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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