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How to Set Up & Run a Professional Online Webinar

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
This post is part of a series called How to Make Successful Webinars (Ultimate Guide).
How to Design Killer Webinar Slide Decks (With Templates)
How to Plan & Create Sales Webinars That Convert

Choosing the right topic for your webinar and creating a great slide deck to go along with it is only the beginning. Once you've taken care of those, you need to look into the equipment and tools you'll need to set up and run a professional webinar.

Without investing time and doing research to satisfy the technical requirements of running a webinar, you run the risk of encountering a few issues during your presentation.

Your webinar could get disconnected if you've got a poor internet connection or have delays. Another potential issue is poor audio quality due to a low-quality microphone as well as slow internet speed. Lastly, if you don't invest time in a proper webcam, your presentation will be glitchy and blurry.

However, with the right equipment, you'll be able to deliver your webinar without running into any of the above issues.

In this post, we'll cover the essential equipment you need to host a webinar, how to choose the best tools, and optional items you might want to consider. You'll learn the basics on how to set up a webinar. 

Essential Equipment and Tools You'll Need to Run a Professional Webinar

Once you've got your webinar idea and your webinar slide deck, you'll need a few tools to set up and run a professional webinar. This includes:

  • webinar platform
  • laptop or a desktop computer
  • microphone
  • webcam
  • fast internet connection

Now that you know the essentials you'll need, let's cover them more in-depth below.

How to Choose Your Webinar Platform

Webinar platforms come in many shapes and sizes. Some of the popular options include GoToWebinar, WebinarJam, WebinarNinja, Cisco WebEx, Facebook, and YouTube Live, and many others. The final choice will depend on your budget as well as on the number of attendees and the features you need. But there are some things you need to keep in mind before deciding on your platform of choice.

WebinarJam

In particular, you’ll want to ensure your chosen webinar platform offers the following features that'll help you during the preparation stage:

  • social promotion so you can promote your webinar on your social media platforms
  • sign up page that allows people not only to register for the webinar but also to share it after registration
  • the ability to send reminders and notifications to ensure your registered users show up on time
  • the ability to capture email addresses so you can stay in touch with your audience
  • tech support for both you as the webinar presenter and end users or participants to ensure they encounter no issues

Next up, make sure your webinar platform has the necessary features to deliver your webinar. This includes:

  • The ability to share your slide deck and your screen so your audience can see you and your presentation.
  • Polls and surveys to maximize audience engagement and that also allow you to see if you need to adjust your presentation so attendees aren't bored and leave.
  • The ability to upload your webinar material such as any slides, photos, or movies, before the webinar. This will improve your webinar performance and playback rate.
  • The ability to add guests, experts, and co-hosts as this can make your webinar more interactive and more successful
  • Support for external platforms so you can add social interaction, export video, create embeddable videos, and more

Finally, you want to make sure your webinar platform provides features that'll help you repurpose your webinar content and follow up with your attendees. Look for features such as:

  • The ability to download video and upload to various social media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube.
  • The ability to repeat the session to allow people to see parts they missed, allow attendees that didn't attend to catch a replay, or simply accommodate an international audience.
  • The ability to export a list of registered users so you can add them to your email list or CRM software and follow up with them.
  • Statistics so you can measure the performance of your webinar.

A good idea is to ask your colleagues or peers for webinar software recommendation and to do a little online research so you can compare different platforms. You’ll also want to ensure your chosen platform offers an SSL secured connection and a presenter panel that will help you share the slides and interact with your audience at the same time. Finally, don't forget that almost all of the platforms offer a free trial to take advantage of that and test them out before making your final decision.

General Computer Setup

It goes without saying that you'll need a computer to set up and run a webinar. However, that doesn't mean you've got to go out and buy a brand-new computer right at this very moment. Given constant technological advancements, most modern computers should be able to run a webinar presentation. Here are a few key things to check on your computer:

  • Make sure your computer supports 16:9 resolution as it is the most widely used. This will prevent webinar playback from being distorted later on and allow your webinar to be uploaded to platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and others.
  • Use your computer settings to adjust resolution or use SwitchResX on a Mac to fine-tune the resolution of your screen. For PC, use built-in or advanced settings in your graphics card driver.
  • Having a separate and quality graphics card as well as enough RAM (at least 4GB) is important because you'll be screen sharing slides, streaming video, and potentially encoding the video.

How to Choose the Right Microphone

Audio quality matters. If people can't hear you, chances are they'll drop out and abandon the webinar. As such, you need to ensure you choose a quality microphone and reduce any audio interferences.

