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How to Run Your First Webinar (with No Skills, No Stress and No Budget)

It’s just too scary, isn’t it?

You see all those fancy schmantzy bloggers offering webinars.

And everyone and their cat is queuing up to watch them.

They have the authority; they get the attention.

Yes, I bet it’s crossed your mind to do it too.

After all, webinars are supposed to be the hottest thing on the Net.

But to run a webinar yourself? It’s just too damn scary.

There’s the huge cost.  And how to even start creating a webinar, let alone broadcast it?

It’s beyond the reach of a blogger like you, right?

I’m here to tell you something: the world of webinars has changed.

It’s now affordable. It’s easy. You can do it.

In fact, you should do it.

Here’s why…

Why Serious Bloggers Love Webinars (Even if They Don’t Have Anything to Sell)

If you blog about any topic that more than a handful of people care about, you’ll be up against fierce competition.

Many bloggers will be fighting for the attention of your audience, and from the outside looking in, little will distinguish you from them.

Rise above the mass of wannabe bloggers.

So if you want to rise above the mass of wannabe bloggers, running webinars is a savvy option. Here are the benefits:

  • You transform your ideas into events. As the experienced blogger Chris Garrett says: You get the opportunity to create a sense of event around your ideas, value and information.
  • You forge a unique bond with your readers. Watching you on live camera is the next best thing to seeing you in person. Not only can they see you, but they can also interact with you. And in the future when they read your content, they’ll hear your voice.
  • You become an authority. When you appear as a presenter and give value to your readers, you create fans who respect you as an authority.
  • You increase your blog traffic. Online events, like webinars, are like magnets. They attract traffic and generate new subscriptions.
  • You can earn a little money. If you review, promote, or talk about a product in a webinar, you can make sales and earn income.

But if webinars are so damn sexy, why don’t more bloggers use them?

The honest truth?

Because they’re scared.

Why Most Bloggers Are Scared Witless by Webinars

Let’s face it.

Running a webinar sounds daunting.

The technology seems like a scary challenge.

And then there are those embarrassing glitches you hear about…

Like the guy who talked for thirty minutes before noticing that people could hear zilch.

Or the trolls who stalk webinars and disrupt presentations.

Shit happens, but most problems are avoidable.

Bottom line: you have to practice before you go live.

Shit happens, but... most problems are avoidable.

Unfortunately, I headed into my first webinar ever with the attitude, “I haven’t got time to practice, but, hey, it can’t be so difficult!”

The webinar ended in chaos. Here’s what went down…

It was in 2009. Leo Babauta and I had just created a blogger training course, called  A-List Blogging, and we decided to run a webinar as part of our launch.

The software we used at the time allowed us to appear live on camera. It looked easy, so I didn’t bother to practice.

The plan was that I would start the webinar and Leo would appear after my introduction.

We agreed to meet up as presenters in the software’s “green room” a few minutes before kickoff.

But Leo was nowhere to be seen.

I waited a few minutes and then started the webinar without him.

I was rattled.

After a little while, I said to the participants:

“Er… sorry, folks, I seem to have mislaid Leo.”

“WHAT!?” The chat-box erupted with questions.

It wasn’t a good moment.

Suddenly, a few lines appeared in the chat box, written by Leo. He couldn’t get into the system as a presenter so he entered as a participant to let everyone know he was locked out.

I soldiered on.

Now and then, Leo popped up in the chat to say he was still trying to get in.

The participants got involved:

“Leo, REBOOT!”

“Mary, has Leo got the right password?”

“BUY A NEW LAPTOP, MAN!”

Leo never managed to show — and the webinar slowly slid into chaos.

And when I think about it today, I still feel a little sick.

Since that time, I’ve learned how to run goof-proof webinars.

And I’ll tell you exactly what you need to know to run successful online events.

But first, let’s consider what content to choose for a webinar.

How to Choose a Webinar Topic Your Readers Can’t Resist

Most people are busy, and leisure time is in short supply. So if your webinar topic is boring as bat’s piss, they’ll chill out with funny cat videos on YouTube instead.

To get your readers to watch, you must wow them with a topic that’s as satisfying as placing the final piece in a puzzle.

But how to pick the right topic?

Hidden in your blog are two sources of fail-safe webinar topics: your list of popular posts, and the list of keywords that lead readers to your site.

Find your hidden sources of fail-safe webinar topics.

Take a look at your ten most popular posts and think about repurposing them as a webinar.

For example, on my blog WritetoDone.com, three of the ten most popular posts are hot contenders for webinars, How to Write Better: 7 Instant Fixes, 201 Ways to Arouse  Your Creativity, and How to Finish What You Start: A Five-Step Plan for Writers.

I’m sure you can imagine how these topics would lend themselves as content for a webinar. In fact, 201 Ways to Arouse your Creativity could be transformed into a whole series of webinars!

A webinar is an opportunity to drill down into the topic of a popular post. It’s your chance to expand what you wrote, give detailed suggestions, offer examples, and discuss questions.

The second source of content for success-prone webinars are the keywords people use to find your blog. If you have Jetpack installed, you can find them in the Site Stats section, or you can look in Google Analytics (under Acquisition > Keywords > Organic).

