What All Business Owners Should Know About Webinars

Last week, I attended two webinars in one day. I learned FAR more than I expected to learn.  

Allow me to spoil the surprise-ending right now:  I am a complete convert to the presenter of the first webinar.  I'm considering purchasing one of the services he offers (unrelated to and not mentioned in the webinar.)  I am completely turned off to the second presenter and, though I want to learn more about the topic on which she presented, will not be pursuing learning any more through her.  


Ah -  THERE's the rest ...and the most important parts ... of the story.

I'll admit: I'm a typical web user.  You usually have one shot to grab my attention...and my trust.  So while it might not be fair to judge these presenters and their businesses on one webinar, I honestly gave them more time than the typical visitor will.  I speak here to other business owners only on behalf of potential clients who won't make time for your pitch beyond first impressions (and that is honestly most of us).

I'm also a business owner who is always watching out for how I respond to other business practices.  Because if I respond that way...chances are, so will many of my potential clients.


Both webinars were free and business-related.  I knew very little about either presenter nor their business prior to the webinars.  I had just come across a listing for each webinar on Facebook, thought the information would be useful, had the times available, and thus, signed up.  (And hey, they were FREE!) 

The first webinar was given by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing (in coordination with Mary Jaksch of A-List Blogging).  I won't be naming the presenter of the second webinar.  I'm sure she is a LOVELY woman and obviously, she knows a lot about business and has found her own success.  I am in NO WAY trying to say that I have any problems with her nor with her business.  I want to make this a possible learning experience for us all - not a personal attack.



Let me first note what each webinar had in common:


  • Both were offered by 'bigger names' on the internet - published and well-known speakers on their respective topics.


  • As I mentioned, both webinars were free.


  • Both ran 90 minutes.


  • Both were offered through Citrix: GoToWebinar, an online webinar service where a slideshow could be shown, the presenter(s) could speak, and participants can chat in a text box (that the presenter can see and also respond to).  (Participants can also be unmuted to speak to and ask questions of the presenter, thought this did not happen either of these webinars.)



This is what I found valuable across both webinars:


  • Each presenter was knowledgeable and lively.


  • Each presenter, near the beginning of the webinar, asked participants to close out other programs, turn off cell phones, and focus on the presentation in order to get the full value.  (I found this a helpful tip as I'm often guilty of multi-tasking during presentations like this.)


  • Each presenter was quite grateful, offering continued acknowledgment of the busy schedules of the attendees and gratitude for their presence.


  • Both webinars offered excellent tips and tricks on their given topics - information that I might have decided to pay for in another situation.  I have at least two pages of notes from each...and all of that information was given over for free.



That is good information for potential webinar leaders to pay attention to.  But it keeps getting more interesting - and more relevant for those thinking of starting or already running their own business.


What set Danny's webinar apart from every other one I've attended (and why he has my trust after one 24-hr period / why I'm looking to purchase services from him):


  • I learned about Danny 2 days before the webinar.  I signed up for a list and received a PDF download of one of his books for free - a book that he offers for sale on Amazon and through Kindle.  It's the full version of the book - and I've already found such value in it that I'm considering purchasing a copy to pass along and to further support him.  (He went into details about why he did this on the webinar.  Hint: It wasn't about the money.)


  • Danny sent out a mass email one day prior to the webinar asking what questions we wanted answered on the webinar.  I decided to reply, knowing the email had gone to hundreds if not thousands, and knowing that when I've done this before, the email often isn't read, much less responded to live on the webinar.  Danny sent a PERSONAL REPLY within 24 hours.


  • I also sent an email to Danny 1 hour before the webinar was to begin, explaining that I received his response (and was GRATEFUL!) but that I might not be able to ask my question live as he'd requested as I had to pick up my kids from the bus.  He again replied, 30 minutes prior to the webinar (when most presenters certainly would not be on email, much less responding), with a personal, kind response.


  • He introduced his entire, 3-person support team at the beginning of the webinar, including slides with pictures of each person and information about them, and even invited them to say something to introduce themselves.  This personal acknowledgement I found truly endearing, and it also helped me to know who I was speaking to when the assistant responded via chat during the live call.


