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webinar

You are currently browsing articles tagged webinar.

A live online presentation is almost as good as being face-to-face with an audience or a sales prospect. In some ways, it may be more effective than being there in person.

If you’re teaching a class online, you can enable two-way conversations. Students can ask questions, much as they would on a conference call. If you are using interactive slides, you can ask questions and have audience responses captured for later use.

But…

On-Demand Presentations have some unique advantages too. They are excellent lead generation tools that can appear embedded on web pages 24 X 7. They can be viewed and listened to anywhere in the world at no cost.

When people cannot meet the schedule of a live webinar, they can often experience the same program pre-recorded on-demand.

Presenters using interactive on-demand presentations can create self-study centers. Students or trainees can choose from multiple lessons, and control them so that they are not restricted to the pace of an online live lecture session. Their presentation may be set up so that they can go back and repeat selected slides.

On-demand presentations can become interactive videos, using high-speed transitions, background music and other multimedia techniques.

But…

Although on-demand presentations can be interactive, there is no live instructor to answer questions and build rapport. On-demand narrators can provide choices of subjects to be covered, but there is no way for a presenter to poll audiences and react to their inputs.

In final analysis the choice depends on the presenter’s objectives, the style and interest level of the audience, and the actual material to be presented. Potential audiences see live webinars as learning events. Because they are live, audiences perceive the information to be fresh and new.

Nevertheless, on-demand presentations are likely to move quickly, create immediate interest, capture new sales leads, and focus website visitors who might otherwise not digest your message.

Presenters can use both within a sales, training or marketing strategy. Either choice may be the right one, depending on the desired results.

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Every effective webinar needs a “call-to-action.” A completely successful webinar is seldom a standalone event. It is part of a series of actions planned to meet a goal. Typical goals are to attract attendees to purchase a product, to download new information, or to provide contact information for one-on-one discussions. Once the primary webinar messages are completed, the presenter articulates one or more calls-to-action.

The most productive calls to action come at the exact moment when every audience member’s interest is highest. If a webinar includes interactive slides, the call to action may be fulfilled as part of the presentation itself. For example, the presenter may encourage interested people to check a box onscreen or enter contact information.

However, presentations without interactive slides can also provide action opportunities, if the presentation screen is part of the presenter’s own web pages. The presentation screen can be on the same page as clickable buttons that lead to follow-on actions.

In the web page pictured above, presenters display media on the screen and can also reference items that appear on the page. This offers a smooth transition for a call-to-action. Presenters can say, “Maybe you would like to subscribe today. You can subscribe by clicking the button below. Or if you’d like to try our product free for two weeks, click the trial button. And if you would like more information, please click the button to download our white paper.”

When presenting through a web page, presenters can also offer more subtle suggestions. They can draw audience eyes to web page information like the bullet points on the example above. Or they can refer to other pages with link buttons.

Regardless of the presenter company’s tone or style, a strong call-to-action through a web page transforms a webinar into an important step in the overall process. Whether it is the first step or a step later in a relationship cycle, the webinar delivers messages with a clear call to move forward.

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First impressions count, and a great Welcome Slide makes a great first impression. But a Welcome Slide can do a lot more.

Many viewers initially log in with only lukewarm interest, wondering whether the scheduled webinar will be worthwhile or a waste of time. If they log in a few minutes early they need to see more than a plain screen or the presentation’s opening slide.

The Welcome Slide example illustrated above tells audience members that they are in the right place, and that the event will soon start. It also adds to the organization’s overall branding strategy. The slide prominently displays a logo and a distinct color scheme that consumers associate with the organization.

More importantly, it reminds viewers of the subject that originally attracted them, and introduces the presenter. Offering her picture, the slide is presenting her as a real person to whom the audience can relate. It offers the presenter’s credentials as well, with her degrees and current job responsibility. Finally it provides a call-in number and PIN, for use by viewers who will not be listening by VoIP (voice over internet).

This example also takes advantage of PowerPoint animation capabilities to provide an accurate countdown of minutes before the webinar will begin. The initial view of this animation is blank, but the presenter resets and starts animations five minutes before the program starts. Timed animations then change every minute, counting down to zero. This simple device keeps audiences onscreen, rather than departing to other tasks.

Many users leverage PowerPoint to make their Welcome Slides more elaborate. Some add an audio file with five minutes or more of wait-music. Others use animations to create a mini photo show on the screen, running through a few minutes of dramatic photos. Others make the Welcome Slide interactive, asking a poll question, and capturing answers from viewers as they log in. Any of these devices may serve to build interest and engage viewers until the actual presentation begins.

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Webinars have become one of the most effective methods of attracting qualified prospects. But with so many now being publicized, we need an effective invitation process that rises above the noise. The first objective then is to create a meaningful invitation. A simple text email won’t attract enough attention.

The invitation itself is a special kind of sales tool. It needs a compelling subject line, and should promote the presenter, especially if he or she has strong personal credentials. Using as few words as possible, the invitation must communicate that the webinar will offer new information or insights. And without being too loud, it must attract the eye and convey a feeling of professionalism. It should include a photo of the presenter, and any other graphics that emphasize the quality of the event.

Once the invitation is good-to-go, we need to reach out to enough people to meet our audience size goal. If we require pre-registration, we need twice as many people as our attendance goal. Typically, only half of the pre-registrants actually attend. The remainder may forget, or may be unable to spare the time from their last-minute scheduling. If we invite people from a general list we can only expect to register about two percent of them. Therefore an audience of 100 may require a list of 10,000.

Fortunately several good practices can improve the invitation success rate.

  1. Send multiple invitations. The first should be about two weeks before the event. The second should be 1-2 days before the event. The last should be a few hours before start time.
  2. Offer a choice of two different dates and at different times of the day. The individual audience size may be smaller for each presentation, but together the two events will reach more people than a single presentation.
  3. Offer a pre-recorded, on-demand version, to capture attendees who would otherwise be lost.

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How can audiences interact with a presenter if a webinar is pre-recorded for on-demand viewing? Top-flight presenters know that interactivity is the most effective way to keep audiences engaged. Interactive slides are therefore a “must-have” component of pre-recorded viewing.

Although a presenter isn’t available to interact directly, viewers can participate in shaping the presenter’s agenda, and can ask or answer questions. Shaping the agenda—providing optional viewer choices—requires the presenter to format a presentation into multiple segments from which audience members can choose. In the first example above, viewers listen as the presenter describes the subjects that he is going to cover and then asks the audience to select the subject to be discussed first. When the presenter completes the first subject, he invites viewers to choose another subject, or to skip ahead to a summary presentation.

Throughout this process, the presenter can ask viewers to comment or respond to questions, with all answers captured for later use. Viewers may also have opportunities to enter their contact information to request a direct call or email. As shown in the second example above, audiences often demand to ask questions. The presenter therefore pauses periodically for questions, and displays a slide for question entry. The slide includes a box to enter an email address for response, and a commitment to email an answer within 24 hours. By capturing the email address along with other responses from the viewer, the presenter has an opportunity to extend a relationship beyond the program, and potentially create a new client or customer.

By developing an interactive on-demand presentation, presenters can have the best part of two worlds. They create a presentation that may be promoted over a long time period without the limitations of scheduling or time zones. At the same time, they enable viewers to select information segments according to their interest. They create an environment in which viewers remain interactively engaged, and offer the potential of direct email dialog.

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How can a pre-recorded webinar be more powerful than a live presentation? Conventional wisdom says that viewers expect a webinar to be presented live. But pre-recorded, on-demand webinars offer several advantages over live programs.

People who can’t attend a scheduled online presentation can still view an on-demand version which is available 24 x 7. Offering an on-demand version therefore extends the audience. It not only reaches local people whose schedules don’t fit, but expands listenership across time zones. It even offers presenters the opportunity to be viewed globally.

On-Demand Webinar

On-demand webinars can also be embedded into a presenter’s website, so that they draw web traffic, and potentially create new sales leads. When viewed from a web page they can be surrounded onscreen with purchase links or additional offers.

Many audience members prefer on-demand versions. Pre-recorded programs enable viewers to control the presentation. They can start and stop as needed, and in many cases instantly back-space and repeat slides. And they can usually enjoy a program that wastes no time and has been optimized for quality.

Presenters who offer on-demand programs however, must create a presentation that’s different from record-and-playback of a live webinar. Viewers who know that presentations have been pre-recorded expect to hear highly professional programs. The quality level of a live webinar conference call or conferencing by VoIP (voice-over internet) is seldom good enough to maintain program credibility. When presenters offer live webinars, their programs typically include long pauses, mispronunciations, conversational fillers, and self-corrections. These are acceptable to viewers of live webinars since they are common in adlibbed conversation. Viewers of on-demand presentations however, expect them to be more deliberately paced, error-free, and less casual.

Presenters of on-demand presentations therefore, must prepare a version offline. Many record directly into PowerPoint. Others create small audio files and embed them into their slides. This process of course permits presenters to work from a script, listen to the results, and re-take any recording that doesn’t sound quite right.

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One of the greatest challenges for webinar presenters is maintaining attention of viewers that we can’t see. One great way to keep the eyes of all viewers onscreen is to create movement.

Viewers quickly tire of static images, and soon stop looking at a webinar screen until the slide changes. Presenters who stay on a single slide for more than a minute typically lose effectiveness. Attendees mentally tune out.

One good solution to this problem is to limit the screen time of any slide to 30 seconds or less. However, presenters may need more time to communicate their messages. The best tools then are onscreen animations.

The array pictured above for example, demonstrates how a single animated slide progresses onscreen. As the presenter speaks, animations advance to emphasize the next point in the slide’s overall message. The presenter controls them, ensuring that animations are timed to each point being made.

PowerPoint and other presentation graphics programs offer a rich array of animation features that can be used in many different ways. They can make photos, graphics or text appear or disappear, whenever appropriate. New items can fade in or fly in using a myriad of visual styles. Or items can morph into new forms.