For example, the following keywords brought readers to Write to Done on a recent day:

Things to write about

Sexs (yes, written like that!)

Writing dialogue

How to write better

How to be a writer

… And the list goes on and on.

Apart from the second keyword [YIKES], all the others would be great starting points for creating webinar content.

But what about your blog?

What keywords do people type in to find you?

Once you’ve picked your topic, you’ll be itching to create content right away.

However, I suggest holding off until you get a tight grip on the technical aspects of running a webinar. Creating content is much easier once you understand your webinar basics.

How to Run Webinars Like a Pro (Without Spending a Dime)

With the advent of Google Hangouts on Air, it’s possible to run webinars for free. And you can accommodate unlimited participants!

It can be a little tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, but this post will give you all the information you need for a confident start.

(When it’s time to scale up your webinars, you can buy some cool webinar software that integrates with Google Hangouts on Air, such as WebinarJam (aff) or Easy Webinar Plugin (aff). They offer additional functions, like integration with autoresponders, having the option of more than one presenter, using high-converting registration pages, and so on. However, you have to shell out at least $297 for either of these two solutions.)

Run your webinars with the confidence of a pro!

Here is how to set up and run a webinar on Google Hangouts on Air.

Hangouts on Air integrates with YouTube, and your webinar will be streamed out live on your YouTube account.

To run Google Hangouts on Air (HOA), you need to connect your Gmail account with Google Plus and YouTube.

If you don’t already have a Gmail account, set one up here.

Actually, set up a second Gmail account as well. You can use this account to test your HOA webinars.

Go through the following setup steps both for your main Gmail account and for your test account. You need to …

Tip: In order to run webinars that are longer than fifteen minutes, you need to increase your time limit on YouTube by verifying your account.

Congratulations, you’ve now got the technical setup complete!

Now it’s time to get cozy with running a webinar. And there’s only one way to get confident: practice!

How to Make Sure Your First Webinar Runs Without a Hitch

You need to practice thoroughly before you run a public webinar.

Think of your training as having four stages.

Stage 1: Get to grips with Google Hangouts

They’re very similar to Hangouts on Air but are not streamed out live so you can keep your early efforts private.

You can practice on your own or invite a small group of friends to join you.

Here’s how to start a Hangout.

Go to your Google+ homepage, moving the cursor over the Home menu on the top, left-hand side to see the drop-down options. Click on Hangouts.

Google Hangouts

On the next page, click the Visit hangouts.google.com button.

Visit Google Hangouts

From there, practice using the various tools, apps, and icons.

Practice before going public.

You might also like to try creating some basic slides using PowerPoint or the SlideShare app on Google Drive.

Note: if you want to present a slideshow in your webinar, make sure your slides show up in a separate window. (Click here to find out more about crucial settings).

Stage 2: Learn how to set up an Event on Google+

Tip: use your test Gmail account to practice setting up events.

First, click on Events in the same drop-down sidebar menu as before, or click on Event in the share bar.

How to set up an event on Google+

You can find step-by-step instructions on how to set up a Google Event here.

Stage 3: Practice starting a Hangout on Air

You can start a Hangout on Air either from your Google+ home page, or from your YouTube account.

I find it easier to start from YouTube.  

First, click on the Upload button.

Start a Hangout Air from YouTube

From there, you’ll see an option for starting a Hangout on Air.

Broadcast HOA

You can find out exactly how to do it here.

Stage 4: Bring it all together and create a test webinar

Now you’ll integrate what you’ve practiced so far.

Use the following steps:

  • Set up an Event on Google+.
  • Send an invitation to yourself at your second email account.
  • Schedule the event 30 minutes ahead.
  • Start the Hangout on Air by going to your YouTube account.

Give your Hangout on Air the same name as the event you created.

Once your HOA is set up, you’ll need to grab the embed code for your blog page, as well as the link for your Google+ page.

You can find the Links icon at the bottom right-hand corner of your HOA.

Grab the Google HOA embed code

When you embed the YouTube code in the Text Editor of your blog page, I suggest changing the size to “640” width and “360” height to make the video bigger.

The YouTube Page link needs to be placed in the Events section on Google+.

Click on your event and select Edit Event.  From the Event Options button, select Advanced and then, Show more options to reveal the YouTube input field.

Embed the YouTube HOA link.

Once you’ve embedded the code in a draft page of your blog and have inserted the link on the Google+ Event page, your webinar is ready to be broadcast.

Click on the green Start Broadcast button on your HOA to make your webinar go live.

You can download an essential report on how to troubleshoot webinars using Hangouts on Air. Grab it here (it’s free).

Now that you’ve come to grips with the technical side of webinars, let’s get creative and give shape to your content.

How to Design a Webinar to Engage Your Audience from Beginning to End

For killer webinars, the classic three-act structure works best.

The first act is the introduction which includes your story of why you’re passionate about the topic. The second act is the main presentation, and the third act is the question and answer session.

