jump to navigation

5 Things That Can Go Wrong During a Webinar – and What To Do August 8, 2011

Posted by christinapappas in Content Marketing.

Now I don’t want to go all sounding like the grim reaper but there is something I didn’t mention in my post Webinars: How to Execute Them and Drown Your Sales Team in Leads and that is that things can and will go wrong.

Last week I shared a few laughs with Lisa Gerber @SpinSucks about webinars. During the conversation, we discovered that we had some things in common including the fact that we both run webinar programs (she for Spin Sucks PRO and me for my last company) and we can also both tell you that things will go wrong. Power outages happen, speaker’s don’t show up, phones cut out and schedules are mixed up.

So in the post, I just want to prepare you for the worst so you can start envisioning these scenarios happening to you (sorry but you gotta do it to be effective) so you can build the best contingency plan ever.

1.       Scheduling Mishaps

Let’s admit we all mix up time zones, months, who is calling whom, etc. This may happen on your webinar. I can give you an example. For a majority of the webinars I ran, the audience was global so we constantly had issues with timezones. You see we used GoToWebinar which only allows you to post 1 time and timezone on the registration page. Even though the system recognizes your location when you are adding the event to your calendar, my audience was constantly trying to calculate how many hours ahead or behind ET was from them. Needless to say, I had a lot of emails asking what the heck the time was in their location before, during and even after the event.

There are a couple things you can do about this. First, use your own registration page so you can list as many timezones as you want, or a link to a global clock to help people calculate the time difference, then either load all the registrations into GoToWebinar (or whatever system you choose) or send an email with the link to login. Another option is to use the registration page provided and break up your email invite list and modify the timezone on the email invite itself so that people can refer to that.

2.       The Speaker Doesn’t Show

This is definite cause for panic attack! I was on a webinar for a recent company and after the introductions where the speaker was present, he dropped off somehow. And he NEVER CAME BACK! What do you do? First, be honest with your eager audience. They know things happen, cell phones lose service, emergencies come up and you cannot exactly hang up on everyone to go figure out where your speaker went. However, they are expecting to learn about whatever it is you promised to share with them during the event and they are waiting on you.

My advice is to alert the audience by saying something like ‘it appears as though the speaker has lost service (most believable) so let’s give him/her 5 minutes to rejoin us. If we are not able to re-connect with them at this time, we apologize and will send you each an email with a rescheduled date/time. Thank you for joining us and our apologies again.’ On the bright side, they just blocked out an hour of their day that is now free for them to catch up on other items. As for me and my speaker that never came back? He was in fact on a mobile phone and did in fact lose service. We recorded the webinar as soon as we re-connected (on landlines) with no audience and sent everyone the recording with the slides.

3.       You Lost Power

I don’t know about you but this is my worst fear but is seemingly the easiest to fix as long as you are prepared. Most of the time, we use a landline phone just to protect us from bad reception. Continue to do this but have your mobile phone close at hand in the event you lose power and the ability to use your land phone. Also, ensure you are using a laptop to run the webinar and that the battery is fully charged. If your building is under construction, why take the risk? Go somewhere else like Panera bread or McDonald’s – everyone has WiFi these days.

4.       Bad Sound Quality

How many of you have run webinars and get these chat messages that say ‘I cant hear anything’, ‘the sound is so bad’, ‘the speaker is breaking up,’ ‘tell the speaker to speak up’ ? Anyone? This is the most frustrating thing about running a webinar because it’s so hard to control. Seemingly impossible! Because a majority of the time it’s not even the phone system you are on, pitch of the speaker’s voice or your reception. It’s the webinar provider’s line. How do you explain this to your audience?

To deal with this situation, I will respond to everyone and send a note saying we are working on it and we apologize. It has also been my experience that even the worst sound ever heard on a webinar doesn’t carry over to the recording. Not sure why this is, but the recording is usually clear. So in this case, you could suggest that people wait for the recording to ensure the best sound quality.

5.       You Hit the ‘End Webinar’ Button by Accident

Seems pretty silly huh? Saying ‘who would do that?’ in your head? Well, I witnessed this firsthand during a recent webinar. In fact, it happened about 5 minutes into the presentation so I just had to add it to the list in the event it happens to one of you. So what do you do? Your audience was just technically hung up on, screens closed and the webinar link and password everyone has in their inbox is now saying ‘webinar has ended’. Ey caramba!

As the organizer, you can re-open the webinar (at least with GoToWebinar anyways) so all your audience needs to do is log back in after you have done so. When this happened to me, we lost over 100 people that never logged back in but there is really nothing you can do. I did mention the error on our part in the follow-up email communications that contained the recording (people knew something happened, why not come clean?). Also, try and send out a message to everyone who registered as quickly as possible asking them to log back in and include the link again.

We know technology is fun but sometimes it’s not. But thank goodness people know and understand this. It’s probably one of the best examples of commonality we have among a massive population. Just be honest and be prepared.

One last tip: in the event that you reserve 15 minutes of your webinar to answer Q&A yet not one single person asks a question, have some ready to go.

What’s your webinar horror story?



1. Rachel Rodenborg - August 8, 2011

I have a good one to add to your list. We were in the middle of a webinar when the fire alarm went off in our building! We ended up having to leave the building–thankfully, just a false alarm. The good news is that we were able to let our audience know and they hung on the line while we left and came back. (The blaring sirens in the background were pretty convincing, I think.) Stressful though.

christinapappas - August 8, 2011

Hi Rachel,

That is a good one! Good thing you knew it was a false alarm so you could alert your audience. I am sure if anything, they were just worried for your safety. To avoid this from happening in the future, what I have done is make sure everyone is aware of the date and time of my webinar from the CEO to the HR Manager to the Sales team so that when tests like these are scheduled, they know there is a conflict and can either try to move the date of the test or let me know so I can move my webinar elsewhere.

Thanks for sharing your story and glad to see it had a happy ending!

2. Lisa Gerber - August 8, 2011

It was pure therapy to read this post. We need to start a support group for webinar leaders! So nice not to be alone in this. It never fails; I have minor heart failure every time we start a webinar. But things happen and it’s all in the response; be honest about what’s happening.

I’ll add: check the technical details and DEFINITELY do a practice run. That way you’ll know a day in advance that gotomeeting, for example doesn’t support keynote.

We also get a small percentage of attendees that can’t download the software due to JavaScript errors or whatever. It’s g good idea to ask them to log in, in advance so they have time to troubleshoot on their end. 🙂

christinapappas - August 8, 2011

You have to be honest no matter what the situation is! First step down the path of lying and your going to end up with bigger problems than whatever you just experienced during your webinar! And yes, we are all human so we know things happen.

Thanks for adding these extra tips! Practice is essential and helps to iron our the kinks (like practicing passing the presenter baton and testing sound quality).

3. Meghan - July 25, 2013

Good post! We will be linking to this particularly
great content on our site. Keep up the great writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: