Most people believe charisma can’t be taught. It’s something you either have, or you don’t. But if you’re going to host a webinar, you’d better be able to hold your audience’s attention—you’re competing with the entire Internet, plus whatever distractions exist outside it, for your audience’s time and attention.
With a webinar, there’s the added challenge of not being able to gauge a room. When you’re giving an in-person talk, you can tell when the audience’s attention is drifting. In a webinar, sure, you can keep an eye on the comments and note when people log off, but it’s not quite the same as being in the same room with them. Often, you have no idea how interested people really are—and what else they’re doing while they’re logged on.
But being a compelling host isn’t just a matter of natural charisma. It also involves careful planning and structure—to make sure the format around you is charismatic. Here are a few tips for making sure that happens.
Make sure your presentation is structured. Avoid wandering presentations with lots of unpredictable tangents. Keep things focused by breaking down your points and telling people how many will be coming up (for example, “here are seven tips for improving your blogging ROI”).
Avoid walls of text. Your audience isn’t there to read. Avoid slides with long chunks of text; include compelling imagery and keep text short and broken up by bullets for easy scanning. Don’t throw up a long paragraph and then just read from it; instead, use your words to easily summarize your points at a glance, while you go into more detail.
Visuals are your friend. Show visuals that reinforce your points in a powerful way—that even tell a story. Avoid simply repeating what you say using visuals (or words for that matter).
Look your best—and make sure your background does, too. This should go without saying—but make sure your clothes look good, the color is flattering on screen, your forehead is powdered (shine is a real thing), and you look professional. Don’t let your webcam film you looking up from below—this angle is automatically unflattering on everyone. Be sure your camera is at eye level or slightly higher.
Build in interactive elements. It’s crucial to keep your audience engaged. This includes asking them for feedback, soliciting their questions, having a moderated forum, asking them to submit examples of their work for you to critique during the webinar—there are endless ways to keep them focused on you and not Words with Friends. Build interactivity into your webinar to make it more than just a talking head.
Practice makes better. Film yourself practicing. See how you come off—do you look nervous? Talk too fast? Are you easy to understand? Do you seem relaxed and happy? No matter how well you come off in the first iteration, you’ll improve with practice. Have a trusted friend or someone with experience in public speaking watch and give you pointers.
You can be a compelling host even if you don’t think of yourself as naturally charismatic. With a little planning, structure, and a well-built webinar that encourages interactivity, you should be able to hold your audience’s attention—and get your message across.