Best Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 4: 8 Simple Ways to Conduct a Successful Webinar

Pano4Conducting a webinar requires more than just technical know-how. It means that you, as a presenter, are able to use this online platform in a meaningful way to effectively communicate your message.

In addition to the suggestions shared in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series for preparing and conducting presentations, here are 8 simple ways to conduct a successful webinar:

  1. Invite people to attend your webinar at least one week in advance (preferably two weeks if possible). Promote your webinar event on social media platforms and reach out to key contacts to assist you in sending out emails. Your first invitation should provide a brief overview of the content along with the date and time of the event (make sure to indicate the correct time zone). In your invitation, provide the registration link to the webinar along with any technical requirements or additional directions. A few days prior to the event, a follow-up email should be sent to those who have registered as a reminder.
  2. Become familiar with the webinar features and go through a trial run. Every webinar service provides free basic support pages online to assist you in learning the various features. Take time to download and read any available user guides or visit YouTube for posted demonstrations. Go through a trial run of the presentation with the assistance of a friend. Test your audio levels and screen sharing features while practicing the delivery of your content. Ask a friend for feedback on ways to improve.
  3. Decide if a webcam is necessary for your presentation. This may come as a surprise to some, but the use of a webcam is completely optional during a webinar. In fact, some presenters feel that this can be distracting to the audience. The use of a webcam also sets the expectation that you will maintain eye contact with it and your audience so that your presentation doesn’t look unprofessional. To easily address these issues, it is recommended that you only enable your webcam at the very beginning of your webinar. This will still allow you to make a personal connection with your audience while avoiding some of the downsides of using a webcam. Otherwise, if you are not comfortable using one, simply use a high quality photo of yourself during your introduction.
  4. Sign on at least 10 minutes before the presentation. Greet those who arrive early through the webinar chat feature. It’s okay to wait a couple extra minutes for late arrivals but make sure you don’t wait longer than that as this can make your participants anxious.
  5. Mute all attendees using the webinar control panel. When unmuting attendees, only allow one person at a time to speak and mute them again when they are finished. Close any applications such as email or social media programs that could possibly trigger an embarrassing pop-up during your screen sharing. Also, turn off any devices that may vibrate or cause distractions during your presentation.
  6. Speak clearly and slowly so that everyone can understand you. Avoid rustling papers or chewing anything as this can be heard by attendees. Use a conversational tone when speaking so that your voice engages your audience. Also, to ensure high sound quality, use a headset mic (one that places the mic by your mouth). Do not use a speakerphone or your computer’s built-in mic as these typically provide low sound quality.
  7. Make good use of the webinar chat feature to engage your live online audience. If possible, ask for someone to assist you as a facilitator by welcoming new attendees and answering their questions using the chat feature. This can be extremely helpful in addressing any small technical issues that participants may experience during the webinar so that you are free to present without disruptions. Use the chat feature to collect questions from attendees as well as gather their responses to your own questions. This can be done at the beginning, middle, and end of your presentation to ensure maximum audience engagement. If interested, you may also upgrade your webinar services to receive extra interaction features such as built-in assessment and polling options.
  8. Lastly, send a follow-up email and survey. Based on your registration data, consider inviting anyone who missed your webinar to attend a similar event that you may be conducting in the future. If you decide to upgrade to a paid webinar service, you will also have the option to send a recording of the presentation to those who missed it. As part of best practice, those who attended your webinar should receive a survey requesting feedback on your presentation. Some of the simplest and most robust survey tools that are available for free include: SoGoSurvey, Survey Planet, and Typeform. Each of these tools is unique in its own way, so take the time to see which one will fit your needs.

As with any new skill, becoming an effective presenter requires practice and a willingness to try something new. Whether you are presenting face-to-face or virtually, keep your focus on your audience and the rest will follow.

Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Best Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 3: Exploring Free Webinar Solutions

Pano3As we learned in Part 2 of this series, presenting in front of a live audience provides many advantages including the opportunity to network and interact with others while offering the added benefit of an intimate learning environment. However, face-to-face presentations often pose two key disadvantages for attendees: time and travel costs. Finding personal time to attend an event that may potentially last several hours and would require extensive travel is simply not a viable option for most people with a busy schedule.

To overcome these barriers, more and more live presentations are being conducted over the web. Also known as “web conferencing,” webinars have several advantages over face-to-face presentations. Webinars effectively eliminate the need for any travel for both attendees and presenters. It allows attendees to access a live presentation from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity and a computer. Another advantage is that most webinars are short in duration with average time frames between 30 minutes to 1 hour. This facilitates learning and increases knowledge retention.

If you are seeking to reach a broader audience while still being able to interact with attendees during your live presentation, then a webinar may be just what you need to get your message out. While there are many different webinar services on the market, most allow you to share your screen with online participants so that you can present directly from your computer. The only other equipment that is necessary for conducting your webinar is a computer microphone or a phone. While a webcam is optional, it can help you make a personal connection with your audience.

Even though webinars are becoming extremely popular, it can be difficult to find free alternatives that will allow more than just a handful of attendees for each session. However, for those that are on a shoestring budget and still want the ability to present to a large audience, there are two free webinar services worth considering:

AnyMeeting – This service is free with ads. It allows for meetings of up to 200 people and has essential functionality like screen sharing, VoIP and phone conferencing, meeting recording, and even follow-up email functionality.

FreeScreenSharing – This online service is ad-free and lets you share your screen online with up to 96 people at a time without any time limitations. This webinar service also provides free phone conferencing, chat functionality, and meeting detail reports.

Whichever webinar service you decide to use, take the necessary time to learn its features until you feel comfortable enough to use the tools with an audience. As we move on to Part 4, the final article in this series, you will learn how to conduct a successful webinar in order to meet the needs of your virtual audience. Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.

Best Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 2: Tips for Delivering Engaging Presentations

PresenterOn the day of your presentation, a lot can go through your mind. “Did I include too much data?” “Are my objectives clearly stated?” “Should I have added more visuals?”

While sufficient preparation can certainly help ease anxiety, don’t let the presentation content be your only focus. Even if you know your content inside and out, the way in which you deliver it can have an impact on how it’s perceived by your audience.

In Part 1 of this series, we covered the do’s and don’ts of preparing for face-to-face presentations. In this article, we will discuss various ways you can ensure your audience stays engaged during your presentation. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

1. Know your audience
Before you presentation starts, walk around and talk to those who are arriving early to determine their experience and knowledge related to the presentation topic. Also, build in some time at the start of your presentation to survey participants through a quick show of hands. This will help you tailor the delivery of your presentation to meet your audience’s needs.

2. Don’t use slides as your script
Even though this should go without saying, there are many presenters who feel it’s necessary to read directly from the slides. Doing so not only causes presenters to turn their backs on their audience but it also shows little respect for your audience’s reading skills. A much better approach is to use bullet points as prompts and then paraphrase the text. This allows you to place more emphasis on your message instead of the slide while maintaining valuable eye contact with your audience.

3. Move around
Being still is important, especially during key points of your presentation. However, frequent movement not only helps you relax but it makes you look more confident. Moving around also helps keep the audience engaged by adding energy to your presentation. Just make sure to walk slowly and not pace.

4. Use an expressive voice
Adding expression to one’s voice is one of the most effective techniques for engaging an audience. To accomplish this, speak in a conversational tone and emphasize special words or phrases by adjusting your pitch and volume. To make this feel and sound natural, practice using variations in your voice while rehearsing the content. Also, don’t underestimate the power of pauses. When used intermittently, pauses provide opportunities for your audience to absorb and reflect on critical pieces of information.

5.  Redirect your audience’s attention
Research has shown that the average adult is unable to sustain the same level of attention for longer than 20 minutes. This means that your audience will begin to lose focus early on in your presentation before attempting to refocus at various intervals of time. One way to address this is by changing the direction of your presentation in a way that will allow participants’ brains to shift gears.

