Even as businesses of all sizes have settled into their new normals months into the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s one old norm that’s unlikely to return any time soon: in-person industry conferences. For many, these events and the speaking opportunities they bring are invaluable opportunities to connect with industry leaders and prospective customers. 

Thankfully, that same opportunity has presented itself anew in an increasingly popular online marketing strategy, webinars. Even before the surge during lockdown, one survey found that 73 percent of marketers and sales leaders consider webinars to be one of the most reliable ways to generate quality leads. They can also be an excellent way to make meaningful connections that expand your professional network.

Like any other public speaking role at an in-person event, being a guest on a webinar requires thoughtful preparation. Here are five tips for business owners to prepare for a successful webinar guest appearance.

Tip 1: Talk to the Organizer about Webinar Guidelines

Before you start preparing your material, reach out to the webinar organizer to get a solid understanding of their expectations and protocols. Some organizers will have very specific requests for your presentation, while others will leave it open-ended; it’s best to find out well ahead of the webinar.

Unless the organizer thoroughly covers the following questions in an overview first, here’s what you may want to ask them:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the webinar format and does it include a Q&A component?
  • What are the technology requirements?
  • If there is a panel, who are the other guests?
  • How much time will I be expected to speak for?
  • Are there specific topics or experiences you would like me to speak about?
  • Can I speak about my own products or services?
  • What is the dress code?

If this isn’t the organization’s first webinar, you might also ask if they can direct you to a recording of one of their past webinars to get a sense of the style and format.

Tip 2: Draft Your Webinar Script

No matter what presentation format you choose, prepare an outline of what you will say alongside any visual materials. The great advantage of webinars over live speaking engagements is that you can discreetly refer to your notes while you’re speaking, whether they’re on your computer or on paper.

The contents of your presentation will depend on the organizer’s expectations, but these are generally three essential components to include:

  1. A personal introduction or bio, and if the emcee is doing it for you, you’ll likely be asked to contribute. This is an opportunity to present your authority as a thought leader and share your background of expertise.
  2. A short agenda of the presentation. This will help set attendee expectations.
  3. A story. A narrative hook makes for a compelling presentation of any kind – ideas presented through stories are 22 times more memorable than facts or figures. Open with a personal anecdote or share a customer success story.

If you need inspiration, search for webinar clips of leaders in your industry or watch the keynote speech from the organizer’s most recent webinar.

Tip 3: Select a Sleek Background for Your Presentation

Another advantage of webinars is that you’re in complete control of your presentation surroundings. Be sure you have access to a professional setting on the day of your webinar appearance.

There are two main criteria of a good webinar background:

  • A clean backdrop free of excessive clutter, decor, or distracting items.
  • A quiet place with no potential disruptions. If you’re working from home at this time, this may be a challenge, but webinar attendees will certainly be understanding of home office limitations.

If you don’t have professional lighting at home, position your setup in front of a window or a bright lamp for even, quality lighting.

Tip 4: Get Familiar with Your Tech Before Presentation Day

Every webinar platform is different. Even if you’ve used the same one you’ll be using before, it’s a good idea to download and log in to the platform in advance and get familiar with its layout and functionalities.

Next, secure your access to high-speed internet and a reliable computer. Your built-in computer audio and video should work well, but if you have room in your budget, you may want to consider renting or purchasing an external webcam and microphone for top quality.

Tip 5: Practice the Whole Presentation at Least Once

Test all key components together before you go live: your presentation skills, your tech, and your setting. The goal is to be comfortable making smooth transitions and going through your presentation and supplementary materials simultaneously.

Practice more than once if you’re concerned with trimming down or filling out your time, if there’s a requirement. Record your trial presentation to critique yourself, or show it to a friend who can give honest feedback.

Prepare Now for Many Successful Webinar Guest Appearances to Come

The more time you put into preparing for your next webinar appearance, whether it’s your first or your fifth, the better positioned you’ll be for all future appearances after that.

Successful webinar appearances bring new business opportunities and will prove to be an indispensable way of connecting with leaders in your industry in lieu of live events.

Kenny Kane is the chief operating officer of Firmspace, the private office space for discerning, achievement-driven professionals and executives. With locations in Austin, Houston, Denver, and Atlanta, Firmspace offers secure and sound-masking offices, white-glove client service, five-star amenities, best-in-class technology, and professionally trained staff that members need to excel in their careers and grow their business.

Webinar stock photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock