A Practical Guide to Improving your Next Town-Hall or All-Hands Webcast

by / / Magic Coast News

Have you ever presented an online webinar or town hall meeting?

If you have, and you’re like most people, it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience. Between the technical difficulties and just the idea of being on camera, there’s a lot to deal with. My goal today is to help you eliminate some headaches and focus on what matters: your message.

Content is always king. If you have engaging content, your online event will be a success – IF you can deliver it! I can’t tell you what your message is, but I think I can help you bring it to life.

To start with, you may not see yourself as an actor, but that’s exactly what you need to become – at least a little bit. Early in my career, I avoided the spotlight. But I learned to like it, and perhaps you can too.

Luckily, showmanship is mostly about projecting your own personality and personal brand. Being genuine goes a long way to projecting the right image.

First, we’ll talk about the underpinnings of “what” you’re going to say, and then “how” you’re going to say it.

Making your content relevant and memorable really comes down to three things.

1) Know your audience.

2) Tell a good story.

3) Polish your performance.

1) Know your audience.

You need to get into their heads and understand a few things about their motivations.

First, why does your audience care about what you’re saying? What brought them here in the first place? Free time is limited for most people, why did they care enough to spend some of it with you?

For example, maybe you have been tasked with producing your first webcast and you may be feeling lost or unsure of how to make it a success. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about all the technical glitches that can happen – or even experienced them yourself, so you need a little help. That’s why you’re reading this. For your audience, you need to figure out why they are there with you and address that in your content.

Second, why does this content matter to your audience? How is it going to impact their work? Their life? Is it going to be good for them or bad? In short, why does it matter?

If you know this, it helps focus your message on what’s important to the audience.

And third, of course, what’s in it for them? There’s no interest like a self-interest. Figuring that out is critical to motivating them to action. What is the self-interest that motivates them to attend your webcast? Give them what they came for.

So, remember to answer these three questions. It will inform how you put your message together.

Why do they care?

Why does it matter?

What’s in it for them?

Next, identify the action you want them to take.

What is the purpose of this whole exercise? What do you want the audience to do? Go vote? Buy something? Sell something? Join a mailing list? Visit a website?

Have an example of someone who has done it before. Tell a personal story or an anecdote to illustrate the action you are seeking. Humans are wired to remember stories and to connect with you through them. Use storytelling!

We have a client who connected with us after watching a webinar about managing event attendees. The webinar was basically made up of us telling a story of how we integrated our service with that of an event management company. To be honest, we never expected to get any new business from it. A month or two later, we received an email from one of the attendees. It turned out that they were expanding their virtual classroom offerings and wanted to talk. The point is, they remembered and acted on the story we told.

The final piece of the puzzle before you start to tell your story is to tell the audience why you are the right person to deliver this message. Gaining credibility is important. What experience do you have that qualifies you to be believed? Again, a short story works well to get this point across. Or maybe it’s as simple as saying that you’ve been in the business for x number years.

2) Tell a good story.

Now it’s time to tell a good story. So what are the elements of telling a memorable story?

First, connect with your audience.

Connecting with your audience can be as simple as asking a question. Or maybe surprising them with an interesting twist, or making a tie-in with a current news item.

The point is to engage them. Get them to respond in some way. To say “oh wow” or ‘ah-ha’ or relate what you’re talking about to something in their personal or work life. In a live meeting, I’d say to go directly up to an attendee and ask them a direct question, like ‘have you ever . . . fill in the blank”. But with an Internet event, we can use interactive tools like poll questions or text chats to get a similar result.

Another important part of engaging the audience is to show excitement.

I recently watched a video comparison between the first time Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, made a product announcement and the second time he did it a year later. In the first, he was quiet, monotone, low energy, low power body language, and, let’s face it, boring. You could see and hear the boredom in the audience reactions.

But, a year later, someone had coached him and he was much better. The difference? He used his hands, he smiled, he did a much better job of owning the spotlight.

These are not easy things to master, and it can feel awkward and even silly, but the results are significant. People won’t be excited unless you are. And for the audience to see what you’re doing on a tiny little mobile device screen, you have to be much bigger than what feels natural.

Second, make an entrance.

I recently did a webinar where my entrance for one section was a pre-recorded ‘live’ remote from India. I didn’t travel to India to record the video, but I took advantage of the fact that I was going on the trip to add some color to the webinar. It wasn’t hard to find a few minutes to record myself at the Taj Mahal and then edit that into my webinar – along with some other video from the trip.

It was a surprising entrance, right? It added interest. It can also be informative. With recorded video, you can take your show on the road – originate from anywhere, and take your audience with you.

Third, have a strong close.

Finally, all is for nothing if you don’t have a big finish. Your closing argument needs to paint a picture for your target audience. They need to see themselves taking action. For an example of what I mean, just look at any of the political rallies from the last days of the election in 2017. They were all about the call to action – go vote!

Remember to:

Connect with your audience.

Make an entrance.

Have a strong close.

3) Polish your performance.

First and foremost, remember that the audience wants you to succeed. Have you ever attended something and thought to yourself “I really hope this sucks!” No, of course not. Everyone goes into it hoping to be entertained or informed or maybe even both! It’s yours to lose. They’re with you from the start and you just have bring them with you to the close.

Rehearsal is critical, and not the casual read-through that I used to think was enough. No, do a full rehearsal exactly as you will perform it.

There is a service we’ve used called ‘Rehearsal’ that can really help you become a stronger messenger. Check it out and tell them we sent you. The short story is that you or your team can use it to record your presentations and get feedback from your team before you have to present. Well worth a look. See them at rehearsal.com

Now for a few technical details that will help polish your act.