Though animations can serve multiple purposes, their greatest value in webinars is to keep every viewer’s eyes on the screen, thereby keeping their attention. When they are used in pre-recorded on-demand webinars, animations can be perfectly timed to support a fast-paced narration. If accompanied by fast slide transitions, timed animations often create an effect similar to a tightly scripted video.

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PowerPoint Professionals use the term “Death by PowerPoint” to describe presentations that are so boring and tedious that audiences stop listening.

Death by PowerPoint can damage any presentation—face-to-face or online. But it’s especially destructive to online Webinars. Face-to-face presenters may revive audiences through eye contact, body language or personal charm. But webinar presenters have only their voices, and any slides that create Death by PowerPoint.

The Death by PowerPoint syndrome can have many different faces, including confusing tables, undecipherable spreadsheets, unreadable text, and complex charts. However, the worst and most common symptom is a slide comprised of text bullets.

Psychologists and educators have proven that most people can’t listen to a speaker and read text simultaneously without confusion. If presenters speak words that differ from the slide, most people stop reading or listening. Of course some presenters read their text bullets word-for-word. Audiences then become quickly bored and stop viewing the screen.

The antidote of course is to eliminate ALL text bullets. Presenters however, often push back saying that they can’t deliver their messages without text bullets. In that case, webinar planners must turn to Plan B.

In Plan B, each slide can have only one message. A statement that might have been a text bullet can become a slide headline. The remainder of the slide then needs one or more photos, graphics, or diagrams—sometimes with text labels or titles, to support the headline.

Webinar presenters must always remember the difference between silent reading (e.g. a book, or report) and viewing a presentation onscreen.  Silent readers absorb material at their own speed, frequently speed-up or slow-down, skip-ahead or backtrack. Online viewers must accept the speed of the webinar. That usually means that the program must move ahead quickly. Viewers can absorb top-notch material rapidly. They don’t have time or any inclination however,  to read a screen full of text.

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Webinars have emerged as the web’s most effective and  inexpensive method of delivering business results. Businesses of all sizes deliver thousands of webinars daily. Sadly, most need to be greatly improved to deliver their true potential.

We view hundreds of webinars every year, and have been taking notes on the good, the bad and the ugly. We’re pleased to share seven tips that will enable any business to get far better results.

The first tip: Use Techniques that Maintain Audience Attention

Online Webinars are very different from face-to-face presentations. One obvious difference is that the presenter and the audience cannot see each other. The presenter therefore loses the power of eye contact. Even more important, there is no way to know whether audience members are paying attention. Are they still out there? Are they reading emails? Are they chatting with friends?

The best way to keep their attention is to make them into participants, by using interactive slides. Using the interactive slide example pictured above, the woman who is presenting begins her webinar by asking audience members to respond to the question onscreen.

The presenter then reads some of the responses back to the audience and mentions each respondent by name. She then promises to concentrate the webinar on the items that audience people have checked.

This request accomplishes two things. It empowers the audience to partially set the agenda, giving them a feeling of ownership. Equally important, the presenter has demonstrated that she is facilitating an interactive discussion, and each audience member must be alert to respond. This rapport uses the power of human nature as a presentation technique. No attendee wants to be embarrassed by being unavailable to answer.

Numerous studies have proven that participants learn and retain 70 percent more information when they are participating, instead  of  being passive viewers. And that’s the power of online interactivity.

(We’ll share the next six Webinar tips in upcoming posts.)

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CRM companies and related software providers offer a myriad of tools to identify, qualify, and track sales leads. Many of these offerings sound great to potential CRM users, but they all have one basic flaw that can leave them useless. They all depend on a system being able to identify qualification criteria, or simply offer database searches based on plug-in criteria like industry, size of company, revenues, etc.

Salespeople know that there are only three TRUE criteria for qualification:

  1. prospects must be interested in speaking with them;
  2. the product must meet the prospect’s needs;
  3. and the sales contact must have the capability to make or drive a buying decision.

Unfortunately, these criteria can only be defined by prospects themselves, not by database searches or even by sales rep call reports.

The most successful sales of any product or service are those that occur when a potential buyer informs a sales organization that he or she is ready for serious discussions. The success of Webinars as lead generators has grown exponentially for that reason, but Webinars alone aren’t the full answer. The fact that a potential prospect attended a Webinar is indeed an indication of some level of interest, but the overwhelming majority of attendees are not prospects, having participated for a variety of reasons other than buying interest.

Webinars on PresenterNet however, add the most important element for qualifying a true sales lead. By providing InterActors on slides that enable attendees to respond onscreen to various questions during a Webinar, they capture information directly from the potential prospect. These are the kinds of questions that a salesperson would want to ask if given the opportunity to speak candidly:

“Would you like us to call you for an appointment?”

“Do you have a need for the kind of product we sell?”

“Are you the decision maker, or should we contact another person in your organization?”

“Do you currently have funding to commit to this area?”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you?”

“How do you see our product potentially fitting into your company’s plans?”

Answers to questions like these help sales people to find and close the very best opportunities. Interactive slides with these capabilities therefore become the missing links to making Webinars the top business drivers available to any sales organization worldwide.

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