Tag Archive for: webinar

Your webinar-day checklist

If you’ve ever delivered a webinar, you know that things can go wrong—especially at the last minute. I created a webinar checklist when I delivered an investment commentary webinar via Zoom to a CFA Society last year. My goal was to minimize opportunities for problems to disrupt me. Unfortunately, I‘ve learned from experience about some of the things that can go wrong during a webinar.

I’m sharing a generic version of my webinar-day checklist in case you’ll benefit from adapting it for your needs.

Check today’s newspapers for news relevant to my topic.

Reboot PC and close down as many programs as possible to minimize the load on my PC. Kill anything that might put pop-ups—like Microsoft Outlook task reminders—on my screen.

Have a travel clock handy—and a list of my target time to start each of five sections—to help me keep track of time.

Wear non-distracting clothes—for example, no tiny prints that’ll shimmer or wildly swinging earrings.

Make tea with honey and do my vocal warm-up exercises to make my voice more resonant.

Put phones on “Do not disturb.”

Adjust the lighting to optimize it for the webinar (I discovered that opening my blinds for sunlight made me too washed out).

Remind introducer or facilitator of things I’d like them to do during the program and make sure they have my bio (have it ready to email if necessary).

Remind myself to look at the webcam, not my keyboard or my screen.

Have fun!


I hope you find this checklist helpful. A webinar can be a great way to connect with people. It works even better when you’re not rattled during your webinar by problems that a webinar-day checklist could have prevented.



Webinar lessons from my annual webinars

Mastering the technology for my first webinar in 2014 was hell, as I have shared in “Tech tips for your educational webinar—learn from my experience.” Things have gotten easier since then, especially because I’ve stuck with GoToWebinar, but things can still go wrong. If you’re an infrequent webinar presenter like me, you can learn from my experience presenting my annual investment commentary webinar.

Lesson 1. Stick with the same software

There may be webinar software that’s better or cheaper than GoToWebinar. But over four years of annual webinars, I’ve learned how to manage its basics. Also, the branding and some other settings that I’ve established in past years carry over from year to year. That saves me time.

You may think that all webinar software functions basically the same. My 2014 experience shifting to GoToWebinar from an awful low-cost provider suggests that’s not true. However, I only have experience with two providers.

Lesson 2. Plan to practice early and often

Things will go wrong with your webinar software. At least, that’s true in my experience. So run practice sessions—including sessions with simulated viewers (and co-organizers, if relevant).

In my experience, moving the cursor is often a source of problems. So, manipulate it a lot. Sabotage yourself, and then practice recovering. Then, if something goes wrong in your live presentation, you’ll recover more rapidly.

By the way, if you’re only moving from slide to slide, you may be able to skip moving your cursor because you can advance slides using an arrow key. However, this means you’re not using tools like polls or highlighters. Nor are you reviewing and managing participant questions or comments. By not using those tools, you lose opportunities to engage your audience. That may hurt the effectiveness of your webinar.

If you uncover problems early enough, you can work with the webinar provider to find a solution that minimizes them. Through multiple exchanges—on the telephone and in the online support community—this year I found a less trouble-prone way to advance my slides.

Lesson 3. Be aware that software may change from year to year

Software changes. There may be “improvements” or the software may change to accommodate new operating systems, like Windows 10.

For example, I believe that, back in 2014, the lines that I drew using GoToWebinar’s drawing tool disappeared when I clicked to the next page. That was convenient. But now I have to erase those lines. That’s an extra step that slows me down so I’ve stopped using the drawing tool.

In short, you assume at your own risk that what works one year will work again the next year.

Lesson 4. The experience of your helpers matters

I’m lucky to have worked with some wonderful helpers on my webinars. One of my helpers had lots more experience in webinar presentations and technology than the others. Her experience made my experience more relaxing.

I highly recommend using helpers to manage your introduction, Q&A, and behind-the-scenes logistics. They’ll improve the experience for you and your audience. However, if you’re a worrywart like me, you’ll also do some practice sessions in which you play all of the roles. In a pinch, I could have introduced myself, launched my polls, and handled technical problems and Q&A on my own. Sure, I would have felt like an anxious mess. But I could have blundered my way through the presentation.

Consider these lessons to give yourself and your audience a better webinar experience.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tech tips for your educational webinar–Learn from my experience

Webinars can be a great way to educate clients and prospects. However, managing the technology can be a big hassle. I experienced that stress when I hosted a webinar, “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” in June 2014. I’m sharing what I learned so you don’t have to struggle as much as I did.