Microphone options
Choose a quality microphone and reduce any audio interferences when hosting a webinar. (Image source: Envato Elements)

1. Microphone Options

When it comes to microphones, you've got several options:

  1. The headset microphone is one of the most affordable options and a great choice if you're not going to be on camera. It produces the most consistent audio and you can choose between a wireless or Bluetooth and wired microphone.
  2. Classic microphone with a USB connection allows you to connect to any computer. Look for a microphone that has a mute switch and audio controls that give you more options and greater control over your audio. By choosing a microphone with those features, you can easily mute your microphone if you need to as well as adjust volume control, audio pickup pattern, and more.
  3. Lavalier microphone is a popular choice for professional presenters. It's great for picking up the sound and produces consistent audio. However, many lavalier microphones use a three-pin XLR connection, which needs an additional device to connect it to your computer or another device.
  4. Lastly, you can opt for a boom microphone that uses a standard microphone with a boom arm. The benefit of this type of microphone is that it can be hidden so your audience doesn't see the wires. Additionally, a boom microphone doesn't pick up sounds from a table accidentally moving or from tapping or touching the table.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preference as well as your budget. If you’re just getting started, a headset microphone or a USB microphone is a good choice. As you get more comfortable with webinars and start producing more of them, you might want to consider investing in a lavalier microphone or a boom microphone.

2. How to Minimize Audio Interference

Another important thing to take care of is audio interference. You can minimize it greatly with the following tips:

  • Remove any cell phones from the area. They'll transmit information as they start to pull down data such as emails and notifications, which will cause audio interference.
  • Make sure your microphone cable isn't crossing over other cables, which can cause a hum or buzz in the audio signal. If you can't avoid cables crossing, make sure they cross at a 90-degree angle as this will reduce the interference significantly.
  • Remove connected devices and drives as they've got fans that can add background noise.
  • Consider using an audio reinforcement such as ridge foam that'll eliminate unwanted sounds and echoes. You can also invest in a windscreen that goes in front of your microphone, which can help you eliminate plosive sounds and the pop effect.

How to Select a Camera for Your Webinar

Chances are your computer has a built-in webcam, whether it's a laptop or desktop computer. However, a built-in camera isn't the best choice for your webinar presentation.

For starters most built-in webcams use auto-focus mode, which means you may not be perfectly in focus. On top of that you don't have a lot of control over its position, which can result in some unflattering shots.

Camera
The camera you select for your webinar is important. (Image source: Envato Elements)

However, if your built-in webcam is all you've got, you can use a box, a standing desk or a couple of books to lift up your laptop and get it closer to your face

A step up from your built-in webcam is a USB webcam. Most USB webcams come with control settings so you can adjust zoom, video quality, and more. What's more, some of them also include a thread mount so you can adjust the camera's height. Ultimately, this improves your eye contact with your audience.

Another option to consider is a VR Camera. This type of camera will provide your audience with a more engaging experience and is especially useful if you've got several co-hosts or panelists on your webinar. Keep in mind that the VR camera is also more costly.  

If you've got a large budget, you can also consider using a professional video camera. While this will give you a lot of control over the position of the camera and quality of your video, bear in mind that you'll need an extra device to convert the camera’s signal into one recognized by your computer.

Webcamoid

Finally, you can use tools such as Webcamoid to adjust even more camera settings. With software like Webcamoid, you can add effects such as black and white video, posterize effect, or the ability to superimpose your webcam on extra media sources, adjust brightness and contrast, and more.

Internet Connection

The last piece of the puzzle is your internet connection. Ideally, you want to make sure you've got a fast internet connection to ensure your presentation is clear, your video is crisp, and your audio has no interruptions.

Similar to the other equipment choices above, you've got several options:

  • An ethernet connection is the best choice. Using a physical ethernet cable will give you the fastest connection and no fluctuations.

  • WiFi is the most widely used type of connection, however, it is prone to fluctuation as people join and leave as well as devices connect and disconnect to your network.

  • A cellular network is another option to consider, which should only be used as a backup since the signal quality may not be the same in all areas.

In most cases, your chosen webinar platform will have recommendations on the necessary download and upload speed. It usually ranges between a minimum of 4 Mbps and an optimum speed of 15 Mbps. You can use a tool like SpeedTest or SpeedOfMe to test how fast your internet connection is.

SpeedTest

There are some additional things to keep in mind to minimize the data transfer and improve your internet connection quality as well:

  • Turn off data syncing for services like Dropbox, Google Drive, photo transfers, and similar.
  • Sign out or disable utilities that use the Internet such as Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Stop any data transfers such as network copies, downloads and uploads, and video streaming services such as Netflix.
  • Reduce the number of connected devices, including tablets, smart TVs, and phones.

Choose the Right Tools to Set Up and Run a Professional Webinar

If you want your webinar to be a true success, don’t ignore the technical, backend setup. With the right tools and the tips above, you'll be able to avoid potential issues with your webinar and deliver a stellar presentation that is sure to wow your audience.

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