Are you involved in sales or marketing? Do you create, promote, or deliver webinars as a part of your process? Perfect! You fit the persona of someone who would benefit from a free webinar this Thursday, September 15. I will...
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Are You Using Personas Correctly In Your Webinars? and more...

Are You Using Personas Correctly In Your Webinars?

Are you involved in sales or marketing? Do you create, promote, or deliver webinars as a part of your process? Perfect! You fit the persona of someone who would benefit from a free webinar this Thursday, September 15.

I will be speaking about the use (and misuse) of personas in sales and marketing webinars. The one-hour free session starts at 9am California / 12pm New York and you can register at this link:

  • If you haven’t used marketing personas before, I’ll explain the concept and why they are so useful.

  • If you know about personas but could use a deeper dive into ways to apply them to your sales and marketing webinars, this is right up your alley.

  • If you are an old experienced hand at using personas, I’ll give you a few eye-opening tips into some bad habits you may have picked up, with ways to make your personas and your webinars more effective.

The session is being hosted by Adobe Connect and Sales & Marketing Management as part of the online SMM Connect community of professionals. I’ll answer your questions live on the air and you’ll get an e-book version of the presentation afterwards.

I look forward to seeing you online!


WhatsApp With Webinars?

I hardly ever use WhatsApp. That tells you two things about me…

  1. I’m an old man
  2. I live in America

But even with these limitations in perspective, I know that the mobile messaging platform is incredibly popular worldwide. Heck, even in the USA it has over 75 million users – primarily 45 years of age and younger. And it’s far and away the most popular messaging app across Mexico, Central and South America, India, Russia, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Why bring this up within the context of a blog about webinars?

My last post mentioned the problem of getting your webinar-related emails seen amid the clutter of overloaded inboxes these days. And yesterday I read an article by Dave Michels on the No Jitter website about adjacent services that improve the value of meeting platforms. These put me in mind of an interesting utility I recently looked into.

Webinar Booster example on mobile phoneWebinar Booster is a specialized community builder designed to use the WhatsApp infrastructure to increase communications between webinar hosts and their target audiences.

The concept is centered on the idea of a WhatsApp channel associated with your webinar. Webinar Booster creates a short URL that lets people join the channel with their WhatsApp userID (they can also create a display alias if they don’t want to expose their actual WhatsApp name). You might include the join link in the confirmation email that shows up when they register for your webinar, or you might include it in initial promotions and landing pages.

Once they join the channel via Webinar Booster, they can type in questions, comments, and requests through their normal WhatsApp interface. Messages are seen only by the host’s account. The host can then decide which messages to share with the group at large, along with their own replies.

I spoke with Tomer Saar, the CEO and Founder of Texuto, the company that created Webinar Booster. He told me that the app has been in general availability for about one year and has had its greatest initial adoption in India and Europe. It is not designed to replace in-session chat inside a webinar platform, but has the greatest utility before and after the live event.

Webinar Booster may be best used to help stimulate interest and boost attendance by encouraging active participation in the days leading up to a webinar. The host can request topics of interest or questions that people would like to see the presenters address in the webinar. As people see questions asked by others, they can chime in as well. Since the chat is moderated by the host, you don’t risk a free-for-all open discussion with people promoting themselves or sidetracking the conversation. Users never see contact information for each other, so they feel safe in contributing to the conversation. And the host can use it as a broadcast channel to send out reminders and incentives for attendance.

After the webinar, the host can use the channel to collect additional questions related to the topic and to provide answers to everyone without having to create and share documents or email chains.

Tomer said that Webinar Booster can extend the sales nurturing pipeline after initial contact in a webinar while letting registrants maintain a sense of connection and interaction with the hosting company. I rather like having an alternative to email for keeping the communication channel alive with your targeted audiences, especially if you are working with demographics that already use and trust WhatsApp.

I’ll be interested to track Webinar Booster’s popularity and usage. What do you think about the idea?


Who Do Your Webinar Emails Come From?

What can you do to make sure your webinar communications have the best chance of breaking through email overload and clutter these days?

You work on crafting pithy, concise, and informative subject lines. You’re careful about writing persuasive body text. But there may be another overlooked factor that is dragging down the effectiveness of your webinar emails. Let’s talk about the “FROM” field.

When someone fires up their email app and finds a hundred new unread messages, their eye scans the list looking for familiar landmarks. That’s why all your webinar emails should ideally come from the same name.

There are four primary categories of webinar emails (although each category may have more than one instance):

  • Invitation
  • Confirmation
  • Reminder
  • Follow Up

If all the emails associated with these categories come from the same sender, it makes it easier for recipients to mentally connect them as part of a single cohesive communication chain about the same subject. This increases the chance that they will be spotted in the overflowing inbox and opened.

Unfortunately, practice is not always as easy as theory. Invitations may be sent from a house mailing system or a third-party bulk mailer that has a hard-coded sender name associated with it. In smaller companies, invitations may go out under the name of someone working in the marketing department. I can tell you that when I see an unexpected email coming from an unfamiliar “Dave” or “Julie” it tends not to get a lot of attention.

