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Technology and You/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/JULY08/images/TechYou

Host Your Own Webinars

Justin Zimmerman loves an audience. Ever since he started his real estate career three years ago, he’s looked for out-of-the-ordinary ways to use his outgoing personality to connect with customers and prospects. So, when he discovered the Webinar—a technology that lets him hold an unlimited number of seminars and presentations over the Internet for $50 a month—he knew he’d found an ideal forum in which to do just that. “I’ve been doing Webinars [on topics such as short sales, staying positive and interviews with top producers], which is really the concept of using the Web to give seminars, every day for about six months,” says Zimmerman, a sales associate with Florida Professional Real Estate in Fort Lauderdale. He says between 60 and 70 people usually participate each time he holds a Webinar.

“They go beyond e-mail and blogging to give me a way to express myself to a large scope of people fairly inexpensively online.”

In a Webinar, the presenter typically speaks via a standard telephone line and participants listen in and watch the presentation via screen sharing on their computer monitors. There are several Web conferencing tools from which to choose, but Zimmerman uses GoToMeeting because he feels it offers the best value for his investment. Web video programs in real time—where you can view presenters live and online—are available, but they are expensive and require an annual contract.

Here’s how his Webinars work:

1. Create Easy Access
To start using the service, Zimmerman created an account (by choosing a username and password), entered his credit card information and downloaded the program to his computer. Within minutes of registering, he was able to start hosting Webinars. “I can do the Webinars from the office or from the privacy of my own home,” he says. 

The program integrates with Microsoft Outlook, so Zimmerman can send each attendee an e-mail with a link he or she will click on to join the Webinar.

To hear the audio, attendees must be conferenced in via telephone. “Participants are given a number to call, as well as an access code,” says Zimmerman, adding that the entire process takes seconds. The visual component of the Webinar is viewed online at GoToMeeting.com. The link he sends participants via e-mail takes them directly to a page where they will download a one-time automatic plug-in. Seconds later, the software is installed on their computer and they will be able to join the Webinar for free.

“You set up the call as the organizer, and you mute the audience and not the presenters,” Zimmerman adds.

2. Get the Word Out
Several days before each Webinar, Zimmerman calls the people he wants to invite. “I say I’m calling to let them know I’m putting on a free Webinar for all of my clients. Then I say, ‘Let me get your e-mail address, and we’ll put you on the VIP list, you’ll get an e-mail from me and some other tips along the way.’ Once they’ve said yes, they’ve given me permission to contact them on this new medium.

“Your best source of new business is old business,” he adds. “Leaking little bits and pieces [of information] along the way will help you build a marketing campaign for your Webinars. People want to be on the new cutting edge. They’ll tell their friends, ‘Hey, Justin hosted a Webinar and I was part of that.’”

3. Present Meaningful Content
Topics in which Zimmerman is an expert, about which he is passionate or about which prospects want to learn, are the focal points of his Webinars. Recent examples include interviews with top real estate performers, “Short-sales stories from the street,” foreclosures, “Winning the game of real estate living the life you love” and an interview with the National Association of Realtors®’ chief economist.

“Let’s say you farm a specific neighborhood,” says Zimmerman. “You could [pass out] fliers promoting your Webinar series where you’ll talk about what sold, where the market is heading, interest rates and so forth. Then you could bring an economist in [on the call] and have him or her take a look at the neighborhood as its own microeconomy.”

GotToMeeting doesn’t support Web cams, so Zimmerman displays his visuals in a PowerPoint presentation.

“You can reach outside your local area to procure buyers and sellers, or use Webinars as an intrabusiness tool to help make what you’re already doing quick and smoother,” he adds.

4. Encourage Interaction
Zimmerman stresses the importance of not falling into the infomercial trap when hosting a Webinar. “You can’t sit there and tell people what you think about this or that without input from them,” he says. “And you can’t be too aggressive. They’re holding the telephone up to their ear, so you need to be more intimate and talk to your audience as if it’s one person.”

GoToMeeting has a chat box, where people can type their questions. “You can see who’s on your call, and if someone has a question you can bring him or her on the line to speak,” he says. “Choose your words wisely and softly. Every five minutes or so you have to take a break or pause.”

Inviting a co-host is another way to create dialogue, Zimmerman says. “Find someone else in the real estate world, such as a lawyer, title company or insurance person who has a similar passion.”

5. Have Fun
Spontaneity is the key to a successful Webinar, says Zimmerman. “Don’t be afraid to try something silly and have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, the audience will sense that. When mistakes happen, play with them like you’re a comedian on stage. Let’s say the UPS guy shows up while you’re in the middle of your Webinar and you have to sign for something. That happened to me once, and it was funny because I made it part of the Webinar. Bring yourself to life, and [display] your unique value proposition and you will flourish. The art of this is that anyone can start doing Webinars. Just be sure to disable your call waiting (via *70) so you don’t get a beep during your Webinar.”

To get Zimmerman’s quick-start guide to profitable webinar secrets, go to http://realtorwebinarsecrets.com.

This column, designed to offer examples of how salespeople and brokers are using technology in their offices, won first place in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association. The column is for general information only. Opinions expressed here don’t necessarily reflect an endorsement of the views by Florida Realtor magazine or the Florida Association of Realtors®.