Here is my blueprint for forty-minute webinars:

  • 5 minutes for the introduction and personal story
  • 25 minutes for the main presentation
  • 10 minutes for the Q&A

A key part of your main presentation is the last five-minute stretch. Always end with a call to action. If your webinar is educational or inspirational, suggest one simple action your viewers can do today.

And make sure you know what’s in it for you too. Ask them to sign up for your email list or like your Facebook page.

If you’re using your webinar to sell a product, use the last five minutes before the Q&A to explain how the product solves a problem you’ve been talking about, and encourage people to buy it now.

Blueprint for a killer webinar.

Here’s the process of creating a webinar.

First, create a rough outline of the introduction and the main presentation with headings, subheadings, and bullet points.

Next, decide on an approximate length of each section so that you can work out how many slides you need — five slides per minute is about right.

In order to create slides, you need some presentation software. Depending on whether you have a PC or a Mac, you can use PowerPoint or Keynote to create slides.

Another option is to use the Google Slides app, which you can access on Google Drive for free.

A key technical point is that your slide presentation needs to show in a new window. Both PowerPoint and Google Slides have settings for this, but using Keynote is more complicated. I explain more about this (including a work-around for using Keynote) here.

When you create slides, use text only with big bold headlines.

Once you’ve created your slides, you can go back and add images for extra emphasis.

Of course, you’ll be speaking to your audience as you show each slide. You might be tempted to wing it, but write a script to follow. Believe me, you’ll feel more confident if you have the words you want to say in front of you.

How to Make Sure the Camera Loves You (and Your Fans Will Too)

People love seeing their favorite bloggers live on camera because they feel connected in a way that’s difficult with writing alone.

But most of us don’t like how we look on camera. However, the truth is that talking, smiling, laughing — even making mistakes — on camera endears us to our readers.

You don’t need a “TV-face” to be successful, but you do need to know something about the psychology of relating to your viewers on video.

The key factor is camera placement. The camera needs to line up exactly with your eye-height.

Here’s why.

If the camera is below your eye height, attendees will get the feeling that you are “talking down” to them.

On the other hand, if the camera is above your eye height, attendees sense that you’re looking up to them and lack authority.

So line up the camera exactly with your eyes.

Connect on camera - your readers will love it.

If you’re using a web-camera on your computer or laptop, you may have to balance it on a stack of books or adjust the height of your seat to achieve the right height.

One of the advantages of systems that use Google Hangouts on Air is that you can choose between appearing live on camera and showing slide presentations. This also means you don’t have to be on camera every second of the webinar.

For example, you can start live on camera, then follow on with your slide presentation and appear live on camera again for the question and answer session.

So now that you’ve created your webinar, it’s time to let people know about it. After all, you want your fans to show up for your online event.

How to Create Irresistible Buzz for Your Webinar that Gets People Queuing Round the Block

You can create a great webinar. But what if nobody watches it?

The best way to create buzz around your event is to treat the lead-up like a mini-launch:

  • Get participants to register for your event. It’s a good idea to set up a special email list with a corresponding signup form to use for registrations. You can do this easily if you’re using an autoresponder service like Aweber (aff) or Mailchimp. You can create an automatic response that gives them the URL of the page where you’ll embed your webinar.
  • Write a blog post that gets readers fired up about your webinar topic. You can heighten anticipation by opening up questions in your post and promising to answer them in the upcoming webinar. Place the webinar registration form at the bottom of your post and make a point of asking people to register.
  • Email your subscriber list. Once you’ve announced the webinar on your blog, send out a series of emails reminding the people on your main list to register. In his ebook, The Ultimate Webinar Marketing Guide, (aff) Lewis Howes suggests sending out a sequence of three emails as a mini-launch. The first email could go out a week before the webinar, the second one four days prior, and the last one on the day before the webinar.
  • Use social media to keep the buzz going. Don’t forget to use social media to let people know about the webinar. And reach out to other bloggers to let them know about the event too.

Build some buzz so people line up to watch.

Another fantastic way to build buzz is to write a guest post on a popular blog covering a related topic and announce your webinar in the author byline. This takes some effort and planning but could have a huge impact on the number of attendees.

In general, you can expect about 25 percent of those who have registered to actually attend. To boost that number, send out an email just before you start the webinar to people who’ve registered.

It’s Time to Join the Ranks of the Webinar Pros

If you’re serious about becoming an authority; and want more traffic and subscribers, webinars are an opportunity you can no longer ignore.

You might think webinars are scary and costly, but the arrival of Google Hangouts on Air means that with a little practice you can run slick, successful webinars at zero cost.

But the big question is: will you take action?

Because let’s face it, most people don’t; taking action requires grit.

So they stay hidden in the background, just another wannabe blogger who’s too meek to truly connect with their audience.

But that’s not you, right?

Because you’ll take the steps laid out in this post and put them into action.

You know this is your chance to finally rise above the mass of wannabe bloggers.

So grab it.

Use it.

Enjoy the attention and become a true authority!

About the Author: Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at WritetoDone.com — where you can grab a copy of her free report, How to Create an Irresistible Lead Magnet in Less Than 5 Hours. In her “spare” time, Mary’s also the brains behind AlistBlogging.net. and GoodlifeZEN.com, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 4th Degree Black Belt.

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