What equipment do you need to run a successful webinar? I’ve got you covered! Let’s cut right to the chase. There are four key things you need to make sure you look and sound great, and your attendees have a great experience throughout your webinar:
Let’s dig into them!
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Okay, you could do a webinar composed entirely of slides (see the software chapter), but how exciting would that be? It's important to show up on camera, especially at the beginning when you welcome people in. People want to see who they’re learning from. So give the people what they want—your face!
That means you're going to need a webcam.
Now, if you’re really afraid of putting your face on camera during your webinar, all is not lost. You can still make it work. Yes, there are successful, high-converting webinars out there that go right into slides from the start. But if you want to spur engagement and help people get to know you, I truly believe in showing up on screen for at least part of your webinar.
There’s a good chance your computer (especially if it’s a laptop) already comes with a webcam, and that can work—but it’s not ideal. Built-in webcams are fine for things like Zoom meetings, but a webinar is an event, and you’re going to want a little more in terms of picture quality.
That’s why I highly recommend investing in something a little nicer—not just for webinars, but for any video recording or web conferencing. The camera I’d recommend at more of an entry level is the Logitech C920. If you’re willing to spend a little more, I suggest the Logitech BRIO 4k.
If you already own a high-quality DSLR camera that you want to use as your webcam, there’s an option for you. The Elgato Cam Link 4k USB capture device lets you hook up your DSLR to your computer (as long as the camera has an HDMI output).
[Note: As of the writing of this chapter in fall 2020, some of these devices were out of stock or retailing at costs that put them out of “budget” range. Unfortunately, the rise of online video activity as a result of the 2020 COVID lockdown led to markups and stocking issues on a lot of audio and video tech.]
If you’re planning to be on camera during your webinar (and I hope you are!), good lighting goes a very long way. Who doesn’t want to look their best to their audience?
Thankfully, good lighting is not that difficult to achieve. And it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve got a short video on lighting best practices for you below. It explains a few easy but effective ways to get great lighting for your webinar (and any other indoor video recording you want to do).
Caleb Wojcik, my videographer, is a guest on this video, and he shares some awesome tips on how to use things you already have access to, like windows and other room lighting sources, to achieve that perfect glow.
For example, when your face is on screen during your webinar, you want the light in front of you, not behind you. If you happen to be facing a window and have your webcam pointing back at you, that's going to give you the best wash on your face. Camera positioning is also really important—check out the video to learn more.
Of course, lighting can get much fancier (and yes, pricier), but if you’re ready to take things to the next level, check out the lighting setup in my broadcast studio at patflynn.com/livesetup.
One more resource for you—this episode of AskPat where I show you how to use an unused space to create an honest-to-goodness video studio, including some more lighting ideas:
A Fast, Stable Internet Connection
Internet speed is a massively important component of having a great webinar because you’ll be streaming live and probably using a lot of bandwidth.
One of the cool things about Demio, my preferred webinar platform, is that it will check your internet speed for you and let you know if it’s adequate to run your webinar smoothly. If you get a lousy grade from the Demio test, it might be worth talking to your internet service provider (ISP) to find out about upgrading to a higher service tier that provides more bandwidth, measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Thankfully, there are a couple of other factors you can look at to ensure you provide the best webinar experience with high-quality audio and video and no freezing or glitches that will raise your audience’s blood pressure.
The first are two “low-hanging fruit” steps that seem simple but can make a big difference in your attendees’ webinar experience. First, quit all unnecessary apps on your computer before you start your webinar. Second, make sure no one else on your network is using a ton of bandwidth, like watching a 4K video on Netflix (or presenting another webinar). This is especially important if you work from home, where your internet connection may not be as fast as a typical office network.
Speaking of internet speed, even if you have a fast connection, it also needs to be stable. A great and simple way to improve the stability of your internet is to ditch the wireless and wire your computer to your router during the webinar. Invest in some ethernet cable and run a line from your internet router to your computer. Some newer Mac laptops don’t have an Ethernet port, but you can purchase an Ethernet–USB adapter.
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Finally, even if you have a fast, stable internet connection, your computer hardware can still hold things back. When it comes to the processing hardware inside your computer, the faster the better. I’ve had trouble on things like a MacBook Air, where the processors are just not powerful enough for streaming live video. The more powerful your computer, the better chance you're going to have a smoother webinar experience.
It's not that you can't host a webinar with an underpowered computer, but it’s going to be suboptimal. You’ll have more lag, blurrier video, and even glitching and freezing. I definitely suggest switching to a wired internet connection and upgrading your internet service first, but if you’ve tried those steps and things still aren’t running smoothly, it might be time to upgrade your hardware.
Audio Equipment (A Good Microphone)
In addition to video equipment, choosing the right audio equipment is really important. The better your audio gear, the better the quality of your broadcast.
The microphone I currently recommend is the Samson Q2U. I love it for its great sound quality and because it connects directly to your computer via USB. If you head over to kit.co/patflynn, you can check out my “Beginner Podcasting Kit (That Sounds PRO),” which includes the Q2U mic, plus a boom arm and a shockmount to go with the mic. These two extra items will help you get the most out of the Q2U. The boom arm lets you easily adjust the placement of the microphone, and the shockmount suspends your microphone “in the air” using bands that absorb any unwanted desk noise or computer frequencies that could make their way into your webinar.
The AKG Lyra is another awesome streaming and live video microphone that sits nicely on your desk (as opposed to needing a separate stand). It has aesthetic similarities to the popular Blue Yeti, but it sounds much better and it's much more economical, too. What's nice is because it sits on the table, it's out of your face and it can just be sort of next to you instead of right in front of you, like some other podcast mics.
If you don't have access to those microphones, you can use your computer’s built-in microphone, or a set of cheap earbuds (the kind with a built-in mic). I don’t recommend either of these options, though. If you have to go with one of them, I’d choose the ear buds, as the microphone can be placed closer to your face to provide a bit more vocal resonance. This is going to be a much better option than your built-in laptop mic, which will pick up a lot of room noise and sound a lot more tinny.
Bottom line: Be willing to spend a little to upgrade your microphone, because it will make a big difference in terms of how well people can hear you—and how much they enjoy listening to your webinar.
The Next Level of Webinar Equipment
In terms of your webinar equipment, the stuff we’ve talked about in this chapter is really all you need: a high-quality camera, solid internet, a good mic, and decent lighting, and you’re well equipped to put together a top-notch webinar.
But if the entry level isn’t cutting it for you, there’s still plenty of room to grow when it comes to your webinar equipment. If you want to step up your game, check out patflynn.com/livesetup, where you can see all the gear I’m currently using in my studio to get a high-quality, broadcast feel on all of my webinars and YouTube videos. In fact, as of the writing of this guide, I’d been streaming live every day on my YouTube channel for half a year, so I’ve been putting all this equipment to good use!
Now that you know the most important elements that go into creating a great webinar, how to choose your topic, and what software and hardware will help you deliver a smooth experience, let’s shift gears and talk about what it takes to actually get people to show up. That’s right: Webinar marketing is up next!