If you've noticed an increase in the number of webinars being marketed today, there's a good reason -- webinars can be a profitable platform, but only if they're done correctly. There's a big difference between hosting a webinar and hosting a profitable webinar.

For the past few years I've hosted or have been a guest on several hundred webinars, teaching people a variety of things from LinkedIn marketing to how to start a business from scratch

Those who are on the fence about producing webinars, ask yourself this, "Would my business benefit by educating prospects on the benefits and necessity of my product or service?" If the answer is yes, hosting webinars is a must. 

I've made my share of mistakes along the way, but I've also learned a good deal about what it takes to engage an audience and convert someone's interest into action. Here are few ways to improve your webinars:

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1. Create a strong 'hook' statement. The first thing your audience needs to hear is a reminder of what they'll gain from your webinar. This is called your "hook" statement. To create a strong hook, focus on the benefits you're providing. Don't tell them what they're learning but rather what they'll gain from implementing your advice.

2. Improve your story-telling skills. Increase retention even further by following up your hook statement with an engaging story. But good story telling requires more than simply reciting a chain of events. It's about presentation.

To improve your own presentation skills, consider joining a group or organization like Toastmasters, which aims to help people develop public speaking and leadership skills. The return on the time you invest in participating in a group like this can be huge, as your story-telling skills improve and your sales hopefully grow as a result.

3. Practice (out loud). Executing a successful webinar is a combination of planning and practice. A lot of people forget the second part of that equation and end up stumbling through their presentation.

When you say the words out loud and hear what you wrote down, it can give you additional ideas about where you can improve and which parts are strongest. Also pay attention to the attitude and energy you're projecting. If you come across as boring or monotone you're going to lose your audience.

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4. Have a backup plan. No matter how much you plan and prepare, things can still go wrong. Ask yourself the following questions:

• What would I do if my computer crashed? (I keep an extra laptop on standby.)
• What if my guest falls through due to an unforeseen emergency? (Have a backup presentation on the same topic, along with a free bonus to give the audience for showing up. The last thing you want to do is a cancel a scheduled webinar.)
• What if my site crashes as people are making purchases? (Have a PayPal link ready or follow up over e-mail with a fixed link.)

5. Pitch with confidence, and offer a bonus. If you're selling something at the end of your webinar, make your pitch with confidence. There's no reason to feel embarrassed about presenting your product or service if it solves a problem. 

Also consider packaging your product with a bonus -- an exclusive incentive which they'll only get if they act now. This can be an additional product or an exclusive question-and-answer session with you. This allows your offer to become time-sensitive and inspires customers to take action.

What tips do you have for hosting great webinars? Let us know in the comments below.