Sharing the virtual stage

With the proliferation of webinars as a common communication vehicle for business, odds are that you may eventually be asked to present in one – maybe as a featured speaker, or as a panelist sharing the virtual stage with others.  I’ve heard plenty of advice on how to be a good moderator, but not as much on how to be a good panelist. 

So here we go… 3 tips that have helped me pull off successful webinar appearances over the last 7 years – Prepare, Project and Pay Attention.

1)     Prepare.  You already know your subject so well… is it really necessary to rehearse?  Unequivocally, yes.  Even before you get to the “dry run” or dress rehearsal, you should have prepared the key messages that YOU want to rise to the top during the live session.  Write out an introduction, a closing and at least 3-5 key supporting points.  Rehearse them out loud until they come out in a confident and conversational tone.  If you express them passionately during your dry run, your moderator is more likely to ask you about them during the live event. Encouraging your moderator to ask you transitional questions between your slides will help you sound more natural and conversational.

I’ve also found it helpful to ask to see the presentations from my fellow panelists in advance. It’s awkward to show up at the prom with matching dresses, and painful to be blindsided with controversy.

2)     Project.  Present with more power than you think you need. Typical webinars with audio and PowerPoint slides are a lot like doing a radio show.  Listen to a radio talk show host in your car and note the pace, energy and vocal variety used to keep your interest. Without body language to help you engage your audience, your voice must do all the work.

Instead of sitting at your desk with your phone to your ear, put on a good quality headset and stand up to present. Don’t hold back on gesturing with your hands, even if your office mates begin staring at you.  Your energy and airflow will be much stronger, and the audience will hear the difference.

3)     Pay attention.  This seems obvious, but I’ve heard great speakers who are so focused on their own words that they repeat something already said by another panelist. It is also more interesting to the audience to hear a conversation or debate instead of a one-voice lecture or product pitch.

Pay attention to courtesy – take care to let other panelists get in their equal share of “air time.”  You can even ask them what they think about your last point to get them talking (also a great stalling technique if you need a drink of water.)

Help your moderator during Q&A by suggesting commonly asked questions the audience may be interested in.  If you’re using WebEx, send private chat messages to the moderator about questions you want to be asked or corrections you would like to make.

Pay close attention to what is being asked during Q&A and give short impactful answers.  If needed, use the “defer and segue” technique for tough questions, perhaps adding in a valuable point that you wanted to make. 

For example, “That’s a deep dive question that would be better answered by one of our engineers, and I can connect you with an expert after the session.  But your question is part of a larger issue we’ve heard from others in your industry… how much time and money should you spend on customization for your end-users? We have deployment experts who can help guide you in that decision.”

Prepare, project and pay attention.  Follow these tips to ensure that your message is well-delivered, even if your moderator is not quite up to par.  The audience will appreciate it and seek you out for more information after the webinar. And the skills you develop for online presenting will be just as helpful for face-to-face presentations. A webinar may be virtual… but it’s still stage time.

Originally published with Toastmaster practice tips at Are you in Northern CA or Nevada? Check it out.

Explore posts in the same categories: Communication, Marketing, Technology

One Comment on “Sharing the virtual stage”

  1. Chris Says:

    well done!!

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