Here are some simple ways to help your audience refocus:

  • Ask questions to gauge comprehension
  • Provide discussion opportunities
  • Provide practice opportunities
  • Incorporate images or short videos that reinforce concepts
  • Tell a story to illustrate your points

Keep these great tips in mind and you’ll knock your next presentation out of the park. As we move on to Part 3 of this series, you will learn about free tools that are available for conducting webinars to a live audience.

Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

DO’s and DON’Ts of Preparing for Presentations

DosandDontsBest Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 1

We’ve all attended an event at least once where the presenter failed to connect with us in a meaningful way. After such presentations, we left feeling disappointed and frustrated with what seemed to have been a waste of time. No one plans or expects for presentations to turn into a disaster but the reality is that this can happen to anyone who is not properly prepared to present effectively.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is the first of a four-part series which focuses on best practices for preparing and conducting face-to-face and virtual presentations. In this article, we will cover the most critical DOs and DON’Ts when preparing for face-to-face presentations.


1. Do ensure your presentation format meets any specific requirements or guidelines for the event.

This is the most important step in your preparation. If for any reason you haven’t been provided with this information, don’t assume you are free to present in any manner you choose. Take the time to inquire about this information as soon as possible. Additionally, ask for a copy of the evaluation that will be used by participants after your presentation. Knowing how you will be evaluated can serve as an advantage.

 2. Do confirm that your content is relevant to the needs of your audience.

If the content is not perceived as relevant, it will be quickly dismissed by your audience. If you do not know your audience well or are unsure as to whether your content will meet their needs, speak to the organizer of the event as well as anyone else who can share the level of knowledge your audience may have on the topic.

3. Do offer tools and resources that address the topic and are useful to participants.

While your audience is certainly interested in learning more about your topic, they are also hungry for tools and resources that will empower them in addressing a specific need. To accomplish this, provide your audience with copies of your presentation along with any essential handouts. Make sure to also include your contact information so that participants can reach out to you for more information in the future.

 4. Do contact the event organizer to request audio/visual equipment and make any other technical arrangements.

If you need internet connectivity, don’t assume it will be provided on the spot without making a request in advance. In some rooms, wireless connection may be weak in which case a wired connection may be your only option. Similarly, if you plan on playing any audio or video content, make sure to request speakers in advance.

 5. Do practice your presentation.

Practice makes perfect so take a few days to review you presentation and rehearse your notes. Also, take the time to ask others for feedback.


1. Don’t design text-heavy slides.

Slides should never serve as your notes. They should be visually appealing and include images to help reinforce concepts when necessary. The more text you pack onto a slide, the smaller the font size becomes and the more difficult it is to read. For this reason, follow the 6/6/6 rule. No more than 6 words per line, 6 lines per slide, and 6 text slides in a row before incorporating an image slide for transition to a new topic.

2. Don’t use custom fonts or fancy slide animations.

Keep in mind that if you are asked to load your presentation onto a facility laptop, your custom fonts and animations may not appear as expected. This happens because some fonts and animations may not be installed or compatible with other computers or older software. This can lead to slides that no longer appear or function as they should. Therefore, only use font styles that are common to most computers and avoid animations as much as possible unless you are certain that they will work on the computer from which you will be presenting.

3. Don’t use small text or colors that makes your content hard to read.

For bullet points and most slide content, consider using large text (font size 24 or higher) as well as theme colors that complement each other well. Making your text larger than usual will accommodate those in the back of a long room. If you’re presenting with the lights on, consider using dark text on a light background.

 4. Don’t forget to interact with your audience.

Most participants don’t want to hear a lecture. They want opportunities to be engaged in meaningful discourse. Build in time for questions whether to check for comprehension during the session or for discussion at the very end of the presentation. If this is a training workshop, provide opportunities for participants to demonstrate their understanding and practice specific skills in groups. Also, if the event requires advance registration, find out how many plan to attend as this can alter the format of your presentation. In comparison to a large audience, a very small audience can allow for more interactivity and movement.

Once you have taken the time to properly plan for your presentation, you will feel more confident with its design and structure. As we move on to Part 2 of this series, we will cover techniques for engaging your audience during the presentation so that you can successfully deliver your message.

Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.