I love going to see new movies in the theater. Of course I want to see the feature, but my favorite part is seeing the previews! I also always get to concerts early to check out the opening act. Imagine going to the movies -- getting there early to settle into the best seats with your popcorn -- and spending the 20 minutes before the movie starts staring at a blank screen, or getting to the concert early and watching a dark stage until the headliner appears. That's what happens at most webinars!
Yes, I just likened seeing a blockbuster on a house-sized screen to attending a webinar -- I am an unabashed Conferencing Geek!
ReadyTalk is proud to partner with the American Marketing Association on their frequent webinars. Recently, they brought the cinema experience to their webinar audiences! During the pre-conference, while the presenters are running through the soundcheck and early-bird participants are logging in on the web, AMA plays a brand new episode of AMAtv, a short video program focusing on upcoming AMA events and marketing best practices and case studies. This provides their eager audience with something to watch (mitigating distraction) and, like a great opening act at a concert, brought some energy into an otherwise static online environment.
The American Marketing Association is on the cutting edge of webinar best practices and they have nicely polished video material, but that is not the only way to engage your audience early! Here are some other suggestions:
Rotate through several slides during the pre-conference. Perhaps these slides are promoting upcoming events, new products, special discounts or providing teaser content for the upcoming presentation. These slides should all include some information to assure participants that they are in the right place: "Welcome to the webinar. We will begin shortly."
Poll your audience while they wait. Get them clicking and keep them focused on the upcoming webinar by pushing polls throughout the pre-conference. These could be used for data-capture or to gauge interest in certain topics or maybe just to keep them engaged (trivia, surveys on favorite colors or cars or computers).
Drive them to your social media sites. Let the splash slide direct people to join in a topical conversation on Facebook or Twitter -- run a contest or drawing for new "likes" or "follows" and announce the winners in the introduction of the webinar.
Webinars provide rare opportunities to pull together disparate communities into one place -- we urge you to take advantage of every opportunity to engage that audience while you have them and the 15 minutes before your presentation begins is perhaps the best such opportunity! As Levar Burton said at the end of every Reading Rainbow, "But you don't have to take my word for it," try it for yourself!