Yesterday I was looking at someone’s PowerPoint deck, offering some quick feedback on ways she could improve it for her upcoming webinar.  (Unsolicited feedback, thank you very much. I just can’t keep my big mouth shut.)  There were 18 slides, each loaded with texty bullets.

I suggested she triple or even quadruple the number of slides by breaking all of that out into a single concept, idea or factoid per slide.

“They told me I’d have enough time for only ten slides.”

You can bet that “they” meant she has roughly ten minutes on the webinar agenda.  Maybe fifteen.  And “they” think that a speaker should unveil one new slide every 1-2 minutes.

Webinar audiences are not goldfish. They’re worse.

You’ve probably heard that when it comes to media (radio, TV, Web, or whatever gadget you’re holding) people have an attention span shorter than a goldfish’s.*  I’m not saying you must offer new visual stimuli every 7.3 seconds during your webinar, of course.  But you do need to dangle something interesting for your participants to look at before they feel an impulse to swim off to Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram.

So go on, swing a sledgehammer at those bullet-ridden slides.  Break them up and streamline the text to just a few key words, numbers or images.  Verbosity belongs in your webinar script and handout, not on the screen.

*Some fishy footnotes

  • A study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs in 2000 showed the average soundbite length for the presidential candidates on the network nightly news has dropped to 7.3 seconds, a 26% decline since 1988 (9.8 seconds) and an 83% drop from the 1968 presidential election.   And last year NPR reported that the average length of a soundbite in broadcast news stories is a little under nine seconds.  Translation?  Soundbites are shrinking to match our current attention span.  (Or perhaps the media itself has attention deficit disorder.)
  • Peter Shankman once claimed that consumers have a 2.6 second attention span, but I’m pretty sure he was exaggerating.
  • It takes about nine seconds to say something that’s 140 characters in length.
  • Researchers with too much time on their hands believe that the attention span of a goldfish lasts 3-9 seconds.  Goldfish have a memory span of three months, though.


So there I was in Cleveland, ready to deliver a 15-minute Fireside Chat about webinars at the first Content Marketing World event. And we ran out of time.

I worked pretty danged hard on that presentation. Thus I decided to record it — all 13 minutes! — so you could watch it for yourself. (Refresh your browser if it doesn’t load immediately.) Enjoy!

Thanks to Michael Goodman for lending his voice, too.


What about kinetic typography?

August 4, 2011

That’s a fancy term for MOVING TEXT. I’m on a nonstop quest to make webinars more engaging (“More cowbell!”), so I’m exploring stuff like animation and kinetic typography.  I came across this example. Why share it here?  Because it’s cool — and it’s friggin’ hilarious! Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo. Typography Animation project for […]

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Honor the TED Commandments

May 17, 2011

I love that I can watch amazing presentations on   The speakers always inspire me… and spark a bit of consternation, too.  Could someone deliver a webinar as compellingly as a TED talk? Take a look at the “stone tablet” that you will receive if you’re ever invited to step onto a TED stage. […]

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Webinars are only good for… what?

February 23, 2011

In case you thought webinars were only about software or social media… here is a sample of the webinar topics I saw tweeted this afternoon: Functional oncology Spring construction forecast EAB info for homeowners Electrostatic control Negotiating a deal through email The virtualization blame game Virtual assistant fee strategies Digital teaching Visual meetings Homotoxicology, detoxification […]

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A List of Lists: Webinar Platforms

January 7, 2011

I’ve used several web conferencing platforms, but I don’t have the time to evaluate everything available in this market.  At last count, there were 117 out there! Good thing someone else is keeping an eye on the webinar space for me (and you). These websites [sort of] evaluate webinar tools. I put the most useful […]

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Production Tip: Do Your Webinar Backwards

October 8, 2010

“Backwards, she says? Has she gone nuts?”  No, I’m pretty sure I’m not crazy. At least not in this area. I’ll explain why and when this approach works, and I’ll suggest a process if you want to try it yourself.  First, you can take a gander at a recent example that Killer Webinars produced for […]

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