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Episode 40 - Putting the Vibe back in Virtual

Adjusting Your Virtual Strategy, A Lesson from Cloud Conventions

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As many of you know, our company Convey is producing an unprecedented virtual trade show and conference for the telecommunications and cloud channel, launching May 11 called Cloud Conventions.  And yes, webinars will be part of the content we offer.  But I promise you that we are cognizant of the fact that they cannot be delivered in the same way 95% of our industry does them today.  Here is what you can expect from us and adjustments we think you need to make to ensure that you don’t lose your audience when you do a webinar.

You open your email and there they are again, one in an endless stream of webinar invitations from well-meaning companies that want to make sure that you are still out there.  So, you set aside an hour of your precious time only to have a talking head with a cluttered PowerPoint drone on and on about their product, failing to recognize that they are not feeding people what they need, their content is not interesting and that their audience has likely checked out.

Webinars are part of our communications culture, so if they are here to stay, and frankly necessary in this new environment we find ourselves in, then we have to do a better job making them more interesting, engaging and fun.  We have to put the “vibe” back in virtual otherwise, we’ll lose audiences that need our expertise.

Over my career, I’ve run or owned 4 conferencing and collaboration companies, so I can rightfully state that I’m somewhat of an expert in producing a webinar event.  I’ve watched thousands of companies produce them; my company has hosted them; and I’ve seen them go terribly wrong or very right. 

As many of you know, our company Convey is producing an unprecedented virtual trade show and conference for the telecommunications and cloud channel, launching May 11 called Cloud Conventions.  And yes, webinars will be part of the content we offer.  But I promise you that we are cognizant of the fact that they cannot be delivered in the same way 95% of our industry does them today.  Here is what you can expect from us and adjustments we think you need to make in your webinarst o ensure that you don’t lose your audience when you create one.

First, make your webinar shorter.  Let’s face it, the way we consume content these days is short, sweet and to the point.  We text, flip channels and watch quick YouTube videos.  Tik Tok, Snapchat and Instagram give us quick sound bites.  If your webinars are droning on for an hour, you won’t be able to hold people’s attention unless you’re interviewing Joe Exotic of Tiger King from prison.  At Cloud Conventions, those webinars are 30 minutes unless you are hearing from a keynote speaker and trust me, the key points someone wants to get across are easily delivered in a shorter timeframe.

Offer diversity in how they are delivered.  Webinar technology offers diversity in how you craft your event.  You don’t have just to have a single speaker running through a PowerPoint.  Stream in a video, then get reaction from the audience.  Offer live chat throughout the event to get audience feedback.  Turn your webcams on and have panelists engage in a conversation.  Poll the audience and publish the results.  We’ve coached our Cloud Conventions speakers to do the same, so expect diversity, interaction and interesting ways to engage.

Adjust your visuals.  One lesson I learned in engaging audiences is not to put confusing graphics, lots of words and garish colors on a PowerPoint.  People like simple visuals, no more than 10 words on a slide and colors that don’t scream at you.  If you are doing a 30-minute session and have 30 slides, then you have an immediate problem unless you only plan to spend a minute on each one.  Sometimes less is more.

Get your audience to interact.  It’s always better if you can keep the audience engaged throughout your presentation.  This goes back to my diversity comment.  Most webinar technology allows for chat, so use it strategically and consider even allowing the person to open up their line and ask their question directly.  Polling questions give you the opportunity to find out your audience’s thoughts before and after you deliver your content.  They get an immediate idea of what their peers are thinking.

Increase the cool factor.  One of the cool thinks that Cloud Conventions is going to do is a virtual cocktail party executed over webinar technology.  My friends at 8X8 showed us how their technology lets you have party hosts that open up their cameras so you can have them engage in a conversation, but then stream the event on a private YouTube channel, feeding in chat comments to the hosts and making them visible to everyone in the audience.  Events streamed over LinkedIn, YouTube or Facebook get a massively larger audience, so think about that and think about doing something fun.

Offer them live as well as on-demand.  Let’s face it, we all robo-watch our favorite shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  Back to Tiger King.  One in nine Americans were spell-bound watching Joe Exotic and the antics of his wild animal park cuddle up with 600-pound tigers that could bite his head off in a minute.  Not to mention his fight with Carol Baskins, the animal rights activist suspected of feeding her missing wealthy husband to the tigers in her animal park.  If your audience wants to watch your webinar later, make it easy for them to catch up with your content by putting it online quickly.  If you don’t use a service like Wistia, start a YouTube channel and get your recorded video ready to be viewed over and over again, on demand.

Takeaways

Webinars are not going away, but because our new environment has made them proliferate, it’s time to make them relevant, interesting, consumable and fun.  Come to Cloud Conventions in May and see how we worked very hard to have our speakers that are doing webinars put the Vibe back in Virtual.

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