Step 1. Pick your technology

Providers vary in terms of costs and offerings. My virtual assistant researched a bunch of companies for me, but I found the list overwhelming. I started with a provider where I was grandfathered into a free plan. I later switched to another provider, GoToWebinar, for reasons I’ll describe below. Along the way, I decided that the following characteristics were important.

General characteristics

  • Good reviews/fan base
  • Reasonable price
  • Stability of the webinar so that participants would have a good experience

For webinar presenters and participants

  • Ability to dial in or use computer headset
  • Easy to use
  • Good technical support, in addition to good documentation
  • Usable on a mobile device (participants only)

For host (the organizer of the webinar)

  • The ability to host at least 50 people with ability to upgrade at the last minute if necessary
  • No long-term commitment
  • Registration to collect the names and emails of participants

For presenters, the ability to:

  • Have two or three people with full access to speak and see all of the following: the Q&A and/or chat boxes in addition to the slides, although, only one person would control the slides, even when the other is speaking
  • Share just a portion of the computer screen
  • Reduce echo on the call
  • Record and share as an .mp4 file without the need for conversion

Nice to have

  • Polling
  • Ability to mute phone lines of individual participants

You can customize my list of specific requirements to your needs. My list grew out of my frustration with my original provider. I’d taken a five-week class with a teacher who used the original provider successfully. The experience was painless from my perspective as a student. That experience, plus the fact that I didn’t need to pay for the product, was appealing.

Step 2. Practice to uncover problems

I started practicing on my original provider almost two months before the date of my webinar. I gave up after about four weeks. The product had many attractive features. Ultimately what drove me away was limited documentation and the lack of timely customer support. The firm offered support via email. Customer support was good about replying within 24 hours or less. However, I realized I couldn’t provide a professional experience to my participants without better support for myself and for any participants who might experience problems logging in. I shifted to GoToWebinar in early June. I also felt good about GoToWebinar because it’s a product of Citrix, which would be reassuring to my viewers working for conservative financial firms.

What kind of practice sessions do I recommend? I presented, sent invitations, and logged in as a participant from another computer who sent questions electronically to the presenter, and recorded and downloaded the recorded files. I also experimented with having two people logged in as presenters because I knew that would be part of my presentation strategy.

After I switched to GoToWebinar, I started practicing all over again. There were fewer similarities than I expected between my original provider and GoToWebinar.

Step 3. Work with customer support

GoToWebinar’s documentation is much more robust than that of my original provider. Also, its live training webinar was helpful. However, I often couldn’t find an answer to questions that I typed in plain English into the product’s “Find an Answer” page.

I developed a two-pronged approach to overcoming challenges on GoToWebinar that I couldn’t answer with an online search. This strategy may work for you with your provider.

  1. Send the question via their online contact form. I quickly learned to ask them to copy-paste my original question into their replies. Otherwise, important details were lost.
  2. Use the phone for things that flummoxed me. I tried to rely on email, but the phone calls saved my sanity, as I describe below.

Step 4. Check how long it takes your screen to display on your participants’ screens and get help if it’s too long

I had a meltdown the day I realized there was sometimes a significant delay between when the slides appeared on my screen and when they appeared on the viewers’ screens. Thirty to 40 seconds may not sound like much. However, in a slide-heavy presentation it feels like an eternity. I got on the phone with customer support at Citrix, which is the company behind GoToWebinar. They explored various reasons for the lag. Was my software outdated? Was slide animation or the load on my computer slowing things down. Eventually, they ran a special “wizard” to optimize my connection to GoToWebinar by routing me through a specific port—or something like that. They also ran diagnostics. One of these phone calls, which was combined with customer support accessing my computer remotely, ran three hours—yes, three hours—long.

GoToWebinar customer support’s research suggested that my connection problems were due to Verizon, my Internet provider. This is where the story falls into a “he said, she said” scenario. GoToWebinar said that Verizon should route me differently. They pointed me to websites on two different days showing problems with Verizon’s connections: http://internetpulse.net/ and http://downdetector.com/status/verizon-communications.

Verizon said “the Internet” was to blame.Verizon Help discusses 4th hop Once my signal—or whatever you call it—gets more than four hops away from my computer, it’s beyond Verizon’s control, according to their Twitter help folks. By the way, my actual connection speed was great when it worked. Both Verizon and GoToWebinar tested it.

The bottom line? I was on my own, aside from GoToWebinar’s fine-tuning my connection.

