How to develop a great webinar to promote your book

webinarA webinar is an excellent promotional tool for your books, work, and services. Combining PowerPoint slides and audio on a subject to which viewers/listeners plug in on the Internet, a webinar delivers valuable information and shows you’re the one to deliver more. But to accomplish this purpose, you’ve gotta do it well. As the proud veteran of one webinar (I blush to admit with some excellent feedback), here I’ll share some points about designing and delivering an excellent webinar.

For the webinar on my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), I had wonderful help and structure from the publisher’s promotion director. But you can achieve similar results alone or with a few seasoned colleagues. In any case, the steps are similar.

Other Webinars

Start watching webinars in subjects that interest you and are close to yours. What’s wrong with them? You’ll easily tell from the first three seconds: Rambling topics, too many slides, too much text, too many words, too few, too many um’s and ah’s, slurred speech, muffled audio, almost instant boredom.

What’s right? Instant hooking your interest, lively pace, evident structure, easy-to-grasp and attractive slides, speaker’s dynamic and unhurried voice, bell-clear audio, humor, pointed perfect anecdotes, clarity and simplicity of messages. You find yourself scribbling furious notes and wishing with all your might that after the first ten minutes you don’t have to go pick up the kids.

Your Purpose

Determine your purpose. Introduce a book and/or service? Sell them (of course)? Help others? Instruct them? Increase your visibility? Build fan base? Reach a specific segment? Connect with like-minded others? Challenge your proficiency and comfort? Multiple purposes are permissible. Write them all down and keep the list in front of you. Your specific reasons will govern your approach. My purposes were to introduce the book, give viewers tools for better living and reaching their dreams, and, of course, sell copies.

Your Length

A webinar can be a length you choose or one directed by your sponsoring organization. My promotion director specified an hour, about half for presentation of my book and half for audience Q&A. I found out that delivering the material on one slide, with supportive anecdotes and examples, takes one to two minutes. For my thirty-minute presentation, I would need about twenty to twenty-six slides.

Start Writing

Always feeling more comfortable writing than speaking, I wrote out my “script” for each slide. One to two minutes, speaking unhurriedly and with the right emphasis, is about 120 words a minute. So: 120 words times 20 slides = 2,400 words = (at traditionally 250 words a double-spaced page) 11 pages. 120 words times 26 slides = 3,120 words = 13 pages. (Pardon the cumbersomeness.)

With my purpose and length in mind, I started with an outline that could also serve as slide headings. I had some materials already—press releases for the book, Q&A from interviews I’d given, and the book’s introduction. So I highlighted various points, choosing the most important and universal ones. Then I used the outline to write my narrative . . . with several rewrites.

I also kept in mind the high school rule of good writing we all rebelled at: opening (beginning), body (middle), close (end). That is, tell ‘em what you’ll tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em.

If your webinar is sponsored by an organization, like mine was, arrange to have yourself introduced, with credentials, possibly as the title slide appears. If you are the sole deliverer, you can do the same, with modest asides, as the title slide flashes. And at the end of the presentation, add your website address and, if you choose, your email.

Principles of Good Sliding

For effective slides, and to avoid “Death by PowerPoint” (Alexei Kapterev– and very entertaining), I had to learn some principles of good slide presentations:

a. Three to five points per slide (some strict sliders dictate fewer).
b. Five to six words (or fewer) per point, preferably not full sentences.
c. Simplicity!
d. Lotta white space.
e. One font, one size for headings and another for text. Or two fonts at most for headings and text.
f. Trust your text.

Too, make use of the script notes box at the bottom of each slide (viewers don’t see the notes). You can transfer your typed text to these boxes for explanations and illustrations of the slide points.

Start Picturing

After the script, I was ready for graphics. (Maybe you conceptualize with pictures first, words later—whatever works.) I thought about how best to illustrate my points and combed the Web for (free) images of all kinds (such as http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/). For example, one of my first slides outlined the “three big ideas” of the book (“There are no mistakes. You can reframe your past. The outer reflects the inner.”). The accompanying photo? A kitten looking in a full-length mirror and seeing a lion reflected back.

Go for high resolution graphics; they transmit well onto your slides and viewers will thank you.  Avoid animation and excessive graphics; they can be distracting and too cute.

Small caution: Be sure the images you use are in the public domain. Or get copyright permission—one of photographs I used was a postage stamp of Dr. Seuss and his characters. Permission was required, and obtained, from the USPS.

Houston, Do You Read Me?

My publisher, blessedly, took over the tech aspects. The promotion director and tech specialist used a very popular webinar software package, GoToWebinar. A virgin webinarian, I still wanted to get acquainted with it all. So, feeling very techno-author, I invested in a $40. headphone-mic combination. When I registered for others’ webinars (a tech feat itself), I saw the clear instructions for using my combo, played around with the options, and felt like a senior member of Control. This all helped my physical and mental comfort when I adjusted my headgear for my own delivery.

How Do You Get to Broadway?

The answer: practice, practice, practice. First, rehearse your delivery and time it. Rehearse it alone, in front of a (smirking) family member, your dog, your wastebasket. The more you rehearse, the more you’ll relax. Second, remember you’re an actor! Maybe not a melodramatic emoter but a professional presenter. Let your passion show through.

Third, practice with your tech(s)—my promotion director and staff member scheduled two rehearsals, and they offered more if I felt the need. And for the Q&A portion, prepare some of your own questions in case the audience is reticent.

Opening Day/Night/Mic

The day before, even if no one will see you, prepare to go onstage. Amply in advance, get dressed decently, comb your hair. Adjust your headphones. Test your equipment. Lay out all your materials—script, schedule, book if applicable, emergency discussion questions, water. Breathe, smile.

Clear your throat (beforehand). Tell yourself you’ve done this a thousand times. Have faith in the script(s) in front of you. If any glitches occur, and they do with the best, as I heard on a recent Writer’s Digest webcast, just swallow and keep talking.

As my webinar progressed, I relaxed more. It became a flowing conversation, between the host and me, and then with the viewers. I actually enjoyed it!

Post-Web Productivity

At the close of your webinar, thank the audience. And when all the questions have been answered and all mikes are off, reflect with your colleagues on the webinar.  Ask for their opinions on improvement.  Review your performance and the slides and ask yourself the same questions. You may want to refine the materials for next time.

For audience follow-up, repeat your contact information verbally at the end. Once the webinar recording is available, post the link on your website and with your email signature. Add the title and link to your bios. Expect responses!

Giving a webinar can be a lot of work, and eventually a lot of fun. The creation and delivery will bolster your confidence in your material, your presentation, and yourself. And your webinar will give you new learning, expanded audience connections, and great publicity.


© 2018 Noelle Sterne

For reprinting, please contact Noelle Sterne through her site: www.trustyourlifenow.com


Noelle SterneDissertation coach, nurturer, bolsterer, handholder, and editor; scholarly and mainstream writing consultant; author of writing craft, spiritual, and academic articles; and spiritual and motivational counselor, Noelle has published over 400 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, GradShare, InnerSelf, Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years helped doctoral candidates wrestle their dissertations to completion (finally). Based on her practice, her Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015) addresses students’ often overlooked or ignored but crucial nonacademic difficulties that can seriously prolong their agony. See the PowerPoint teaser here. In Noelle`s Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets and reach lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com


The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Textbook & Academic Authors Association. Read more about TAA guest posts here.