Registration confirmation and reminder emails are most commonly sent automatically via your webinar software. Different products deal with the sender name in a variety of ways. My favorites are products that give you complete control over the displayed sender name. But look at GoToWebinar and Zoom – two of the most popular lower priced webinar platforms on the market. Confirmation and reminder emails sent through those systems come from whatever name is associated with the master account. This may be an employee in accounting, or someone in a central IT department, or a generic name that was chosen arbitrarily. Sender names cannot be customized on a per-webinar basis.

The final category is follow up emails sent to attendees and registered no-shows. These may come from an individual working on the webinar (an admin or one of the presenters), they may be set up in the webinar software and come from the account holder, or they may come from a central marketing group using CRM or bulk mailing software.

If you can figure out a way to achieve consistency in the displayed source for all emails associated with your webinar, you boost the chances that your recipients will notice the emails and recognize that they relate to a webinar they are interested in. It’s worth the effort to get a little extra psychological advantage wherever you can.


Has WFH Killed Presenter Professionalism?

I saw a tweet that was later removed by the author, so I won’t attribute it out of respect for their wishes. But I thought the concept expressed was provocative and want to explore it. Paraphrasing rather liberally, it went along these lines…

The pandemic made working from home standard procedure. Will a lack of professionalism be the thing that ends WFH?

Now, there are a lot of potential ways to interpret “a lack of professionalism.” I don’t know what this particular author had in mind in that short tweet. You could focus on behaviors in team meetings and group video chats, or allowing inappropriate things to be seen on camera or in screen shares, or not joining meetings on time, or not muting your microphone, or all kinds of annoyances in group conversations. Peer-to-peer web conferencing is not my focus in this blog. But I believe it’s worth thinking about how universal WFH may have affected professionalism in outbound webinars.

Allow me to use a specific example to make some points.

Earlier this year, I attended a corporate conference. It was hosted by a big name in webinar/webcast software. Instead of booking a physical location and flying everyone in, the company produced the entire event online using their own web event software. Easy to attend, easy to host as many breakout sessions as they wanted with no incremental event costs.

The software worked very nicely. It was a lovely testament to how web presentations and virtual events can fill the needs of outbound communication to large, geographically distributed audiences.

The keynotes by company executives were produced at high quality in a controlled environment with professional sound, lighting, and camera operators. They started the event off nicely.

Then came the breakout sessions led by company employees. Each employee presented from home. I saw half-shaven employees wearing rumpled hoodies. I saw presenters sitting in their garage, surrounded by bicycles and lawn gear. I saw people on weak wifi with stutters and freezes. I saw overexposed and underexposed images, framed improperly. I saw laptop webcams on desks, shooting up into the presenter’s nostrils. I heard microphone scrapes, thumps, and volume changes as speakers moved their heads. In other words, exactly what you have seen for years in webinar after webinar.

It didn’t make the shared information any less valuable. But as an attendee, I felt like there was a lack of professionalism on display. It colored my perception of the company. Especially since the keynotes showed that the capability was there… they merely lacked the will to bring the entire event experience up to the same level.

It would have been less convenient for the employees. It would have cost more for the company. But they could have provided backdrops, lights, microphones, or broadcast rooms/studios in locales central to multiple presenters. They could have coordinated dress codes and branding for all presenters. They could have provided advance A/V checks and suggestions for each presenter to optimize the way they were perceived online. Or they could have demanded that each person come into the office for their breakout session presentation.

In other words, they could have dedicated the same kinds of oversight and comprehensive corporate standards to the online event that they would have done for a physical event. But that didn’t happen.


I don’t want to minimize the strains that COVID-related lockdowns, lockouts, and distancing placed on everyone. Companies, managers, and employees deserve kudos for making it all work as well as they have overall. Homes were forced to serve makeshift duty as offices and broadcast studios while coexisting with the demands of home life, partners, pets, and children.

Home wi-fi networks were suddenly tasked with bandwidth loads they were never built to handle… Simultaneous contention among kids doing remote schooling, family members streaming movies, multiple workers on video conferences, large “office-sized” documents being downloaded in email messages. Add to that the limitless wireless interference sources found in homes.

So we have all made allowances. Sometimes people are just going to have little freezes in team web meetings. Sometimes kids and pets are going to interrupt or add their presence on camera. Sometimes the background environment isn’t going to be pristine. Sometimes the neighbor’s leaf blower is going to make background noise.

Now we come back to that loaded phrase about “lowered standards.” It sounds accusatory or judgmental. That’s not my intent. I’m not belittling employees who have had to deal with the pandemic-enforced reality of life. You tell me what the alternative is for a single parent living in a New York studio apartment with a kid who isn’t allowed to go to school!

But there is an objective reality to face… We used to expect a given standard in work communications conducted in and between office environments with IT-managed networks and equipment and dedicated meeting rooms or office spaces. The new standard includes the allowances I mentioned above. It’s a lower standard.

