Someone taps you on the shoulder and says, "We scheduled a webinar to show off the important technology the company has \n\ndeveloped. And since you know it better than anyone else, we decided that you are the one who should be in front of the \n\ncamera."\nLucky you.\nMany people would rather visit the dentist or pay taxes than speak publicly. They might even prefer to pay the dentist's \n\ntaxes than stand up in front of a crowd. Perhaps this fear of public embarrassment is why so many business professionals are \n\nnervous about hosting a webinar.\nHowever, a webinar probably is a good idea, at least for your business, because these online presentations are a unique \n\nopportunity to engage clients on a one-to-one basis, regardless of audience size. Using the right materials and presentation \n\ntechniques, you can interact with each individual participant, instead of addressing a large, faceless group of strangers.\nHow can you get past the gut-wrenching fear that you'll make a fool of yourself?\nUse our tips to stop worrying and approach your webinar assignment with confidence.Prepare Properly Before The Webinar\nOne way to get yourself focused is to eliminate distractions. Make sure that you have taken care of all the details ahead of \n\ntime, so you can put your attention on giving the presentation during the webinar.\nAnd, to some degree, that means, "Gosh, I hope people show up."\nSo get the schedule in order, so that you attract the most people. Plan to host your webinar at least twice, to accommodate \n\ndifferent time zones. Avoid Mondays and Fridays, as these are peak meetings days; webinar attendance is therefore often \n\nlower. The best times are 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, which is when your guests are at their desks before or after lunch. Send a \n\nreminder of the webinar one week ahead of time, and a second reminder the day before the event.\nYour initial planning stage should start about four weeks before the webinar; this is not the sort of homework assignment you \n\nwant to begin the night before the term paper is due. That will only increase your nervousness. In the early planning stages, \n\nyour primary attention should be on developing a compelling topic, identifying presenters and target audience, and\u2014for \n\nmarketers, not necessarily you-the-presenter\u2014the promotional outreach campaign.\nDevelop Your Content\nDeveloping interesting, engaging and educational content is probably the most important key to your webinar's success. If \n\nyour material is boring or doesn't bring relevant value, you'll lose your guests\u2014and their sales.\nInvite an industry expert, customer or partner to present a case study or conduct an interview during your webinar. This will \n\nstimulate more interest and drive participation. A well-known subject matter expert can double or even triple your \n\nattendance.\nHere are some recent examples of webinars that were truly "home runs" because of their compelling, timely content:\nA marketing consulting group offered a webinar that provided tips for maximizing holiday sales at a time when the holiday \n\nperiod was key to many retailers' survival. Over 90 percent of the registrants attended; more typical attendance is half \n\nthat.\nA program in January on how to qualify and nurture leads to enhance sales team success wildly exceeded attendance \n\nexpectations. It provided practical how-to information and useful new ideas and featured a noted author.\n\nThe key mistake to avoid is being blatantly self-promotional. With the prevalence of DVRs, no one has to sit through a \n\ncommercial anymore\u2014so don't turn your webinar into one.\nPrepare questions to ask during the webinar registration process. Doing so can give you great insight into your audience, \n\nassuming that you ask questions that help you tailor your presentation to your audience's needs and to learn the \n\nparticipants' education or qualification level. You don't want to waste time on an introductory session on "heat and light \n\ncome from the sun" when 90 percent of those attending are physicists. In addition, prepare a post-event survey for use as \n\npeople exit the webinar. Ask them follow-up questions to further qualify them as sales prospects, to learn about their \n\nsatisfaction with what you covered, and to find out if they laughed at your jokes.\n\nFinally, prepare a Q&A session to encourage your guests' participation. There is some risk associated with a Q&A session, \n\nof course. You might hear a question you can't answer. Worse yet, a questioner might act more like a heckler. The solution, \n\nagain, is advance preparation.\nJot down ahead of time the questions you can anticipate, along with appropriate responses. Keep these notes handy so that \n\nyou can refer to them during the actual webinar if need be.\nFocus on those questions you hope you don't hear. It's like buying flood or earthquake insurance\u2014it's prudent to \n\nbuy it, though you hope you never have to use it.\nRespond to critical questions as positively as credibly possible. Then move on\u2014don't dwell on the negative. And, \n\nremember, if all else fails, you can always block a really abusive questioner.\n\nPractice makes the difference. Webinars aren't difficult, but they are different from running a meeting or a conference call. \n\nA webinar is an event. Attendees have higher expectations than participants in less formal "ad hoc" types of meetings \n\ninvolving small groups.