My First Webinar: 7 Hard-Earned Lessons

Carol Tice

Webinar Fail

This is why it was a screen share and not a Skype video…my hair probably looked just like this during the Webinar.

So. Yesterday, as regular readers know, I presented my first paid, one-hour Webinar, on the topic 40 Ways to Market Your Writing. With Anne Wayman from About Freelance Writing.

It went great for the most part, in that the surveys were uniformly raves. All participants said they got loads of really useful information on how to market their writing.

From our end, though, it was not exactly a picnic. While my participants learned about marketing their writing, here’s what I learned about hosting a Webinar:

  1. Going with a new platform is risky. Anne and I really wanted to start with a free platform because we didn’t know how many tickets we’d sell. But Freebinar had a fatal flaw — it just happened to have a massive dial-in phone line failure at the time of our Webinar. None of us could get on the call. They fixed it right after we finished. So…that didn’t help, and caused about a 12-minute start delay while we tried to figure out a solution.
  2. No matter how many things you nail down, there’ll be one thing you don’t. Years ago, an engineer told me happiness is redundant systems. I took many precations — I had Comcast out to doublecheck my connection the day before. I used a hard-wired mouse instead of my usual battery-powered wireless one. But we still neglected to do one thing that might have saved us — we could have gotten Anne another Freebinar account, with another phone number. That would have given us another shot at staying live.
  3. Don’t skip the training. Anne and I kept trying to make it to Freebinar’s free Wednesday morning live trainings, but never could. I was out interviewing one of the weeks, and another I was in a 36-hour blackout. I watched some of the videos and we practiced several times — but it wasn’t enough. I committed a major gaffe: I started screen sharing before hitting ‘record,’ and in Freebinar that is apparently a massive fail. You have to then stop screen sharing to start recording, and I was too scared to stop screen sharing (given all the difficulty we had calling in once) to try to get recording started at that point. So we were going to not have a recording…which we had planned to sell as a product forever.
  4. Invite a few friends. Really — give them free tickets. You want them there. Our rears were entirely saved by a couple of my friends — one piped up on text chat that she happened to have a Freebinar number, too. We all ended up calling in and using her number. Without that, we would have had to reschedule. Another friend happened to be recording the audio of the Webinar for herself — and offered to give us a copy. So we were able to save an audio recording, at least, for more writers to hear in future. Sigh of relief (and thanks to Sharon Baker).
  5. 40 points is too many for 60 minutes with Q&A. We ended up needing 90 minutes to deliver all the info we had prepared and hold our planned two Q&A sessions. Next time, we’ll either hit fewer points or set a longer time.
  6. Learn more about all the tools you’re using. I am a newbie on Powerpoint — my son built most of the presentation we created. But it seemed easy. I just click on the slide bar and keep bringing up the next slide, right? As soon as I started using it, people started writing in text chat that I wasn’t in slideshow mode. I didn’t know what that was. And when I found it, it turned out it wouldn’t easily work without covering up other sources I needed to have handy, because slideshow takes over your whole screen (freaking me out because I didn’t know how to exit that mode!). I needed to learn a lot more about Powerpoint to give participants the best experience. Thankfully it was screen sharing, not a Skype video, so they didn’t see how red-faced I was over that.
  7. Public speaking experience helps. I am grateful that I spent several years doing radio before trying to put this on. When the technology failed us, if I didn’t have that under my belt, I might well have curled up and died. We probably would have had to reschedule. But Anne — who does YouTube videos — and I were able to keep our heads, and get the Webinar done.

Our participants were incredibly understanding about the tech problems — thanks to all who were there! Once we found a solution we were able to roll along, present our 40 points, give out our door prizes, and answer a lot of thoughtful questions in Q&A.

It was informative and interesting for me to hear some of my blog readers’ voices and learn more about their struggles. I’ve got a mailbag full of followup questions I’m going to try to answer here on the blog in the coming weeks. And a lot of homework to do on how to make my next Webinar technically better.

Photo via Flickr user DGBurns


  1. Sharie Orr

    Cute cartoon! So sorry about the tech problems, but it seems Murphy's Law has a close affinity with Production Time, no? 🙂
    I'm sure everyone enjoyed gleaning all the excellent (and specific-which is so important to me) points you and Anne shared as much as I did.
    And I'll be there for Round 2!

    PS-Your book has been exceptional so far…Thanks so very much…

    My recent post SEO Content is Still King

    • TiceWrites

      I'm thrilled everyone did seem to find the marketing advice highly useful…really helped overcome the technical challenges.

  2. David Pederson

    Too bad you didn't use webex. I recommended it for a reason. It has first rate training, support and they would have given this one to you as a freebee.
    My recent post Four Corner Communication

    • TiceWrites

      Webex is definitely one of the ones we're looking at — thanks for the recommendation!

      • TiceWrites

        David — one issue we're facing is we have a long lead time for promotion — so we could do a one-month free signup somewhere, but by the time the date comes, we're past the 30 days. If you have any thoughts on workaround for that, let me know.

        For now, I created a signup email list for people as they purchase…we may just go along like that until we're 30 days out and then get our platform up and send everyone the registration link. But I'm open to better ideas. Want to keep it affordable so we can keep our Webinars affordable for writers.

