As of now, I have given two online webcasts, where I spoke into a phone or a microphone plugged into a PC, and clicked through a web version of a Powerpoint presentation. I’ve also listened to quite a few webcasts, either live or after-the-fact via podcasting.
Here are some pointers to think about when preparing for a live webcast:
I. Before the Webcast
Test EVERYTHING beforehand, preferably a day or two in advance, so you have time to make changes if needed. Here are some ideas of things you should check out:
- webcast software – there are many different types in use, and all have different features. Make sure to test the system being used beforehand, so you know how everything works.
- Your Powerpoint – if you plan to use a Powerpoint presentation, make sure to test it out within the webcast application. And remember – since there can be a lag between the time you click to the next screen and when the screen actually changes, you might want to cut back on the fancy animations and transitions – simple and functional is best.
Check, check, one two … test the microphone. You’ll either be speaking into a telephone or a microphone:
- If your phone has an earbud/mic input, use it – that way, your hands are freed up, you don’t fade in and out or make extra distracting noise when you move the phone around, and you’re less likely to accidentally hang up in the middle of your most important point by pressing a button with your cheek.
- Do you have access to a conference phone? If so, then use it for the same reasons as above.
- No cell phones! The sound quality isn’t as clear as a “normal” phone.
- Test the microphone beforehand to make sure it works. A good way to do that is to download Audacity (a free, open source sound editor), and record your voice through the microphone you plan to use, then listen back.
- If possible, get your hands on a better microphone. I’m not asking you to spend $5000 on a studio-quality microphone, but … if you plan to do more than a couple of webcasts or plan to create podcasts, you might benefit from a better mic – try one of the newer USB-equipped large diaphram condenser microphones on the market right now (check them out at musiciansfriend.com). Or, get one step geekier, and purchase a basic podcasting system, coplete with mic and soundboard.
- Make sure you’re not too close to the mic (icky distortion sound isn’t good) or too far away from the mic (echo and that “I’ve fallen into a well” sound aren’t good, either)..
- Don’t move your head around! You don’t want your voice to fade in and out, do you?
II. During the Webcast: just a few pointers…
- if you blog, send out your Powerpoint or handout BEFORE the presentation – like 10 minutes before. This gives attendees the option to print it out and take notes, if desired. It’s a nice touch.
- Stay focused – it’s harder to stay focused and not ramble when you feel like you’re speaking to yourself. Force yourself to stay on topic.
- Make sure you’re in a place with no distractions or interruptions – no pets, kids, or co-workers pounding on your door!
- Speaking pickiness: watch those “ummms” and “aaahhhhhs” – they are magnified when people are listening to your voice alone. Practice this – when you feel the urge to say “um” – instead, just be quiet. It sounds so much better.
- Interaction – most webcast applications incorporate some type of text chat. Make sure to use that to your advantage! Do you want to take a show of hands? Then do so – ask attendees to type 1 for no, 2 for yes, etc. It’s a good way to take a quick, informal poll.
III. After the webcast
- Question time – remember that there are voice questions and typed chat questions – address both.
- Provide your email, blog URL, etc for follow-up or more information.
Now – go out there and digitally WOW us!