Webinars As A Part of The Sales Process
It feels like forever since I've given a public freebie "best practices" webinar! LogMeIn's GoToWebinar and MyCustomer.com have asked me to share some insights on how to use webinars to advance the sales process. I'll be handing out tips 'n tricks on Thursday, September 28. We made the time convenient for the UK and continental Europe, but folks on the East Coast of the Americas should also be able to attend.
Here are the quick details: Prospect to Customer: How to Use Webinars to Advance the Sales Process
Thursday, September 28 10am New York / 3pm London / 4pm Berlin (click to see your local time) Click here to register
I often talk about the marketing and lead gen side of webinars. But for this presentation, I'm going to concentrate on sales. And some of the specifics might just surprise you! If you think of webinars as purely a way to entice new prospects, you may be leaving money on the table by not exploring opportunities to re-engage existing customers, influence and reassure prospects in the pipeline, offer demonstrations, overcome sales objections, and meet the needs of business, IT, and executive decision makers.
As you can probably tell from that description, a lot of the discussion will focus on business sales cycles that occur over a longer period of time. But I'll also slip in some tips for direct-sale webinars that lead to an immediate online purchase.
I hope you'll be able to join me for a stimulating conversation. I'm going to make sure to leave time for live Q&A, so come prepared with your questions!
If you are reading this on a device that doesn't allow link-through clicks, you can copy and paste the following URL into your web browser to sign up for the presentation:
Technorati Tags: webinar
Intermedia Acquires AnyMeeting
Cue the bass line from Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust." The rapidly dwindling list of independent web conferencing/webinar vendors just decreased by one. AnyMeeting has been bought for an undisclosed amount by Intermedia.
I had no familiarity with Intermedia, so I had to read their self-description from the press release and website. The company provides a large number of integrated applications such as email, voice communications, file backup and sharing, identity and access management, security, and archiving. They let partners rebrand and sell the services under different labels, which may be why they don't immediately ring a bell.
The press release announcing the acquisition says that this is part of a strategy targeting the Small and Medium Business (SMB) market to position Intermedia as a complete Unified Communications (UC) cloud solutions provider.
As soon as I see the letters UC (or the extension UCaaS for "UC as a Service"), I shudder. Vendors keep pushing this concept as the answer to the problem of universal communication and collaboration access for all employees on all devices at all locations at all times. Unfortunately, before they can sell the solution they have to spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince the companies that a problem actually exists. I understand why vendors want to sell a big, integrated set of communication and collaboration technologies all under their control (and invoice). I don't necessarily buy into the idea that many companies benefit from a single-source bundled technology stack, or that employees want more 24/7 access than they already are shackled to their jobs with.
But honestly, that's neither here nor there… I don't cover the UC industry or its providers. They are making money, which shows that the market exists. More power to them. I cover the webinar industry. And if past experience is any indicator, we can kiss goodbye to AnyMeeting as a stand-alone webinar solution. Once a big bundled solutions provider buys a conferencing technology to act as a lynchpin in a UC strategy, they have no interest in going through the expense and hassle of marketing, developing, and supporting the product for single-purpose webinar customers.
I would expect that AnyMeeting will gradually go the same way that Placeware/Live Meeting did after its acquisition by Microsoft. Existing customers will be grudgingly supported for a while as the Intermedia development teams work on folding the technology into their solutions bundle. It will get a new name to mark it as a component of the offered solutions suite. And then it will disappear as a separately supported product or solution and will become just another cog in the overall UC offering.
We'll see how well my crystal ball predicts this future as time goes by. I wish the AnyMeeting gang well and I'll stay on the lookout for developments and market positioning from Intermedia.
Managing Panelists As A Moderator
This post will close out my series on tips for panel presentations with some guidelines for panel moderators or facilitators.
I'll start by expanding on a point I touched on briefly in an earlier post: As a moderator, you need to be a liaison between the speakers and the audience. If a presenter isn't clear about a point they are making, it's your job to fix that for the audience. You may choose to restate one of his key points or you may ask the presenter to clarify or elucidate. If a panelist is speaking in academic, abstract terms, you need to help relate her facts to the audience's priorities and help them understand how they can apply the information in practical use.
