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Tips: delivering great webinars

In the 1986 classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Ben Stein portrays an instructor that nobody wants to have, droning on and on in an economics class to listless, disengaged students.  Over the years as an accounting software trainer, I’m sure I have had a few sessions like Mr Stein’s, especially when conducting online training. As more and more of our Partners use webinars as a tool to reach out to clients (and potential clients) I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way about making sessions more engaging, informative and fun.

Stay active

First and foremost, have energy when you speak.  If you’re not excited, your audience won’t be excited either. You are not there just to relay information, but to connect with the people you are teaching. Let your personality come through as you teach, and show them what made you excited about Xero in the first place. This is especially important when teaching online, so grab a coffee (or two) and have fun – your audience will feed off your energy.

Move around a little during your presentation. This is obvious in a classroom setting, where you just need to move around the room, but online you need to also move around – by making your screen more engaging.

You will naturally be moving your cursor around various parts of the application as you teach, and the audience will visually follow it, so be deliberate with your mouse movement. It is also helpful to verbally point to where you are going as well (“at the top of the screen,” “on the Accounts menu…”). But moving between Xero and presentation slides and other material is also quite helpful to keep an audience engaged when they are passively watching an online presentation. And yes, you can stand up and walk around as you teach online, too – it’ll help you keep the momentum going.

Ask questions

Ask questions frequently, and if you’re online wait. For. An. Answer. People will think about it for the first few seconds, then wait for someone else to answer, then finally unmute their microphones and give an answer. It may seem like eternity, but try to wait 10 seconds in your next online class and see if you get more responses.  And sometimes the ’long’ silence will jolt people as well.

During our webinars, we often have too many attendees so we have to keep all lines muted; however, we use the polling feature of GoToWebinar to ask questions. Give attendees plenty of time to answer, and even a 10-second warning before closing the poll. After receiving the answer, make sure to review the question and show why an answer is correct (in case they guessed correctly but are still unsure). Sometimes I go as far as to show the answer in action in the application.

Finally, call people by their name. If your audience is new to you, get to know them by having them introduce themselves. Ask them the one thing they hope to learn, and when you get to that topic, tell that person this will be especially helpful for them. Encourage attendees to use the chat or questions feature of the presentation tool you are using, and answer the questions verbally throughout the session just as you would in a classroom, by stating the person’s name and their question.

Of course, you will have to manage this just as you would in a classroom, and avoid getting pulled down any rabbit trails that can put you off topic or become too consultative for a group environment.

Also, here are a few more tips from the rest of our training team:

  1. Be thoroughly prepared.  Know your topic, what you want to say and how you are going to say it.
  2. Use a quiet room for a webinar, eliminating background noise as much as possible.
  3. Use a headset or good microphone to improve sound quality.
  4. Log in early and test everything before the webinar begins.
  5. Turn off email, skype and reminders on your computer during the webinar.
  6. Have a glass of water on hand.
  7. Have backup technology available if the internet goes down.
  8. Use two monitors so that you aren’t flipping through papers during the webinar.

In a nutshell? Enjoy your seminar, and your audience will too.

Do you have any more tips for giving online presentations? Share them below.


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Gayle Buchanan
7 September 2012 #

Phew, thanks for that

Another tip – have a friend on skype or the phone just in case you need extra help

Kirsten Hawke
8 September 2012 #

Awesome – great tips thanks

Mike Hood
17 September 2012 #

Great advice all, cheers.

Mikeh (pocketrent)

robin butt
19 September 2012 #

can you make it easier to get into xero instead of putting your email could you not put the first letter in & your email address came up atomatic

27 October 2012 #

Love It! Keep up the good work.

17 November 2012 #


18 November 2012 #

good advice how-to videos as well

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