Don’t apologize. If something goes wrong, ignore it or if its really obvious, joke about it. Things go wrong sometimes, it’s expected and nobody cares – unless you obsess over it.

Don’t speak in a passive way or use qualifying language like ‘I think’, ‘Actually’, or ‘Sort of’. It only breeds doubt.

End your thoughts with a period, don’t just drift away.

Remember that confidence equals competence.

Replace ‘um’ or ‘ah’ with … pauses. A little pregnant pause can really refocus an audience and drive your point home.

And, above all, be happy to be there! Show your enthusiasm and the audience will respond.

So, the keys to a successful Town Hall or All Hands webcast are:

1) Know your audience.

2) Tell a good story.

3) Polish your performance.

Now that we know what we’re going to say and how we’re going to say it, let’s take a look at what it takes to get it to your audience in a reliable way.

There are three parts to successfully distribute your content.

1) Participant management

2) Video capture, streaming, and management

3) Content distribution

1) Participant management

If you are an executive in a corporate environment, you can just mandate that everyone is required to attend. But for most of us, we need to gain our audience’s attention, invite them, give them a reason to attend, cajole them, remind them, and then remind them again.

That can be a very tedious process if you’re trying to do it manually. A spreadsheet nightmare.

Luckily, there are tools available to help you. One such tool is called Message Blocks. Message Blocks is an online meeting management system that takes care of everything from invitation through post-meeting follow up.

We used Message Blocks to manage webinars in the past. It was quick and easy for us to set up this web event, take and manage registrations and schedule all of the participant communications from start to finish. There’s a lot more that Message Blocks can do, but that’s beyond the scope of this session.

If you want more information about Message Blocks, you can contact them on the web at MessageBlocks.com – and please, tell them we sent you.

2) Video capture, streaming, and management

Next, you have to get that great content you created into a digital streaming format.

You may have figured out by now that our company, Magic Coast, specializes in delivering high quality, reliable streaming video for eLearning and corporate communications.

Our part of the process is to take your video – whether it’s live or pre-recorded – and format it for use as a video stream.

With a live feed, like a press conference, we feed live video into one or more of our hardware video encoders.

With a prerecorded program, the video is uploaded to our virtual encoder in the cloud.

In both cases, the video is encoded and streamed out to content distribution.

One nice feature of our encoders is that they are fully remote controlled. Your event is set up in the cloud-based management system so the encoders, both physical and virtual know what to do and when, wherever they are in the world.

It won’t come as any surprise that I highly recommend our service! Of course, there are other services to choose from, so a little later, I’ll give you a few questions to ask when you do your due-diligence.

3) Content distribution

The last thing to do is deliver your content to a content distribution network or CDN as they are usually called.

The CDN (content distribution network) is responsible for delivering your video to the end viewers.

Magic Coast has a distribution partner, but there are many commercial CDN’s such as Ustream, YouTube, Facebook live, and others. Magic Coast works well with all of the major providers.

Wow. That was a lot of tech talk. Let’s take a look at a practical application so you can get a better understanding of how it all fits together.

Recently, we helped Honda deliver live, interactive training to sales associates in dealerships across the US. Here’s how we did it.

  • In Hollywood, their production company rented a studio and produced the live shows.
  • We installed three encoders and two independent Internet connections at the studio. This enabled fail-over redundancy. We also had a backup encoder on site – just in case.
  • All three encoders were assigned to the event, so instant fail-over at the viewer side was automatically enabled. If any one channel failed, viewers were automatically rerouted to a working channel.
  • Our encoders are completely remote controlled through our dashboard scheduler, so at show time, we monitored and managed everything from our office in Michigan. That saved a ton of travel expenses since the training series lasted two months.
  • Each encoder was pointed at a separate CDN, again for redundancy sake. If a CDN should happen to fail, our system automatically re-routes viewers to the good one.
  • On the desktop, our client interface took care of delivering the video and communicating with the audience, with features like polling or taking questions.

So, that’s it. From video source to the desktop in a reliable and resilient way.

Not using Magic Coast for your event? Here’s a little checklist to help you sort things out as you interview other providers.

There are really important questions to ask.

One: If there is a problem, how will your provider help you, and how quickly? The worst feeling in the world is to be left hanging. Your boss or client isn’t going to care that tech support isn’t calling you back, they just want it to work – now.

Two: What does the provider do to ensure that my content reaches every participant? If my organization sees my event as mission-critical, how is your system going to handle an outage at any link in the chain?

Three: Is this provider a DIY solution or will I have a hands-on account manager who will guide me around the pitfalls of online video? We call this one the Mongolian Bar B Q question. When you go to Mongolian, they take your money, hand you a plate and tell you to go make your own dinner. (if you don’t know what the Mongolian BBQ is, you pick your ingredients and make your own meal with limited help) If you’re like me, I want the professional to make the dinner, so I can focus on the part I do best – enjoying the meal.

Four: How does the provider handle corporate network considerations like single sign-on, corporate firewalls, and integration into learning management systems?

Well, that wraps it up.

If you’re interested, our next webinar is a session on ‘Using live video to enhance integrated marketing’ We don’t have a date set for it yet, so you should really get on our mailing list if you’re interested. Sign up HERE.

As a bonus, we’ll also cover the basics of using a Customer Relationship Management system like hubspot.com to manage your integrated marketing efforts as we tie it all together with online video.

Of course, please like us on Facebook or Twitter @magiccoastmedia. If you want to keep up on news from Magic Coast, you can also follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our product announcement list.

Finally, if you have questions about your specific situation or need one-on-one free consulting, please reach out to me through our website or on social media. We’d love to help.

Thanks again, and best of luck on your next video event.

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