  • Danny was obviously watching the chat, even as he was giving his presentation.  When he asked a question, he would read several of the responses - including the participant's name.  This made all of us feel present and heard.  Obviously he couldn't read all of them, but he thanked everyone - every time he asked a question - for their responses.  (A humorous note: One participant left a comment in the chat asking if this was a live call.  Danny paused his presentation and responded using the participant's name, letting him know it indeed was live and he just wanted to clarify that.  I found this funny, but it becomes quite relevant shortly...)


  • He mentioned at the beginning of the webinar that he would be selling nothing on this call - that even if we pulled out a credit card at the end and begged him to sell something that he would have nothing to offer at that time.  He was true to his word.  This is the ONLY (free) webinar that I have ever been on where there has been no sales pitch nor an attempt to redirect participants to "learn more by going here!".


  • During the call, Danny discussed a few things that I found deeply resonated with my beliefs: First, that he doesn't believe in looking at the world through a lens of scarcity (meaning he is happy to share something that another business is doing, even if it mirrors his own, because it adds value for his readers as well) and second, that he isn't interested in numbers but in engagement.  I don't have much to add to that - I just hope that all bloggers, writers, artists, and business owners will reflect on that. 


  • It is worth repeating - what he offered was extremely valuable information.


  • Danny left nearly 45 minutes at the end for Q&A.  He responded to dozens of questions, offering short but to-the-point and helpful responses.  (I believe they answered every question that was asked.)


Though it occurred after the webinar, Danny did reply within a couple of hours to a tweet I sent (Danny isn't on Facebook.)  Once again, personal engagement.

*Of note: I was so thrilled by all that was being offered 

that when I had to pick up my kids from the school bus

near the end of the webinar, I took my cell phone with me

and dialed into the webinar so I could continue to hear the information

live (even though it was being recorded).  I have NEVER done that

nor been that engaged with any presentation before.


What turned me off about the second webinar (and why my trust is nada for this business / why I won't be returning to their site):


  • At the very beginning of the webinar, prior to asking everyone to close their other tabs, the presenter asked everyone to go to her page and "share" her most recent status about this webinar beginning.  Those who did would be entered in a giveaway happening for just those who were able to be on the call.  (A technique that generally wouldn't have bothered me - this is a quite common technique.  Alas, read on.....)


  • I noticed something strange almost immediately.  The Facebook status she said she just shared (and did a screen grab to prove it)  was 7 hours old and already had well over one hundred comments.  More were flooding in as I watched, as my fellow participants on this call were frantically leaving their comments and sharing on their own pages.

An important note that will soon lead to the aha I had: This webinar was given a few hours earlier in the same day.  It was being offered again at this evening time for those who couldn't make the first one.  


  • As I and others quickly discovered,  this webinar was NOT being presented live, even though there was no prior notification of that fact.

    Therefore, other participants and I were led to believe (even if unintentionally) that our Facebook share and future participation in the chat was being seen, heard, and responded to on a live basis.  I immediately asked in the chat box if this was a live webinar (in order to verify).  I was given a response that no, it was indeed a recorded version of the one earlier, and an apology for any confusion....20 minutes into the webinar.

    It was this aspect of the webinar that felt the most "icky", at least up until this point, though I wish I could think of a more professional term for what I was feeling. Throughout the call, the presenter continued to ask questions of the participants and waited for responses (sometimes reading them back).  If I hadn't realized this wasn't a live call, I would've felt quite cheated to have wasted my time answering a question with a response that wasn't seen by the speaker.  

    (NOTE: I believe the presenter was the one who responded to my chat question 20 minutes into the webinar.  I will acknowledge that she might have been watching the chat and responding to questions typed in the chat throughout. I do not know as I did not ask any further questions, and as my follow-up to her response in the chat didn't receive any further acknowledgement from her.)

    (I also feel I should mention: I left a kind but honest comment in the FB post where the "contest" was being held, saying that I'd wished it was made clear that this webinar was recorded.  After the webinar was over the FB page owner said she'd be happy to answer any questions and did apologize...so the offer was open in case I wanted to ask anything further.)


  • The presenter had informative slides, but much of her presentation was just reading those slides.  She was definitely personable and would talk around them, but 40% of her presentation was a word-for-word repetition of the slides.


  • Here's the second big "ick":  (And again, I feel I should note: She made no pretense that this call was just providing information and not selling something.  I have no problems in general with presenters selling something or offering redirection to their website at the end of a webinar, particularly when it was given for free! She expected to say it, I expected to hear it....but the way in which it was presented  is the kicker.)

