Anyone who sets out to present, persuade and propel with the spoken word faces pitfalls. And, as technology and travel budgets play a more important part in meetings, yet another challenge arises: how do you communicate through a webinar?

Here are some tips for catching and keeping the audience’s attention.

Get Some Looping Slides
Once your audience tunes in, how do you make sure they are entertained and feel involved even before the event starts? The best way is with a series of looping slides. They’re a great way to convey important information and to keep attendees entertained while waiting for you to begin.
These slides need to communicate:
• When the session will begin.
• The conference dial-in number.
• A photo, name and title of the presenter.
• What the audience is going to learn.
• What to do in case of problems.
• Optional: quotes about the content your audience will be hearing.

In your presentation, tell stories and give examples as you go through your program, the same way you would in person. However, a webinar needs more visuals to help engage the audience. You’ll need slides, more than with an in-person presentation. Do this by adding bullet points one at a time rather than presenting them all before you discuss them.


Outline your presentation on paper or flip chart and then begin to build the PowerPoint(r). It is better to have fewer points and illustrate them well.
Be sure you:
• Introduce your objective.
• Sell the benefits.
• Explain the agenda and timing of your session.
• Add any logistics and how they will interact with you.

Another important part of pre-planning is to have two computers tuned into the webinar. This way, when one computer freezes, you can quickly get your second computer to the place where the first had frozen.

Get A Grabber
It is up to you to engage your audience immediately — do it with a powerful, relevant opening that includes the word “you.” Your grabber opening might be:
• A catchy fact: “It may interest you to know Ferraris hold their value more than polo ponies! I first learned this lesson when...”
• A startling statistic: “Did you know that if you had spent a million dollars a day, every day since Jesus was born, you would not yet have spent a trillion dollars. Please keep that in mind as we strategize how to increase sales by only 5 percent ...”
• An intriguing challenge: “Ten years ago we were the market leaders. This year we are 13th. You are now in an exciting position to turn that around...”

Grabber openings get the attention of your audience. Then it is up to you to keep it. Remember, they can’t see you, so it is all too easy for them to answer their e-mail or go get a cup of coffee.

Now — once you have sold the session — you can introduce yourself (if someone else is not doing it). Do not do it first. Just as with an in-person session, say something the listeners care about, and then they care about who you are.

You/I And Other Rules
The most powerful communication combines both intellectual and emotional connections. Intellectual means appealing to educated self-interest with data and reasoned arguments. Emotion comes from engaging the listeners’ imaginations, involving them in your illustrative stories by frequent use of the word “you” and from answering their unspoken question, “What’s in this for me?”

Use a high “You/I” ratio. For example, don’t say, “I’m going to talk to you about webinars.” Instead, say something like, “In the next 56 minutes, you will learn: the 6 secrets of making a webinar work; the 4 benefits of using webinars as part of your client interaction; and the 3 mistakes your competitors are making.”

Build in interaction. Depending on the technology you are using, make sure you interact whenever logical. For example, stop and ask, “Based on what you have heard so far, what are your questions?”

Use memorable stories. People rarely remember your exact words. Instead, they remember the mental images that your words inspire. Help them “make the movie” in their heads by using memorable characters, exciting situations, dialogue and humor.

Use effective pauses. Good music and good communication both contain changes of pace, pauses and full rests. This is where your listeners think about what they have just heard. If you rush on at full speed to crowd in as much information as possible, chances are you’ll leave them back at the station. It’s okay to talk quickly, but whenever you say something profound or proactive or ask a rhetorical question, pause.

Avoid irritating non-words. Hmm-ah-er-you know what I mean- ... on a webinar, this habit will only be emphasized.

Review what you’ve covered. As with an in-person presentation, always review your key ideas. Then say, “Before my closing remarks...what are your questions?”

Emphasize their next steps. Be clear what their next logical steps should be. Send them off energized and focused.
Close on a high. Your last words linger. Make sure they are yours — don’t quote anyone else — and make sure they are powerful.  

Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales presentation trainer, and keynote speaker on change, customer service, promoting business and communication skills. She is the author of “Get What You Want! Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!.”