Caution: All customer support reps are not created equal. When you deal with customer support, be aware that there are different levels of experience and expertise. One of my first reps re-booted my computer without asking my permission first. Yikes! However, he got me promoted to dealing with Level 2 support, which means more experienced reps. However, even those Level 2 reps didn’t always agree on strategy. Sometimes they took steps that undid progress I’d made earlier. For example, one rep reinstalled software without telling me that reinstallation would undo my optimized connection and some other customizations I’d made. I’m not a technical person, so I didn’t know to ask about things like that.

On balance, however, I was happy with the technical support staff. They were patient, friendly, and helpful. On the day of my webinar, the rep who helped me with my connection problems gave me her direct email address. That proved helpful when the software booted me out—and wouldn’t let me back into—GoToWebinar after I logged in for my live presentation to the folks who were paying to attend my webinar. She called me right away and got me reconnected. Luckily, I’m a cautious person, so I was logging in more than an hour prior to the webinar.

Step 5. Don’t go it alone on your “live” webinar presentation

All of the whiz-bang technology can be a bit overwhelming when you’re presenting your webinar—especially if you or your attendees have technical problems or you don’t enjoy multi-tasking. I’ve watched webinars where presenters struggled. That’s why I enlisted two assistants. Lorena was my “producer.” She responded to attendees’ technical questions, told participants how to use the features of GoToWebinar in a brief introduction at the beginning of my live presentation, and loaded the poll questions at the right spots in my presentation. (By the way, Lorena may be available to help you with your webinars for an hourly fee.) Jen, a skilled presenter who’s knowledgeable about my webinar topic, was my facilitator. She introduced me and facilitated questions. The flow of questions into a webinar’s question box can overwhelm presenters who lack help, as I’ve noticed many times.

I rehearsed with Jen and Lorena prior to the live presentation. That helped us uncover some potential sticking points.

Having two helpers was great for my peace of mind. It also helped the flow of the webinar.

Step 6. Advise your attendees to make the most of their technology

Your best efforts at delivering a great webinar experience can fail if your attendees’ technology fails to cooperate. A viewer on an overloaded computer or a sluggish Internet experience will suffer. Ask them to test their technology in advance. Although they’re unlikely to take the time to run tests, you’ll benefit if they do. I like that GoToWebinar provides a link for attendees to test their technology in advance. Also, suggest to your viewers that they use a hardwired Internet connection and close open applications on their computers that they’re not using.

Step 7. Have a strategy for dealing with problems

My biggest concern was that the Internet would cause my slides to update very slowly on my viewers’ screens. That’s why I added Step 6 to my process.

I also

  • Provided a handout viewers could download to follow along. I sent this link ahead of time. I also asked my producer to urge them to print the handout while they’re waiting for the call to start. A clickable link to the handout appeared at the start of the webinar.
  • Gave my producer something to say to people who experienced lag time: “We’re so sorry. It’s an Internet connection problem that’s beyond our control. Can you follow along using the handout at…?”
  • Planned to advance my slides sooner rather than later.

I thought about asking my producer to say at the beginning, “Slides may sometimes be slow to appear on your computer screen for reasons beyond Susan’s control. She appreciates your understanding.” However, Lorena talked me out of that, saying that I would make people expect a bad experience. I got lucky. There were no major technical mishaps.

Step 8. Accept that your presentation will not be perfect

If you don’t use webinar technology regularly, things may go wrong. I had some small glitches in my live presentation. I hope my attendees were able to overlook them. Meanwhile, I’m sharing the lessons of my webinar experience so you and I may make fewer mistakes in future presentations.

Will I run another webinar?

“Never again” is what I said as I closed down my webinar session. However, I might reconsider. I think a presentation with fewer slides, making slide lag time less important, would be less stressful.

Would I use GoToWebinar again? Probably not. Their customer support was helpful. But two things bothered me.

First, there’s no easy way to convert the GoToWebinar’s video recordings to the popular mp4 format. I wanted the mp4 format to make viewing easy for Mac users as well as PC users.I tried a bunch of free conversion programs, but all of them had problems. It seemed as if long recordings were particularly difficult to convert with successful syncing of slides and sound.

Second, I was disturbed by my GoToWebinar control panel appearing momentarily onscreen in the recording of my live webinar. When I asked what went wrong, they eventually gave me a disappointing response: “The development team has determined what caused the control panel to appear during the presentation/recording and this will be resolved in GoToMeeting 6.4. The estimated release of GoToMeeting 6.4 is around the end of Q3.” Yikes!