        • David

          Hi Carol
          Try just calling and talking to them. I had a 3 day virtual classroom experience I needed to test out with them once. The folks were jointing from England, Australia, Chicago, New York and LA. I had some real anxiety about this since it needed to break people into subgroups for break out sessions and then merge them together again while letting me jump into and out of groups as required. I called them and they let me run the whole event as a "proof on concept" test and supplied training before and online support during, all at no charge. They really helped me run a great event. It went off perfectly and after I submitted my ROI report we were only to happy to sign up with them.

          Try giving them a call and telling them about your anxiety. I will not be surprised if they can't help you out. If you have issues you can email me directly and I will see if I can do anything for you.

          Good luck!
          BTW, Mary Jaktsch has started using a cool new tool, you might price compare hers too since you are looking for a good fit. I can't vouch for their support or track record though.
          My recent post Four Corner Communication

          • TiceWrites

            Interesting background David — what tool is Mary using? I haven't seen it mentioned, sure it's somewhere in the bowels of A-List that I haven't read yet.

            Really appreciate your sharing your Webex experience…this is the kind of stuff I need to know to make my next Webinar rock.

  3. @dkanenh

    I share your pain about PowerPoint. And, really, beyond the dial-in snafu at the beginning (which I admit made me grumpy), I didn't notice the issues you mentioned in your post. The content of the seminar was what I noticed and it was great.

    • TiceWrites

      So grateful that it was useful and seemed to go smoothly from the participant end! We look forward to providing more information to rocket freelance writers' careers forward in the next Webinar…hopefully minus the technical struggles.

  4. @writeeditproof

    Sorry about all the glitches, but still sorry I couldn't make the live call. It sounds like it was really helpful. Kudos to you for trying something new, bumps and all.

    • TiceWrites

      Everyone who registered will get a copy of the audio recording and the report, so you should still be able to get the 40 techniques…stay tuned. We're working on getting the large-file recording uploaded somewhere secure where we can distribute it to you. Appreciate any suggestions on how to store audio & Webinar files as well!

  5. Alice


    Congratulations on getting through it all.


    • TiceWrites

      Thanks! Happy to have the first one under my belt.

  6. Barbara Rocha

    I just finished listening to a webinar on Design Success ( I am a Decorative Artist so leaning about Designers and how they work is a plus). I would love if I could have printed off an outline of the webinar so I could take better notes and be able to take it all in rather than writing all the time. It would have also been great to formulate questions for the live seminar. Glad you had a good call despite the technical challenges.

    • TiceWrites

      Hi Barbara —

      Our secret sauce is we took the notes for you — participants got a PDF of the 40 Ways to market your writing, with lots of live links to resources. And now that PDF is free if you sign up to get this blog on email — see the right-hand bar.

  7. Cathy Miller

    I had a prospect meeting, otherwise I would have signed up for the webinar.Sorry I missed it. Sounds like you diagnosed a lot of the problems already, Carol, and how to fix them.

    I did extensive webinars in my Corporate days (slightly over 2 years ago). I did employee benefits meetings where HR professionals were in multiple locations. I had a lot of experience with Webex, and like David, I loved working with them. I have also had a good experience with GoToMeeting,

    Items I consider-

    1. What features and capabilities you need- e.g., presenting PPT slides only, sharing applications, Q&A period, interactive polls, recording, etc.
    2. If you don't need everything, it can make a difference in what you choose.
    3. # of Attendees – how technically savvy are they? There are options where they don't need to download software.
    4. What kind on support do you get-before, during & after the webinar

    I'm interested in how it works out as I am very interested in doing webinars, but it's a different ballgame from the days of a Corporate account. 🙂 I love PowerPoint, so that part I've got down. It's too bad we cannot get a limited number of webinars (beyond 30 days) without having to sign up for a monthly plan.

    Maybe, in hindsight, taking it in smaller chunks-teleconferene, then webinar (after training). Is your pdf going to be available to non-attendees?
    My recent post Do You Fail the I Chart Test

    • TiceWrites

      Hopefully you can come to the next Webinar, which is referenced at the end of the post above. Going to be more great, practical information for writers looking to earn more!

      I think my attendees are not necessarily all tech-savvy. So that was a concern.

      I don't think I need interactive polls or to share applications. Definitely want to be able to put on a PPT presentation and have Q&A and record.

      It seems like one of the big limiters is how many attendees they'll allow. With some it's only 25 or 50. Freebinar had 150, which is OK for now but hopefully soon will be too small for Anne and me.

  8. Mary Jaksch

    Ah yes – webinars… I've had my fair share of disasters running webinars. I recently had some problems with our Masterclasses on A-List Blogging Bootcamps using Ustream (I've tried both the free and the paid version). I've now changed to GVO Conference. And I did 2 tests with a group of our Moderators – just to make sure I had ironed out all the crinkles. I think the secret is to test, test, test before you go live. And even then problems can happen.

    I think the main thing is that you've embarked on doing webinars. That's awesome! As you continue, you'll get more experience and things will run smoother. (If it was dead easy, everyone would do it.) So, congratulations on your first webinar!

    As to recording audio and video: Camtasia works well. Tip: get one of your loyal readers to record it for you.

    • TiceWrites

      Hi Mary –

      Thanks so much for coming on and telling us what tool you're using now! David mentioned above that you had a good new tool. I remember that Ustream one, where it had to be rescheduled. We didn't hit that point, at least, so I was thankful.

      We did some tests, but apparently not enough. We survived this time on the recording of one of our loyal readers…would have been dead without it. Will have to look at GVO Conference next! And Camtasia — good to have a backup besides just trusting your webinar provider is going to successfully record it. Definitely the big learning of the day.

      Thanks again Mary —


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