Part of your job is to play "traffic cop" with the panelists. You want to make sure everybody gets a chance to speak, but you don't have to be slavish to a strict round robin order. Avoid the temptation to go straight down the line on every topic point. If someone has covered a topic or answered a question sufficiently, you can move on to another question and bring in a different speaker. If one of your panelists is less assertive than the others and doesn't speak up as much, make sure to call on them every so often to make sure they are heard from.
On a webinar, you can usually send private messages to panelists behind the scenes. In stage-based presentations you don't have that luxury. So as part of your rehearsal, you might want to work out some signals that indicate when someone is running long and needs to finish up a statement. Maybe "accidentally" clinking a water glass near your microphone. Or pushing your chair back. Or leaning forward a bit and raising your hand slightly.
If you have the luxury of an assistant, put them in the back of the room standing against the back wall. You signal your assistant (simply meeting their eyes and nodding slightly) and they give a cut throat signal to the speaker or hold up a yellow card. Speakers should know that the moderator will be doing this in an attempt to keep things flowing and to get everyone involved. It is not a personal attack!
As a last resort, you may simply need to cut in on a panelist who doesn't realize that they are monopolizing the conversation or going on too long with a single point. Here are some phrases that can help in this delicate situation:
- Bob, it's obvious you have a lot of information and opinions on this topic. I'm going to give you a chance to expand on this a little later, but first I'd like to see if Jane wants to jump in with her view on the question.
- You brought up a really interesting point there, and I'd like to bring Jane into the conversation and ask for her take on it.
- (Clear throat) Oh, I'm sorry, Mike. But as long as I've interrupted anyway, I do want to move us along, so maybe if you can quickly finish that thought I'll bring Jane in for her impressions.
As an extra bonus, here are a few phrases that I have used when time is getting short in the overall session:
- Bob, I’m just going to cut in for a moment here to remind our audience that even though our time is getting limited, they should be thinking about questions to ask during our Q&A coming up shortly.
- Bob, we don't have a lot of time left, but what do you think is the most important takeaway here?
- Let's see if we can slip in just one more question very quickly…
I hope this series has helped give you some new ways of thinking about making your panel more effective for the audience and more structured and comfortable for the participants. Coordination, preparation, and planning are the keys to delivering an engaging discussion where everyone comes across professionally and confidently.
Rehearsing And Delivering A Panel Presentation
In part 3 of this ever-expanding series of posts about panel presentations, I want to cover tips that panelists should keep in mind for rehearsing and speaking.
The first item is trivial, but deserves a quick mention. PICK A NAME! Let your panel moderator and other participants know your preferred form of address. Don't be coy and say "Oh, I answer to all kinds of things." If it really doesn't matter to you, just pick a version. It's not for your benefit, it's for the benefit of your fellow participants and the audience. If one person calls you Billy while someone else calls you William and a third person says Dr. Smith, the audience has a hard time keeping track of who is being addressed. So pick a version of your name during rehearsal and make sure everyone knows how to pronounce it (I hate watching panels where one person says "FAR-hahd" while someone else says "furr-AHD").
On to more substantive matters…
A group rehearsal gives everyone the opportunity to listen to how the other participants are addressing the topic points and how the delivery styles mesh on the panel. A good moderator/facilitator will give you suggestions for either scaling back or stepping up your volume and energy to create a cohesive presentation with your fellow panelists. They may also let you know when you are coming across as too "pitchy" and sounding like you are trying to promote your company or products. Listen to their advice and adapt accordingly. They are giving you a valuable external perception check that you can't create in your own mind. Let them help you be more appreciated by the audience that will hear you.
One of the best things to look for during rehearsal is a point of view from another panelist that you want to counter. Panel agreement is boring. Panel disagreement is engaging and often provides more value for audience members as they think about different perspectives. Let your moderator know that you would like to offer a different take on a topic point after the other person has spoken. This lets the moderator plan who they should include at different times. It also lets your "opponent" have advance warning that this will be a discussion point, so they don't feel shocked and attacked on stage.
The other side of that coin is to let your moderator know when you don't have anything significant to add to what someone else has said. They can make a note to NOT call on you at this point of the conversation so you aren't left feeling superfluous and trying to figure out a way to say the same thing again. Audiences HATE "long agreement" speeches that use up time without adding value. You should always feel comfortable in skipping the opportunity to agree at length, in favor of giving yourself more time later to introduce additional insights and information.