    I mentioned the call was 90 minutes.  At least 20 minutes of the final segment of the call was spent on sales.  To transition into that sales part, the presenter said, "Now there's two ways you could do (all of this).  (Meaning two ways you could implement the steps, tips, and tricks she JUST outlined in glorious detail throughout the webinar.)  You COULD spend a ton of time and money trying to figure all of this out.  OR you could take a short cut to do it faster and easier...."

    Now it might just be me, but if you just told me all of these easy ways to implement these changes, why would I need someone else to do them for me?  And if they really do take hours or are far more complicated to do, then did you just mislead me?  Ah, but I digress...


  • The next few screens of the presentation were textbook marketing - very brazen.  There was the "Now, I usually offer it for THIS amount, but JUST for you I'm doing this.  And, "...well, I know I shouldn't be doing this, but this is for my friend....so if you get it in the next 15 minutes, you can get it for THIS price."  Followed by, "And, I can't believe I'm doing this, ....really, I can't....but you can ALSO get THIS EXTRA THING for FREE if you order NOW."  Ick.


  • For the next 15 minutes on screen, was a picture of the presenter and a TIMER.  Yes, all of us got to hear the final part of the presentation and the sales pitch while watching a timer tick down on our screen and feeling more and more anxious that we were running out of time to take advantage of the BEST thing to EVER be offered on this topic.  (Money back guarantee for 60 days, of course.)


  • During this time, she posted a "Who Is This Training For?" slide.  She listed, "bloggers, real estate professionals, .." and the list went on. It ended in an "etc."  Basically, it was implying that the training was for everyone.  This is a minor point, but one worth mentioning: I find it far more valuable when someone is honest with me and lists who their services / product are not appropriate for.  Nothing fits for everyone and, as a client, I want to know that you've thought of and are willing to admit that.


  • Another minor, but worthwhile point - many of the slides throughout the presentation included a picture of the presenter.  I certainly don't mind personal photos.  I actually love seeing who I'm hearing.  But I feel that one or two introductions is sufficient, and that photos should add to the webinar / presentation.  I began to feel as though she was using her attractiveness to try to make the product more attractive.  All of that actually made it less attractive.


Again, I acknowledge that she was probably doing many of these techniques because they work.  I have a degree in Psychology - and I've been shopping once or twice on Black Friday.  I am well aware that a countdown clock, supposed unmatched value, and a hugely marked down price often cause us to buy what we didn't even know we wanted ...but that we have to have NOW!  I get it.  I do.  


and please, every business person and budding entrepreneur, pay attention:

After this call I felt ICKY.  Whatever word you want to use for it - I felt anxious, cheated, guilty (for not taking advantage of such an amazing offer!), and just generally "off".  In my notes (which are more permanent reminders), I have question marks and strong underlines from the sale-sy part scribbled all around the notes of the valuable information that was given.

After Danny's call (and emails and tweets) I felt AMAZING.  I wanted to get right to work on implementing some of the techniques he had offered, and immediately perused and bookmarked his website for future reference.  In my notes (which, again, are more permanent reminders), I have exclamation marks and smiley faces.


Whenever I think of either of these presenters or their business, I will remember these feelings.


Both webinars offered amazing value.  But only one led to me wanting to take further action with the business....and it wasn't the one who tried to push me to do so.  

I'm not going to claim to be any sort of business guru.  But I feel that what I observed during these webinars is vitally important for all business owners to note.

Connection matters.

Feelings matter.

No matter how much value you offer, no matter how knowledgeable you are on a given topic, and no matter how many proven business tactics you try, unless you connect with me on a more personal level I am not likely to purchase what you are offering.  

Webinars are an excellent opportunity to offer value and to encourage engagement (as Danny Iny did) and, yes, even to sell something you have to offer.  But as I've learned, for those trying to attract more than just dollars, it is crucial to focus on connecting with the participants over selling your product or service.


I'm so curious to know what you think about all of this.

Have you attended a webinar like either of these before? Have you led one, or tried any of the tactics mentioned above?  Do you agree with me, or do you find yourself more attracted to the type of marketing done in the second webinar?

Please leave comments below and let us all know (every business owner and curious client who will be reading this!)  (Note: I usually reply to comments individually via email, but plan to respond in the comments section for this post.  For regular readers, be sure to check back here for your response.)