Podcasts and webinars proliferate as a means of giving and gleaning information. As demand grows, so does availability. But quantity does not equate with quality. As an audio producer, it becomes increasingly clear that while WHAT is needed to create webinars and podcasts is ubiquitous, the HOW of presenting oneself credibly is largely missing from the equation. Studies show that the quality of a voice can determine a speaker’s credibility as much as (or more than) the information presented. While it may seem easier than giving a public presentation when you are ‘visually anonymous’ to your audience, there are strategies to prevent losing your listeners when you don’t have any visual clues to their level of engagement. Here’s how to shine in the dark:
If you’re not used to speaking at length – especially with an unseen audience — get a coach, practice, and know your material inside and out.
Nervous? Learn proper breathing and vocal warm-up exercises. Stress can make your voice shrill or shaky, lessening credibility. A singing or voice coach can provide guidance.
Eliminate verbal mannerisms (such as um, uh, yeah, I mean, ya know). Record yourself in practice and try simply pausing for a split second when you need to gather your thoughts. People use mannerisms because they’re uncomfortable with silence-but mannerisms lessen the sound of confidence.
Make sure all technical issues are worked out in advance, including audio quality. Are you using a reputable web service to connect to your audience? Nothing hurts credibility like a failed connection or wrong conference line number at the opening of an online presentation – especially if your topic is technology!
Practice your material but don’t recite by rote. Use bullet points as a verbal guide to keep you focused and on track, but be spontaneous in your delivery.
Drink lots of water two hours before your presentation to hydrate your vocal cords. Keep water handy during the webinar. A few drops of lemon juice in your water can eliminate “mouth noise” and smacking.
Try to avoid dairy, salty foods and tea before speaking – these create phlegm and/or dry out your vocal cords.
Don’t talk down to your audience; prepare with their level of “savvy” in mind.
Find a fresh take on old topics. Use compelling graphs or visual aids or links people can refer back to. Make them available post-presentation. Use memorable, bulleted bites that get your points across and stick with the listener.
Pick out a friendly “face” ahead of time in your mind to which you can direct your practice and presentation. Use a photo if you need to as an anchor. This will add sincerity and genuinely connect you with your listeners.
- Briefly introduce yourself and your guest(s), or, if you’re using one, have the web service host do it for you.
- Get quickly to the subject at hand and remember that people are making an investment of their time in your information potential.
- Outline up front what listeners can expect to learn and then follow through.
- Keep an eye on the time allotted for each point you need to make. Do you have an hour? 90 minutes? Is there Q/A at the end?
- Stay engaged with and committed to your material. If there is a webinar host, give them a list of prepared questions along with key points you’ll touch on to help you hit all your marks.
- Exude confidence and “expert energy”. If you’re not truly interested in or don’t believe in your material, your listeners won’t either.
- No need to cram an entire book into your allotted time. Your webinar can be a selling tool as well as an educational one. If appropriate, leave listeners wanting more detail so they’ll follow-up with you offline.
- Allow enough time for questions and answer the most compelling, relevant questions that your material may not have covered, or that re-state important points.
- Succinctly recap your main points and thank your listeners for their time. Let people know how to reach you for more information.
- Consider following up with a satisfaction survey (Constant Contact or Survey Monkey, e.g.). Ask how you could have made it a better experience. Then act on it!