.

4. Overwhelming your audience with too many different ideas and subtopics.

Most people can only process about 3 or 4 ideas at once in their short-term memory or working memory.  To help them process your webinar content better, go deep instead of wide.  Stick to 3-4 main points and then build out several subpoints, explanation, stories, and details under each main point.

5. Text-heavy slides without enough visual interest.

Your audience already has enough distration while they’re on a webinar:  email, Facebook, and Skype all popping up message windows in the corner of their screen; cell phone ringing or text message notifications chiming.

Don’t add to their mental overwhelm by making them try to read and listen to you at the same time.  It just can’t be done – even by people who insist they’re good multitaskers!

6. Talking AT your audience instead of interacting WITH them.

You can help your audience stay engaged by providing different types of interaction, including asking them to type something in the chat panel or displaying a poll on screen where they can check on their response.

Another great method of interaction, that also improves learning for your audience, is downloadable worksheets or handouts.  This gives the audience a place to take notes, guides them through the content you’re sharing on screen, and ideally includes your contact information on the bottom of each page.

It also gives you a reason to email all the registrants a day or two before the webinar, to send them the link to download the worksheet and to pique their interest in the upcoming event.

Here’s an example I liked from one of Michelle’s webinars, using graphic images to tie the worksheet to the presentation slides.  This not only provides visual interest, but helps the audience keep track of where they are in the presentation.

7. Not ending your presentation on time.

Sometimes technical problems can cause a delay; other times you may get more audience questions than expected.  But in general you should be able to conclude your presentation at the schedule time, with enough time left over for Q&A if that’s part of the plan.

Running past the scheduled time means you haven’t planned your content carefully.  It also makes it clear to your audience that you haven’t practiced your webinar, otherwise you would know that your content was too long!

Your audience members have busy lives; be respectful of that fact.  When you run overtime, you risk losing people before the webinar is over as they rush off to other meetings or appointments.

 Susan Joy Schleef is the founder of http://PresentationsWithResults.com and is a presentation strategist and consultant.  Certified in Cliff Atkinson’s “Beyond Bullet Points” methodology, Susan teaches business owners, entrepreneurs, speakers, trainers, sales people, and other presenters how to create and deliver more memorable slide presentations.  Her background includes a degree in Secondary Education and teaching experience that ranges from grade school to community college to workplace training for various organizations.   Susan is also the author of the forthcoming book, Get Your Message Into Their Brain: Neuromarketing for Small Businesses Who Want  Big Business Results.

To register for Susan’s Oct. 24th free webinar on using webinars to grow your business, click here:  http://presentationswithresults.com/webinars/ 
The webinar will be repeated on Nov. 3rd.


Your Turn! What engages YOU when watching a webinar?  What drives you crazy?  Share in the comments!


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  1. Awesome post. What drives me nuts is when the presenter talks too much about themselves, there’s too much text on the slides and when they go on and on forever. An hour is long enough. Get to the point :). I love it when the slides are fun and simple and when they use an image to illustrate the point being made. I love interaction and lots of questions. Even just being asked to “raise my webinar hand” is enough to keep me engaged sometimes.

    1. Yep, I’ve been on webinars where after 35 minutes the presenter was still talking about themselves and I kept listening just to see how long it would last. LOL

      Slides are something I’ve been playing with more to use less text and more (larger) images.

      Interaction helps keep my attention, too. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Reach More People with Content MarketingMy Profile

      1. I hate those long “it’s all about me” stories as well. So much better to make it all about your audience. I watched a webinar once, with a really big name internet marketer, who was still telling his story more than 45 minutes into it and hadn’t gotten any where close to the topic that was promised for the webinar! I logged off – I’d had enough!

  2. Well thought out post Michelle and much of it is transferable to other mediums.
    Madonna recently posted… The Problem with Call ReluctanceMy Profile

    1. Great point, Madonna. These same mistakes show up across all types of communications.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Why You MUST Have Information FiltersMy Profile

  3. I have had the “opportunity” to attend webinars that broke every one of these rules- repeatedly. The worst one is the last- because I’ve dedicated my time to listen and learn- and scheduled it. The least the leader can do is let me accomplish my tasks for the rest of the day!
    Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. recently posted… The Myths of CEO compensationMy Profile

    1. It is really rude, isn’t it, Roy, and inconsiderate of the attendee’s time! I believe some presenters think they are giving so much valuable content that their audience won’t care if they run over time. But it really shows a lack of planning and lack of respect for the audience.

  4. Great tips from an expert. Based on my experience, I think the biggest mistake is the failure to interact with the audience. This makes the whole presentation boring.
    Sarah Park recently posted… 15 Free or Cheap Entertainment IdeasMy Profile

  5. No1 does it for me – the biggest reason why I leave a webinar. If 10 minutes in you’re still talking about how wonderful you are then it’s time to hire some cheerleaders – please don’t inflict it on me!
    Jan recently posted… Have Your Google Reviews Disappeared? You’re Not Alone!My Profile

    1. Jan, I love the way you put that – it really made me laugh! That is one of my biggest pet peeves too, which is why I included it in the list of mistakes.

  6. I myself like short ones, about 20-30 minutes as listener and presenter. That way, it’s more content and not a big temptation for fluff. I get tired of people who talk about themselves too much too…heehee! I hope I don’t do that! LOL
    Lisa recently posted… My Favorite Positive RebellionsMy Profile

    1. Lisa, it’s hard to self-evaluate. That’s why we all need to get feedback from people we trust and who have our best interests at heart.

  7. Hello Susan and Michelle,
    I’ve never done a webinar but I’ve been listening to some really good ones lately. They must have taken a course because most of them avoided those 7 mistakes.
    Now I have the formula for a successful webinar.
    Adalia John recently posted… Self Validation Empowers YouMy Profile

    1. That’s great, Adalia! I’m glad to hear that some webinar presenters are getting it right!

  8. Michelle,

    Thank you for posting this guest post! I have a quick question. I have heard various opinions from people who have not done many webinars, so I wanted to ask someone who is experienced. Which webinar software(s) do you recommend and why? And, which webinar software(s) to avoid and why? If you already have a post to that on your site, that would be great too! Thanks!

    — Eric
    Eric Viets recently posted… Christmastime Proposals 2 (Marriage Proposal)My Profile

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