New to webcasting? You’re not alone. In a matter of months, the COVID-19 crisis has fundamentally changed how we conduct corporate meetings, events, conventions, town halls, and more. Expecting hundreds if not thousands of people to gather in one place is no longer practical and goes against new safety and social distancing guidelines outlined by the CDC.

To adapt to this new normal, a record number of organizations are seeking virtual options to host their town hall meetings and events. While streaming video webcasting is new to some, many organizations have been doing it for years. Whether you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a community activist running for local office, virtual town halls and virtual video productions give you a platform to share your core values, connect with constituents, and build trust. These communications tools also serve a practical purpose by eliminating some of the costs associated with an in-person event and reaching people all over the world without having to travel.

After producing hundreds of webcasts from some of our region’s most influential business leaders and politicians, we’ve learned a thing or two about the “dos and don’ts” of successful streaming events and wanted to share these helpful webcasting tips we learned over the years.

Here are nine rookie webcasting mistakes to avoid.

#1 Not rehearsing in advance. Ever heard the saying “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”? This certainly applies to the world of webcasting! Do not underestimate the importance of rehearsing with all of the elements in advance to make sure everything flows smoothly. Rehearsals should happen several days before the presentation to allow enough time to troubleshoot potential tech issues before going live. We’ve heard horror stories about company leaders who worked with their team for many hours perfecting their presentation but neglected to rehearse and were plagued with technical issues throughout the webcast.

#2 Not knowing or understanding your audience. There is nothing worse than watching a webcast led by someone who is not in tune with their intended audience. It is essential to understand what your audience cares about, address their “pain points” and offer solutions. Presenters who fail to do this important step can come across as out-of-touch and you are likely to lose them within minutes of the webcast.

#3 Speaking for too long. According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, audiences begin to lose attention after roughly 10 minutes of hearing from the same presenter. Break up your presentation with engaging interactive activities like ice breaker games that fit your virtual audience, taking a poll, fun quizzes, or ask audience members for their opinions via chat.

#4 Overcomplicating your presentation with wordy or busy visuals. Here is our  rofessional advice: Keep it simple! Avoid the temptation to show off your expertise by using hard-to-read graphics, slides, and animation features. It could distract your audience and take away from your messaging.

#5 Trying to do it alone or having amateurs assist. Unless you are a professional in the webcasting field, never assume you can wing it on your own. This is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you have someone who understands the delivery options for slide content (PowerPoint, animations, polls, desktop sharing or video clips) and how they will be delivering the audio/video (telephone, webcam/microphone, in a studio, etc.) and if any special equipment is required. The peace-of-mind you will get with having someone else deal with any technical issues and make your presentation flow is worth its weight in gold.

#6 Failing to create any buzz or anticipation prior to the event. Tell your audience to “Save the Date” and make them excited about the webcast by sharing what’s in it for them. List any speakers and their credentials,
especially if you have a celebrity or someone high profile within your organization joining the webcast. Be proactive with social media and e-mail marketing platforms to remind the audience before your webcast, this can increase your attendance rate as much as 30%!

#7 Not being authentic. Be yourself. Don’t try to pretend you are someone you are not. If you don’t believe in what you are saying and presenting, the audience certainly will not. Webcasts that lack personality typically
result in a giant snoozefest. Add a personal touch by sharing a meaningful story, question, statistic, or another memorable opening that is authentic and true to who you are.

#8 Ignoring the basics of live production. Again, this is where it pays to engage the services of a professional webcasting service. They would understand the essential rules of a live broadcast and guide you to look your best. For instance, they would tell you where to look (straight into the camera, not the screen), what to wear (neutral colors), what not to wear (loud patterns, plaids, or stripes). A professional webcasting team would have premium audio equipment so you can be heard and understood clearly. They would know how to best light you and would ensure your background is professional looking and appropriate for your intended audience. They would tell you where to stand or sit and help you relax and look your best for the camera.

#9 Finishing the webcast with an underwhelming Q&A session. It certainly feels awkward when you wrap up a webcast by asking for questions and hearing nothing but crickets. This can sometimes be avoided if you invite your audience to submit questions ahead of time in a discussion thread on social media, a private message, or by email. You can also crowdsource questions from your attendees during the event by encouraging them to post them on the social stream or send via instant message.

Dipping your toes into the world of webcasting can seem overwhelming, but don’t make the mistake of letting logistical limitations stop you from communicating. This is a great opportunity to expand your communications strategy into new areas that work for you and your audience. Good luck!