When done correctly, webinars are a tired and true way to engage, inform, and generate quality leads for your organization. And, while there are plenty of resources available that can guide you in creating an effective webinar, most gloss over an important detail; your webinar needs to be conversational to make it an unforgettable and valuable experience for participants. You can make your webinars more conversational.

To make your webinars more conversational, start with the following five tips.

1. Use AI to establish audience connect.

Although it may seem like a recent development, artificial intelligence has been around since 1956. And, considering that AI will contribute $13 trillion to the global economy by 2030, there’s no denying this AI is here to stay. The reason? It’s completely changed the business world for the better — including webinars.

By tapping into the power of artificial intelligence, you can personalize the webinar experience from start to finish. For example, you can use AI to determine everything from which topic your audience wants to discuss, their preferred format, the speakers you should invite, the ideal date and time, and how long it should run. AI can also be used to reduce friction in the event awareness and registration process by orchestrating conversations via platforms like Drift.

More promising, AI allows you to get to know your audience in advance so that you can build some rapport with them personally, so that they feel comfortable asking questions or adding to the discussion. Let’s say that an attendee jumped on a couple of minutes before and you know that they live in Seattle. You could discuss the weather, the Mariners or Seahawks, or what your favorite restaurant is in the Emerald City.

This technology can also analyze your webinar once it’s concluded to provide information like when the audience was most engaged and which participants hung around until the end. It will then make smart suggestions on how to improve your next event, like who to invite and how much time should be allocated for the Q&A portion.

2. Kick things off with an icebreaker.

In a previous Drift article, Mark Kilens suggests that you begin the event a couple of minutes early. This way, you can“Break the ice, talk to the audience through the chat feature on your webinar platform.” You can also ask your audience where they’re calling from, what their favorite food is, or what they’re most interested in learning.

“One question should do the trick,” adds Kilens. And, don’t forget to, “Call people out by name and let them know you know they’re there.”

Sounds simple. But, this lets the person know that the webinar is going to be conversational. Kilens also recommends that you drive this point home by creating slides that say “Today’s Conversation.”

3. Tell a story.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? Whether if it were cave paintings, The Odyssey, or The Avengers: Endgame we’re just hardwired to react to stories. And, that’s because of how our brains respond to stories.

Unlike slides, stories activate the language processing parts in our brains and light up our sensory cortex. They can also “plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions into the listeners’ brains.” But how can you use that to make your webinar more conversational?

For starters, think of yourself as a storyteller and recall a personal experience at the beginning. It’s an effective way to hook attendees and emotionally connect with them. Next, identify a common problem that your audience has, think of this as the antagonist of your tale, and what the solution is. The answer is the product or service that flies in and saves the day. Finally, provide a clear call-to-action so that they can see how great the future is when the big bad has been defeated.

You probably learned that back in your high school English class. But, it works because we’re wired to think in terms of cause and effect. That’s why we’re continually creating narratives in our daily actions and conversations. It’s been found that “Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

4. Don’t stick to the script.

You want to prepare for your webinar to make sure the audio is working and that the webinar will not exceed the time allocated. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t mix things up a bit.

For example, you could scrap the slides and script and host a discussion-style webinar or a full-blown Q&A. Doing so will keep the event less formal and more conversational while still providing valuable information to attendees.

If you want to stay on track, however, you should poll your audience or create a landing page where they can vote on what topics they want to be discussed. This way, you know exactly what they’re most interested in and can plan accordingly.

5. Keep the audience engaged.

I think we’ve all attended an online event where you put yourself on mute and focused on something else like email. The problem is that when your audience is disengaged, they’re not going to be a part of the conversation.

To avoid this, keep your audience engaged by:

  • Encouraging them to turn on their cameras so that you can if they’re not paying attention.
  • Breaking the content into easy-to-digest bite-sized pieces.
  • Planning for interaction, such as a Q&A at the end, and breaks.
  • Doing frequent check-ins to make sure everyone is still attentive.
  • Skipping the industry jargon and speaking plain English so that they can understand what you’re saying.
  • Adding a little humor and personality to help attendees relax.
  • Quizzing the audience several times throughout the webinar.

That’s by no means an extensive list. But, the list above is a great starting point for you to get your audience to be more alert and interactive during your webinar. And, as a result, they’ll be more likely to participate in the discussion.