Recently, I was invited to attend a webinar hosted by a company called Advance Your Reach (AYR), which helps speakers get their key messages to resonate in a crowded marketplace. Initially, I wasn't sure I'd bother with it; a lot of webinars I've attended have felt like infomercials. (I don't think I'm alone in this: 60 percent of people who register for webinars do not attend.)

However, public speaking is a 2019 priority for me, so I decided to take a chance. Happily, I quickly discovered that Advance Your Reach has figured out a winning formula for webinars, delivering value both for the company and for attendees.

For a start, the company's CEO, Pete Vargas, led the webinar--rather than some salesperson. Then, for two engaging hours, he demonstrated AYR's process and shared its methodology and templates. He concluded with just a one-minute pitch about how viewers could get more from the company.

I immediately signed up for a workshop, but at the same time I realized that any company could get real value by running webinars the AYR way. So, I reached out to Pete to learn how he made webinars a top source of leads for his business. Here is what I discovered.

1. Give something to get something.

It is important to give value, not just try to get something from your audience. Pete used his webinar to give the audience tools and strategies they could use immediately; he didn't focus on trying to acquire future business.

Giving an audience something valuable during a webinar can build trust with potential customers, making them see you are interested in more than a quick sale. The law of reciprocity is a guiding influence here: You need to give something to get something in return.

2. Tell a story.

It is tempting to use a webinar as a commercial to draw in potential customers, but it is better to keep an audience's attention by using stories to illustrate your services. Storytelling coach Paul Smith explains why storytelling is the best way to connect with an audience: "We work with strangers. They remain strangers because we don't tell our personal stories. You have to break the cycle."

Providing real examples of how your business works is a great way to build trust and keep an audience engaged. Pete went as far as to use his method during the webinar: He got on the phone and made a pitch for a speaking engagement in real time. This kind of demonstration shows viewers how your ideas work in practice.

3. Teach, don't tease.

Some businesses use webinars as a hook to draw people into a sale, but Pete advises teaching something first to build credibility with customers. Webinars can be the first exposure somebody has to a company, and you can use that to teach the basics of what you have to offer.

You don't need to show them everything, but by providing actual lessons with clear applications, you can make potential customers interested in what else you have. This can work even better if you end with a call to action and provide a useful takeaway for the audience.  Pete told his audience to list 20 champions who would advocate for them as a speaker, giving an actionable outcome for attendees.

4. Be authentic.

Consumers can tell whether somebody believes in what he or she is selling, so use webinars to showcase your passion for your business. In his webinar, Pete talked about his personal journey with speaking, including the lessons he and his father learned from a speaker that fundamentally changed their relationship.

Personal sharing can ground a webinar in authenticity and passion. When company leaders conduct webinars themselves, rather than delegating them, they get an opportunity to share their company's mission and engage attendees in their enthusiasm.

5. Go for the soft sell.

At the end of an impactful webinar, skip the hard sell. Let the value of the webinar do the selling for you. Rather than make a big ask, close by briefly explaining how to get more involved with your business.

This makes potential customers feel comfortable and in control of the relationship, and they leave the webinar with a positive feeling about you and your firm. Pete, for example, ended his two-hour webinar with a one-minute explanation of the services his company offers, and more than 30 people asked to be contacted in the webinar chat.

Webinars can be a vital asset to your business-- if you do them the right way. Use these five step to showcase your valuable knowledge, then give your audience the chance to find out more. You might just find your best new source of business.