Make sure to assemble the full panel at least 15 minutes before show time (I prefer 30 minutes if possible). If you are on-site, gather outside your meeting room. If you are presenting online, log in early. More people involved means more opportunities for last-minute problems. If somebody is running late or is unable to attend, you want time to know about it and adjust. Review the topic order or agenda, and confirm handoffs (panelist to panelist, or back to the moderator).
Everybody on the panel should have a cheat sheet in front of them. This includes a quick bullet list of the main topic items (and maybe an indication of who wants to speak on each), along with a reminder of each person's preferred form of address and the name of their company. It's amazing how your mind can suddenly go blank when you're on a stage in front of 300 people. Don't get embarrassed by forgetting the name of that person you've been working with for the past month!
During the panel presentation, keep an ear open for subtle cues from your moderator that you are not coming across as clearly as you think you are. Is the moderator asking you to repeat things a lot, or asking you for clarification on what you meant, or repeatedly restating points you have just made? It's probably an indication that you need to slow down a bit and make your points more concisely and unambiguously.
The last point I'll make in this post about speaking on a panel is about not speaking. When someone else has the floor, you should give them your attention. Look at them, nod your head, pretend like you are interested. Your behavior signals your audience as to whether they should care. Don't sabotage your fellow panelists by looking down at your own notes or idly picking your teeth and humming to yourself.
Tomorrow's post will continue the subject by looking at code phrases that moderators can use to help guide and instruct their panelists during the presentation.
Prepping A Panel Presentation
In my last post about tips for panel discussions, I teased that proper preparation was critical to putting on a good presentation. This post gets into the details. I strongly advise having a facilitator or administrator in a position of power who can lay down the law on how things will run. If you open it up to all the panelists to decide on format and operational structure, you'll waste a lot of time and end up with a poorly defined format.
As with any presentation involving a guest speaker, start by making sure the presenters know what the audience saw as a session description. Each panelist needs to understand attendee expectations so that they can deliver on the promotional promises that were made.
The next item to nail down is a format. I'm usually not a fan of panels that consist of "sequential presentations" where each panelist clicks through their own sequence of slides and gives a mini-presentation. But you might let each participant have an introductory statement or opportunity to establish their viewpoint. If so, be specific about exactly how many minutes each person has for their opening gambit. Tell them they need to practice out loud and come in on time. Be strict about this part. PANELISTS TEND TO RAMBLE.
In an open discussion format, work out an agenda of topic items that you will talk about. Make sure all panelists have an opportunity to prepare comments and stories about each of the points (or tell you which ones are not relevant to them so they don't get called on for that part of the talk). Find out from your panelists if there are any taboo subjects they don't want to discuss. This is a great time to work out specific questions that you will pose to panelists. You might ask them to contribute sample questions they want to be asked in order to give them a launching point for a statement. Try not to surprise your panelists during the event… A good panel is prepared for the subject and comfortable talking about it.
If you are a panelist, remind yourself that there is going to be a lot of "swirling conversation" going on. Attendees can find it difficult to pull specifics from the conversation. You will stand out if you can work out a few concise, powerful statements that make a strong point on their own. Go for something tweetable… Are you saying something that would make an attendee perk up and instantly tweet the short and pithy nugget of brilliance you just shared?
Another thing to work out is how structured you want the flow. Some panels are strongly controlled by the facilitator, calling on each panelist, who then hands back to the moderator when they finish talking. Other panels have participants jumping in and commenting on what other panelists are saying. Either way is fine as long as everybody knows the format and is ready to participate in the agreed-upon manner.
Decide whether the moderator will introduce panelists or have panelists introduce themselves. Again, either approach is fine as long as everyone is on the same page and knows what will happen in the session. Avoid long introductions! Audiences hate ten minutes of introductory comments about the career and qualifications of five people sitting in front of them. Name, company, and role are usually sufficient. If appropriate, you might add one more sentence about why each person has a relevant viewpoint.
PANELISTS TEND TO RAMBLE… If you let panelists introduce themselves, give them a structure to follow and tell them to keep it short. Given the opportunity, panelists will almost always start with a marketing pitch about their company. This is death on a panel. Make a combined pact to avoid organizational marketing. Add the pitches in a handout or web page that attendees can access. Then each person can add as much about their background and their company as they want.
In my next post, I'll offer suggestions on what to cover in a panel rehearsal and how to encourage consistency and group cohesiveness in presentation style.