And you know what? I don’t care. Internal business operations seem to be ticking right along, and if I see a coworker’s cat or kid while we’re talking, it’s kind of cute and doesn’t make me think any less of them. We’re all in this together.


But! …

Now we switch our attention to the matter of presentations being made to customers, prospects, press, and analysts. Or donors. Or association members. Anyone we are trying to influence or drive to a course of action.

Once we face the world outside our corporate walls, we become ambassadors for our organization. The information we share is only one part of our job. We also have a duty to help create or reinforce a positive image of our company, to create goodwill, to build a sense of trustworthiness and reliability. In short, to show that our organization and the people in it have a sense of professionalism that makes us a desirable organization to work with.

And this is where the lowered standards of remote communication we all agreed to accept during the strict lockdown years is hurting companies. If every public-facing presenter is a spokesperson for our business image, then every public-facing presenter deserves proper support, training, equipment, and setting necessary to represent the organization in the best, most professional light.

That means corporate management needs to define and communicate a different set of standards and expectations for outbound presenters. It means asking presenters to come to controlled environments or studios when making their public presentations, or agreeing to set up home spaces that adhere to corporate A/V standards.

This is how I choose to interpret that original tweet way back at the beginning. Because most home environments cannot meet the standards for professional presentation that companies need to project, it creates a strong impetus for managers, executives, and event organizers to demand Work From Office rather than Work From Home when making presentations.

It’s not so much that employees are not acting professionally themselves, it’s that they are physically unable to create the impression of professionalism demanded by the company. So maybe “a lack of professionalism” won’t kill WFH overall, but it may well kill it for company webinars and conferences.


Are We Asking Too Much Of Video Presenters?

Take a quick look at the video below. If it doesn’t play in your feed reader, you can find it on YouTube at The video is only 55 seconds long:


Pretty cool, isn’t it? It really is… I’m not being sarcastic or derisive. At least not yet. This is a teaser announcement from Prezi showing a concept feature enhancement that would allow presenters to use hand gestures to control display, orientation, and placement of graphic objects on the screen along with the presenter’s live webcam video.

The YouTube date associated with this video is October of 2020. As far as I can tell, the feature never made it into public beta, much less into general availability. In my research, I found a much earlier article from August of 2013 looking at a similar capability using the third-party Leap gesture controller.

I like looking at these kinds of cool tech applications. But I remain cynical about their use in practical business scenarios.

Zoom and Prezi have both built some rather nice features for integrating webcam video with presentation graphics. Zoom lets you appear on top of a slideshow, effectively using the slides as a sequence of virtual background images.

Prezi lets you embed your video as a live component integrated with your slide graphics. Rich Mulholland blew my mind in a presentation where he demonstrated this in a fun and engaging manner. You really should register and watch the replay. The carefully thought out design of graphics and smooth integration of live video is a marvel.

Advanced presenters who do this kind of work on a daily basis can use these technologies to really stand out. It’s great that the tools exist and offer the additional freedom and flexibility to create exciting next-gen presentation effects.

BUT… Now I need to play devil’s advocate for a bit. The sad reality of business presentations is that most of them are terrible. That’s why there’s an entire industry of presentation trainers, consultants, and designers.

We still can’t get people to put enough light on their faces to keep them from looking like members of the witness protection program. We see laptop webcams shooting up from desks into the presenter’s nostrils. We see slides thrown together as last minute obligations, written like white papers with text sentences spelled out in bullet point lists. Graphics get stretched out of proper aspect ratio. Presentations are completed an hour before presentation time, without a single run-through of the content.

I’ve written in the past how this is more the fault of management than of the presenters. There is not enough incentive and reward for making a quality presentation to warrant the extra investment in time and labor by employees.

Now imagine asking these same overworked, time-constrained business professionals to plan out graphic layouts and designs that feature their webcam image as an integral part of the visual presentation. White space for where their head will be. Component graphics that will move in and out of the presentation to highlight carefully plotted and rehearsed movements. Monitors, lighting, camera position, controllers all placed to allow presenters to look like they are interacting with the audience while they actually are tracking their own video and content placements at the same time they are delivering the actual message.

It CAN be done! Look again at Richard’s presentation. Done well like this, it will blow your audience away. But WILL it be done by more than a handful of people? Are YOU willing to put in the planning, the careful construction, the technical setup, and the rehearsal necessary to pull it off so the technology is a value-add rather than a distraction that makes you look unprofessional?

Perhaps that’s why Prezi gesture control never made it into production. While it was technically possible, the pragmatics of actual use were too daunting for the public to employ it. We need to make it as easy as possible for video presenters to achieve basic professional-looking results as part of a solid, effective presentation before we start asking them to add bells and whistles that cause even more task-related overload.

I’m glad tech companies are testing new features. But if you are a business presenter, never forget that bells and whistles don’t create a great presentation. YOU create a great presentation. With or without tech. Take care of the basics. Don’t let software manufacturers sway you into thinking that their latest bright ‘n shiny new feature is necessary or even beneficial. Think about what makes you most comfortable and effective. You can always add fancy stuff later.