You may think that you worked out every kink in your presentation, that you practiced your speech half a hundred times and that the software/hardware combo you’ve got set up has never failed you yet. This may all be true, but the bigger picture is that none of us can really be sure everything will go smoothly- there simply are far too many variables in this context. The computer might decide it’s time to kick the bucket, or your hosting website might be down, or any other of countless issues might arise. You need a webinar trial run.
Don’t misunderstand, though: we’re not trying to let you down with this; we just want to remark on the fact that you can never tip the odds completely in your favor. But you can tip them quite a bit, by implementing a series of useful standard practices before the actual webinar. Many of these are fairly straightforward, like starting work early, having a team to help you out and practicing a lot; but one really useful good habit is less common: doing a trial run before your talk.
A trial run is a dress rehearsal for your conference: it’s a full performance of your entire event, presented start to finish under time constraint and a simulated series of factors which will come to be in the real thing. This is an exceptional tool for spotting any inconsistencies or issues with pretty much any part of your webinar, since a smooth run here will require every little gear and cog in the machine to turn flawlessly.
But how can you make the most of your practice run? For starters, be sure to follow these 5 guidelines:
Don’t Substitute It To Other Tests
A full trial run will be very time and resource intensive. It will necessarily take you as long as the actual presentation, plus all the set up and wrap up before and after the event. It will also typically come very late in the overall process, when individual components are already in place, and you can start fitting them together.
For this reason, a trial run will not be a sufficient way to practice your speech or slides. It may be very effective at replicating real conditions, but precisely for that reason, you should have already ironed out individual issues with your presentation. Don’t use the trial run as the foundation of your practice; it should rather be the summit of the mountain.
Be As Realistic As Possible
The name of the game is realism here: any deviation from the true conditions of the big day will be a weakness, since you will be trying it out live for the first time. Err on the side of caution: even if a particular aspect of the presentation seems redundant, like having a faux chat running alongside your speech, or taking pretend questions for the after-speech Q&A, include it anyway. When something otherwise surprising comes up in the real talk, you’ll be glad you did.
Include Your Team
Speaking of redundancies: for the sake of realism, you should try to get all your team to participate in your trial run (or at least all the people who will have a part to play in the real webinar). This will allow them to practice alongside you, and work out interpersonal dynamics which will help them do well on the actual day.
Throw a wrench in your plans. Solved the issue? Good, now throw another three or four. It may seem a needless exercise in futility, but remember that this is exactly the reason you are doing the trial run. If mistakes don’t emerge on their own, force them into existence: Shut down your moderator’s computer, freeze the slide progression for a minute or two to test your improvisation skills, simulate users having difficulty hearing your audio, or logging into your stream. The more you practice fixing now, the less you’ll have to suffer in the presentation.
Have An Audience
No public speaking rehearsal is complete without a listening audience. Try to convince friends and family to tune in for your trial run (if all else fails, use backstage team members as an audience). This will give you a three-fold advantage: firstly by “raising the stakes” and subconsciously putting more pressure on your host; secondly by truly testing technical aspects of the audience’s connectivity and user experience; and thirdly by being able to receive early feedback on your presentation.