I've been doing webinars long enough that I know that technology never works 100% of the time. The HubSpot marketing team has hosted over 50 webinars this year and every time, even in our seasoned age, something always goes wrong. It's a painful experience, of course, as a marketer to never have a program just work. But technology isn't perfect (at least when it's run by humans!) and the lessons we learn are what to do when technology goes wrong.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.
The first few times we hosted a live webinar, we practiced numerous times beforehand. We tested the technology, the presenter practiced their presentation, we made checklists to make sure we hit every task. Make sure that you choose a date and time that would work well for your audience (consider their time zone, for example) and plan ahead with your webinar service provider to make sure the event is setup to provide the technology you need (any combination of phone, streaming audio, slides, video). Review all the
webinar presentation best practices
Get Into Your Attendee's Shoes.
In addition to joining the webinar as a presenter/organizer, I also always log in as an attendee (on a separate computer) to best experience exactly what attendees are experiencing. This is a way to stay on top of issues as soon as they happen, whether it's audio dropping out or screens freezing or anything else. This also helps you respond to attendee questions about how to interact and how to deal with technical hiccups.
Stay Calm. Watch for Common Mistakes and Simple Solutions.
The last thing you want to do is alarm the presenter or attendees or anyone else. Stay calm and in control (even if you don't feel it!) because panicking will derail your entire presentation and delay you from overcoming an inevitable hiccup. No matter how experienced we are, we all make mistakes with technology. Having some issues? Here are some of the common mistakes and simple solutions:
No sound from presenter
- Check if presenters are muted, either on your phone or via the webinar controls. Check that attendees' phone/computer lines are not muted.
Attendee dropping sound
- Usually an issue of an attendee's internet connection. Suggest that they connect to a hard internet line.
Slides not advancing for presenter
- Have a second computer that has control over slides as backup. Log in early and practice advancing slides. Have a printout of the slides so that you can keep talking even if the presentation is frozen.
Slides not advancing for attendee
- Possibly due to internet connection. Suggest that they connect to a hard internet line.
Attendee unable to enter presentation
- Could be that the webinar platform does not work on the attendee's browser. Suggest that they try joining the webinar in another browser. Have a way for attendees to test their browsers ahead of time (many webinar providers have a way to do this).
Before the presentation, give registrants a way to contact you (for us, they can reach us by email by just responding to their webinar confirmation). During the webinar, if there are any issues, make them clear in any and all ways possible. Sometimes we do this by audio ("We are experiencing some technical difficulties - the presentation will begin shortly! We apologize for the delay.") but don't rely on audio, since the technical difficulties may actually be impacting it. Answer email inquiries and submitted questions via the webinar Q&A console.
Ealier this week, we hosted our largest webinar yet,
The Science of Facebook Marketing with Dan Zarrella
, with over 13,000 registrants and experienced among our worst technical difficulties. We owned up to it. We apologized sincerely to all of our attendees, both on the webinar and in our follow up. We could not be more sorry for all the aggravation and disrupted presentation.
Offer a Make-Good.
Unfortunately we can't go back in time and save people the aggravation of attempting to join a frozen webinar for 20 minutes.
But here's what we'll do,
Here are some free resources.
There's an ebook, a webinar, some other awesome stuff. All free, no registration required. Please just enjoy.
I'm certainly not promising or expecting to not have any technical issues ever again. I'm just committing to doing my best to figure out why the issues happened and what we can do about it. We've met with the webinar provider and discussed the issues and possible solutions. In the end, it was a problem with the configuration for our particular event. We discussed what should have been changed and how to make sure a future event would not fall victim to the same issues.
In the end, it is an outright miserable situation to be in when technology impedes your ability to deliver quality programs to your audience. But hopefully you can develop a human relationship with that audience, offer your apologies and your plan to improve, and move forward.