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Webinars can save time, money

Jane Pribek

Jane Pribek

A couple of weeks ago, my daughters, my dog and myself were all instructed that, no matter how grave the emergency might be, we were not to interrupt Daddy working in his home office for the next hour or so, because he’d be giving a webinar — and we were not on the agenda.

He intrepidly entered the office and emerged 38 minutes later very pleased with how it went.

Not only had we all been very quiet (even the dog), but also, and more importantly, his presentation went smoothly, allowing him to meet with a sizeable number of potential clients all at once. Moreover, he’d recorded the webinar, and it’s now a part of the company’s website, beefing up the content there which, as we’re all told, means a better Google page rank.

Milwaukee lawyer Kelly H. Twigger of ESI Attorneys LLC has organized and participated in five webinars over the past 18 months or so. She says that, done right, they can be extremely effective and cost-effective marketing tools.

In bygone days, lawyers gave live seminars. You had to rent space, pay for advertising, dress the part, spend time getting to and from the location, and at a minimum, buy coffee and perhaps some doughnuts for attendees. It added up quickly.

Webinars are much cheaper. In my husband’s case, sans the investment of a few hours’ time, this marketing experiment cost the small consulting firm he works for … nothing!

People in every line of work can appreciate the convenience of the webinar. But also, it seems to me that the webinar would be an excellent format for reaching prospects with sensitive legal issues. No one’s going to show their faces at your seminar on “Planning your Finances for Divorce,” “Is this Non-Compete Really Enforceable?”, or “Is my STD Actionable?”, but they might very well be attracted to the anonymity your webinar offers.

Getting started

Twigger says your first and probably the most important consideration should be whether you can speak publicly. Some lawyers — more than you’d imagine — aren’t very good at it, she says. And even if you are, keep in mind that the webinar isn’t exactly the same as speaking before a group. The first time you’re hosting a webinar, you’re sure to feel kind of odd speaking to an audience, where there’s no face-to-face contact or visual feedback. Practice, practice, practice, to help you overcome that hurdle.

Next, choose a topic and the material you’ll present. Twigger says it’s a delicate balance: You don’t want to give away too much for free, yet you still need to share enough so you’ll come across as the go-to person — and you don’t want to unintentionally create an attorney-client relationship, either.

Create slides using PowerPoint or Keynote, and again, be very thoughtful. Do not make them too text-heavy, or the audience will read them instead of listening to you. Also, a boring presentation suggests a boring speaker. You want the audience to think of you as an expert, but also to like you, Twigger says. So, once you’ve created the visuals, run them by others — your co-presenters perhaps — for their input.

On that note, co-presenting can be a smart idea for a number of reasons, such as keeping the program lively and obtaining different points of view — in addition to the extra attendees that multiple presenters can draw.

Twigger’s focus is e-discovery, data mapping and records retention — very hot topics in the legal and IT worlds. So her webinars have been huge — probably bigger than you’ll want to aim for with your first webinar. For her first webinar, she partnered with two other presenters, and between the three of them, they e-mailed some 45,000 people about the webinar. About 600 registered and some 400 attended.

Now, on to the tech part. Google “How to host a webinar,” and you’ll find scads of resources, including YouTube videos on the topic.

Choose a platform, spend some time learning how it works, and give it a test run. Many test runs, if need be to boost your confidence.

Both Twigger and my husband use GoToWebinar, a GoToMeeting service, which offers a free 30-day trial — that’s why my husband paid nothing his first webinar. But he says he’ll use it again, and pay for it, because of its “simple and intuitive interface,” and in light of how seamless the presentation went when the big day arrived. Twigger, likewise, says it’s very easy-to-use and reliable.

For fewer than 15 participants, you can use GoToMeeting, or Webex. Twigger says she likes Webex because there are iPhone apps available, so some participants can view the presentation on their smart phones when they’re away from their computers.

She’s experimented with Dimdim and says it’s an option that doesn’t currently possess the functionality she’d like to make it a serious competitor — although she’d be happy if it, or some other service, would emerge as a viable option, because GoToMeeting recently raised its pricing for the large-audience webinars she presents, to $499 per month for up to 1,000 attendees.

The next step is marketing. E-mail everyone in your address book to announce the webinar, and ask them to freely forward. You’ll also want to post it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. — whatever online social media you’re using. In Twigger’s case, a couple of list serves announcing her first webinar gave it a dramatic boost in attendance.

When show time arrives, please, don’t just read the slides, cautions my husband. Also, Twigger reminds that if there are multiple speakers, you need to tell the audience who’s talking occasionally — along the lines of, “Hi, this is Kelly, I want to comment on a point Paul just made …”

My husband solicited questions from registrants beforehand, to make sure he was hitting the points that would resonate with the audience. Also, participants can “chat” to the presenter during the presentation to ask questions, without other participants knowing who’s asking the question or when a question comes in. He and his co-workers generated a few questions and answers for that portion of the program beforehand, to make sure there wouldn’t be silence when he asked, “Any questions?”

Twigger says that, after her webinars, she posts highlights from them on Youtube, because it is the second largest search engine next to Google. Also, it’s her belief that people like to learn via video, as opposed to merely reading text. Since I mentioned earlier that you can learn how to host a webinar by watching videos on YouTube, I tend to agree.

She posts highlights because YouTube has been limiting the length on its videos lately — plus, she wants to make sure that potential viewers aren’t scared off by a too-long video. She also uses Vimeo to upload videos from the webinar to her blog.

So if you need to do a presentation, and it won’t work to do it in person, keep in mind that there are a number of good options out there for holding Web seminars.

On the Web:

GoToMeeting

Webex

Dimdim

2 comments

  1. Hey Jane!
    Check out our Facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/pages/BeaconLive/401180397575
    We just don’t provide a webinar service, but we become your partner and guide in conducting a great online seminar!
    Thanks,
    Kaitlin, BeaconLive

  2. @Roger, if you are looking for a good divorce lawyer whom you can trust and cost less then take a look at http://bit.ly/bluYTI sorry to hear about your situation but wish you the best.

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