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Five failsafe tips to ensure successful international webinars

by Victoria Tomlinson November, 2nd 2012

Have you taken part in a webinar with half a dozen nationalities from China to Silicon Valley – and all the challenges of varying quality of internet connections?

With flights grounded due to Hurricane Sandy and New York still not functioning normally, no doubt more people than ever are using this extremely useful business tool.  But don’t think you can take a normal presentation and deliver it successfully over the internet.

Last week I was asked to deliver just such a presentation for our client, Worldmark – they make really clever parts for mobile phones and tablets, solving problems such as touchscreens that smear and smash.

I was asked to give a guest talk on ‘Finding the Win/Win in Communications’ for their fast track employees.  Of course, with this topic it meant my own presentation had to be first class!  No pressure.

1.       Research the quality and tools of your webinar software

My first tip for the fast trackers was to research and prepare; know your audience, what interests them, what concerns them.  In the case of the webinar, the global HR director invited me to attend another presentation so I could see how it all worked.

Worldmark uses Webex which allows video conferencing via the internet.  This is a great piece of software that means you can have a powerpoint presentation alongside video presentation by the speaker and see everyone taking part in the event in small icons at the bottom.

 What I could see from this was

-          Internet connections in some countries are quite patchy – so voices came and went and  it was easy to miss the critical point being made

-          Everyone used English as the common language – but it is a second language for many of those taking part

-          With the time differences around the world (late evening in China, early morning in Mexico) several people were using their laptops in their homes

-          40 minutes of presentation in this format is demanding – particularly if you are at home, it would be easy to be distracted!

2.       Engage your audience to keep their attention

Good speakers always engage their audience – tailoring content so it is relevant to delegates and asking questions, holding break-out sessions.  This is all much harder to do in a global webinar.

One of my tips for the win/win in communications is to put yourself in the head of the person you are communicating with. 

There were ten fast trackers taking part.  I decided to give each of them a different question that they had to research before the presentation and then be ready to share their answer in the session.  I gave them questions such as

-          What is the best customer service you have ever experienced?  Why was it so good?

-          When do you lose concentration in meetings – why?

-          How does Daniel Goleman’s book (Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ)on emotional intelligence relate to communications?

I included Daniel Goleman because the fast trackers had been asked to read and analyse this book.

Throughout the presentation, I then brought in everyone with their questions in blocks of twos and threes.  No-one knew when they would be asked so it kept them concentrating!  And it meant they didn’t have to listen/look at one person throughout the 40 minutes.  It brought real interaction into the format.

If there had been more people taking part I would probably have chosen half a dozen replies through the session (without warning who would be chosen) and shared everyone else’s replies by email or forum afterwards.

  3.       Use pictures and words – and yes, probably Powerpoint

I have been anti-Powerpoint for years, as this blog explains. 

But the reality is that with language and internet challenges, you need to make it as easy for everyone to catch what you are saying – and a few clear words and lots of pictures helps the process.

I put a photo of myself and my name on the first slide.  I didn’t use a lot of words on the slides and did use a lot of images to cheer up the screen!

I used this picture of gemstones to demonstrate that when presenting, you need to find your gems – that match the interests of your audience.  Hopefully it made a memorable point.

The fast trackers gave very enthusiastic feedback to this talk – and the bit they liked most was asking them all to contribute throughout the session.

What gems can you share that will help us all to make our webinars work better for our audiences?

13 Responses to “Five failsafe tips to ensure successful international webinars”

  • on November 2nd, 2012 8:53 pm

    What are your tips for successful international #webinar #presentations? http://t.co/kZiJnkcd

  • Lisa Butterworth
    on November 3rd, 2012 4:33 pm

    Top tips from my experience are to get some reliable software, test it to distraction and consider language barriers that might exist between presenters and audiences.

  • Wendy Wang
    on November 5th, 2012 10:39 am

    Hello Victoria, I was so honored to have your webinar on Webex, yes, I am the team member who from China with second language in English and stayed late in the night to have the session, but you did not let us down, we enjoyed your presentation with pictures, questions, feed back, not so many words but you did guide us a lot. Look forward to seeing you in next Webinar!

  • Summer Qin
    on November 5th, 2012 10:50 am

    The win/win communication from you is very impressive and you really provided an excellent example of communication. The webex meeting for us is new and we didn’t use this before I joined the Fast Tracker team.
    It is a very effective way and can do the recording. Even if you missed some of the meeting, you still can watch the video after that meeting. It is really exciting.
    However, the webex aslo have the disadvantage as we can not see each other at the same time.But it is not a big deal.

  • clare wardle
    on November 5th, 2012 9:26 pm

    Top tips! One thing I sometimes do when the group aren’t strong English speakers is provide the outline and agenda in good time to let them look up the vocab.

  • on November 6th, 2012 4:39 pm

    Many thanks to you all for great comments and feedback. Very good idea re the agenda in advance, Clare, to help research vocabulary.

    And so pleased the Webex worked for the fast trackers, you were a great team to work with!

  • on November 7th, 2012 8:42 pm

    Victoria, I think you struck a great balance of engagement with the audience and keeping your Powerpoint slides to a minimum. Listening to presentations, engagement with the audience is important to keep attention and interest – this is so much more difficult when you are talking to your audience through a camera without any great clarity on if they are understanding you and keeping attention. Your technique is one I will try to use in the future!

  • Laura White
    on November 13th, 2012 9:34 pm

    Hi Victoria, I too very much enjoyed your presentation (content and style) and having used Webex frequently over the last few months I find it invaluable for communicating with my fellow fast trackers. However, it does have its limitations. In my opinion the most frustrating is being unable to gauge people’s reactions to what you are saying. Nonetheless I think you have provided us with some great tips, especially when it comes to engaging the audience and holding their attention! Hope to work with you again soon!

  • on November 15th, 2012 10:29 am

    Thanks for the feedback Laura – and it’s a really good point about the difficulty in gauging reaction to what you are saying. I am spending quite a lot of time thinking about other ways to be interactive – would love any other tips!

  • Struan Brownlie
    on November 19th, 2012 11:09 am

    Hi Victoria,
    I just wanted to say that I was very impressed with the Webinar, with particular in relation to the minimal use of PowerPoint and how everyone was kept engaged in the topic. I have become more anti-PowerPoint over the years and it was refreshing to have a Webinar where we listened and interacted in the presentation without reading slides at the same time you read them out. I appreciate this might be a little more difficult for my colleagues who do not speak English as their first language….but going on the above feedback you got round this challenge too. Hope to see you again soon.

  • Vincent Chiang
    on November 20th, 2012 2:39 am

    The presentation was fantastic. A reliable software is definitely just the basic, but the content you presented to the team is the backbone.
    A good presenter also need to engage every audience, and you certainly did that. I really enjoyed your presentation.

  • Martin Brennan
    on December 3rd, 2012 3:02 pm

    Hi Victoria,

    I thought your presentation format was excellent! During university, I was always taught that ‘less is more’ on a PowerPoint Presentation (if you have to use PowerPoint at all), as a key part of a presentation is to let your audience focus on the words you are speaking rather than the words you have written on the screen. I thought your presentation was a great example of this as you put only the key messages in your presentation, which really helped to drive home the important points. As you mentioned, it can be even more challenging when giving a presentation through a computer screen to keep the audiences attention for the full hour, however I thought you did that excellently. In particular, the way you broke up the presentation by asking questions in a block of two or three questions was a good idea. Another point is that I liked that we received the full list of questions prior to the webinar, so this meant that I could read through everyone else’s questions, and it was interesting to see people’s responses to the different questions, and how they answered them in a different way.

    Like many people, I too had never used WebEx before joining the Fast Track programme, and although it has its limitations, for instance, sometimes it is hard to know if everyone has fully understood your point because you are not all in the same room. Despite this, I think it is a great tool and I am glad you had a positive experience using it.

    Thanks again, and I look forward to the next one.

  • on December 3rd, 2012 3:16 pm

    Thanks to you all for such kind feedback on the presentation. I have been preparing for the next one on understanding your customer – so this is reassuring about the format! Hope everyone is researching and thinking about your questions! Look forward to the next one soon

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