\nAvoid Murphy's Law\nTake a couple of test runs of your presentation, especially if you've never run one before. Yes, practice in front of a \n\nmirror. You will feel stupid. Do it anyway. Because the rehearsal will make you so familiar with the material that, should \n\nyou freeze up in the middle of your presentation, you can just keep going on automatic until your brain re-engages.\nIt also means that you can develop poise as well as technical knowledge. You'll realize that when you're nervous, you, say, \n\nfiddle with your hair. This will teach you to tie your hair back, so that you can't drive the participants crazy .You want \n\nthem to put their attention on your brilliant technical presentation, not staring at you pulling on your bangs and wondering \n\nif they're going to come off.\nThis gives you the opportunity to fine tune your material and catch any potential problems with the webcasting solution \n\nyou're using. We're not saying that technology breaks at the worst possible moment, but, you don't want people to watch you \n\ntwist volume knobs and adjust screen displays. Learn how the software works\u2014when nobody is watching. You don't want \n\nyour audience to hear you say, "Hmm, what happens when I push this button," and watch it all go black. (Oops.)\nDo your homework, too, concerning use of third-party technologies. For example, find out if your webinar solution requires \n\nattendees to download the provider's software. Imagine the plight of the webinar organizer who either forgets to check or \n\ndoesn't think it's important, only to discover that she just spent $20K on a webinar that a fourth of the registrants \n\ncouldn't attend because their company firewalls prevented software downloads.\nDay of the Webinar: Save Your Sanity\nYou might be nervous, but at the very least you can be prepared. Use this checklist:\nWear clothing with a neutral or soft color or with a soft pattern, as pastel colors are the easiest for the viewer to \n\nsee. Also, bright colors can "ghost" and make it appear that your shirt is following you when you move around. Avoid \n\nred\u2014it typically "bleeds," which can result in a fuzzy look around the edges. Avoid white\u2014it makes it difficult \n\nfor the camera operator to get good color contrast. This is similar to what happens when you try to take photos in the snow \n\nor on a beach. \nA shirt or a tie with thin vertical stripes will give off a distracting wavy pattern with even the slightest \n\nmovement.\nDuring your presentation, you should talk to the camera. Avoid looking around or at anyone else who might be \n\nwatching.\nDuring the Q&A, talk to the person who is posing the questions, not to the camera.\nDuring the webinar, plant yourself in one place as if you were nailed down. Try not to move excessively, shift your \n\nweight, or shuffle your feet. If you are seated at a desk, do not tap your pen on the desktop. And if you're standing, don't \n\nplay with the loose change in your pocket.\n\nMake sure you're in a quiet place and use the telephone handset. Handsets normally have good quality microphones, so \n\nbackground noises are kept to a minimum. Using the "hands free" option or conference phones can result in low-volume voices \n\nthat sound compressed, pick up background noise in the room or produce an echo from the room. In other words, you might sound \n\nlike you're talking from inside a bucket. It's hard enough to capture everyone's attention when they're rather be playing \n\nwith their BlackBerries; don't make it easy for their attention to stray because they can't hear you. Or because you sound \n\nlike a dork.\nAnd don't forget to turn off your own IM, cell phone, PDAs, e-mail, and other possible distractions. This may be the hardest \n\ntask for you, we realize.\nJoin your webinar early. Verify that all links and presentations are working. Never assume that you're too smart, too \n\nimportant or too busy to be trained ahead of time on the webinar platform. The most flustered webinar moderators are those \n\nwho wouldn't take the time for a pre-event sound check and then discovered that their audiences couldn't hear them.\nDisplay a "welcome" slide that says your meeting will start shortly. At the beginning of your meeting, provide a quick review \n\nof housekeeping items, such as how to use the chat feature or how-and-when you'll address questions and answers. Ask speakers \n\nto identify themselves. Finally, relax and have fun! This will help keep the viewer focused on your presentation.\nAfter the Webinar: WERE You An Idiot?\nDo plan on issuing a post-webinar survey to participants to solicit feedback. They are usually brutally honest. But the \n\nreality is that you won't have to wait until after the webinar for the answer to that question. People are not shy. Even \n\nduring the event itself participants will critique your webinar via chat. They will let you know, for example, if you are \n\ntalking down to them versus enlightening them. Another real-time metric: audience members will start dropping off if you are \n\nbeing an idiot.\nRecord your seminar. Post the webinar on your website for future viewing and then evaluate results of this on-demand \n\nviewing. A popular webinar is usually a well-done webinar. Build a reference library of past webinars for your customers and \n\nprospects to view when they have time. Webinar content and Q&A's can also be useful for training employees. \nSend follow-up emails to all registrants. Send participants a summary of the Q&A session, additional information, a link to \n\nthe archived webinar or just a simple e-mail message thanking them for participating.\nDenise Persson is the Chief Marketing Officer at ON24, a webcasting and virtual events solutions provider, where her \n\nresponsibilities include combating customer "webinar worry."