Is a webinar more like a presentation or talk radio?

A webinar is just like a presentation but without the eye contact. Right?

Well, maybe not.

A presentation is the wrong metaphor for a webinar because there are so many things you can do in a presentation that you can’t do in a webinar. The “presentation” metaphor is limiting.

Instead, think of your webinar like talk radio but with pictures. That was the advice of one workshop participant at Lisa Braithwaite‘s 2009 PresentationCamp (see 20:35-22:00 of this video) and it was an enlightening moment when I heard that comment.

Thinking in terms of talk radio opens new ideas for you; ideas you wouldn’t have thought of if you were locked in the presentation metaphor. Rather than limiting, the “talk radio” metaphor is empowering. What makes talk radio interesting? And what secrets of talk radio can you borrow to enliven your next webinar?

1. Dialogue, not monologue. Instead of a single speaker, try having two presenters who talk back and forth. Or interview a guest during the webinar from a prepared list of questions. This dialogue, like the banter of morning show dj’s, is more interesting to listen to than a long monologue.

2. Invite callers. Invite lots of questions from the audience. Stop frequently and make it as interactive as possible. Consider asking a question at the beginning of the webinar and taking guesses throughout the webinar until someone finally gets the answer right, like a talk radio host.

3. Stand. Stand up when you conduct the webinar. It will help increase airflow in your lungs and increase your energy levels, giving you a stronger radio voice.

4. Look. Have a mirror nearby and look into it occasionally. Smile! Your audience can hear the smile in your voice and smiling will give you energy to power through your webinar with gusto.

5. Personal factoids. Share mundane personal facts about yourself. Where you live, what kind of car you drive, that you like (or hate) cats, your favorite sports team. Plan these factoids in advance. Give your audience many reasons to identify with you.

Give that a try. Then leave me a comment letting me know which tips worked best for you, and what other tips you have for approaching a webinar like talk radio.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Get your own copy of Speaking PowerPoint, join my LinkedIn group or subscribe to this blog.

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4 Responses to Is a webinar more like a presentation or talk radio?

  1. These are very good tips. I’ve listened to so many webinars and they tend to be very boring. It’s interesting to consider it like talk radio because if people are accessing a webinar on their mobile phone, then it’s more or less like a podcast.

    A viewer can’t get the full aspect of a webinar if they are viewing it on a mobile phone, unless all they want to do is listen and not view it….like a podcast or like talk radio.

    Check out my latest article of “Don’t View Webinars on your Mobile Phone”

    • Hi Patrick – thanks for your comments and welcome to the Speaking PowerPoint community.

      Interesting angle to think about viewing PowerPoint on the small screen. I know educators and corporate trainers are also thinking about the most effective way to port training materials to mobile devices (or IF they even should). You’ve given me another topic to start pondering.

  2. Craig Hadden, Sydney says:

    Great ideas. And I strongly agree about having 2 people conversing.

    An easy entry point into “tandem webinars” would be to have each speaker just present certain slides (e.g. the speakers could alternate). After all, most webinar presenters aren’t professional speakers as such (unlike radio hosts), so with having to manipulate slides and deal with other technology too, the conversation could easily become stilted. (A pet peeve of mine is when the presenters keep saying each others’ names – “Well, Jerry…” – which always reminds me of infomercials, or other bad TV!)

    Also, full rehearsals would become even more important with 2 presenters!

    Another idea, which admittedly I’ve never tried, is to use just 1 or 2 good-taste sound effects (e.g. a single chime to signal a slide advance). That would stand out from the speakers’ voices, acting like a magnet for the ever-distracted audience’s attention. It also beats saying “Next slide please”, which is often the case today if the speaker isn’t the person controlling the deck! (Like with animation, there’s a place for sound effects PROVIDED they’re used with purpose and restraint. Of course, in the wrong hands, both sound effects and animation are a nightmare for the audience!)

    Do you know of any good examples of using 2 speakers in a webinar? There’s a BAD example in the recording called “More Than Empty Rhetoric” at, which actually uses bad jokes and canned laughter – awful!

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