It will come as no surprise that webinars are one of the go-to marketing and communication channels for many organisations.
The need to work and meet remotely, easy-to-use, feature-rich video conferencing platforms, reliable internet connections and a better understanding and appreciation of the possibilities of virtual gatherings, have all contributed to the growth in the number of webinars that are held every day.
However, one of the key attributes of a successful webinar is one you won’t notice at the actual event itself: the planning.
Taking time to plan your webinar is the best way to ensure its success. Follow these 10 steps to plan the perfect webinar — every time.
We also discussed these 10 steps in a recent episode of Webinars and Wine – you can watch the full recording here
1. Consult Your Stakeholders
Spend some time with key stakeholders, including relevant staff, to plan your webinar well before you start marketing it.
With more of us attending webinars than ever before as a result of COVID-19, It’s crucial that your webinar covers the issues that are important to your attendees while meeting the goals of your own business.
If you’re running a series of webinars it’s even more important that your audience members are inspired to attend the next one — so the more opinions, thoughts, ideas and feedback you get before you start putting together your run sheet, the more successful your webinar will be.
2. Identify and Prepare Your Content
Once you’ve established the topic areas you need to cover, it’s time to gather content that provides background, highlights the problem you’re trying to solve and reinforces your solution.
Before you start creating new content, do a stock-take of the content you’ve already got.
Existing white papers, your own research, analysis, strategy documents, product information and other written content can be a good place to start.
Then take a look at what your industry is talking about. Industry and educational research papers, surveys and media reports can all be useful sources of relevant information.
Of course, it’s no use dumping a 100-page research report filled with alienating jargon into your webinar. Pull out the most relevant parts and break it down into segments and sections.
Try to incorporate graphs and high-level statistics that reinforce your point and provide a visual aid to increase engagement.
Finally, think about what specific information is missing so you can fill in the gaps with purpose-built content. Opportunities include creating gated content available to attendees only, or SEO-driven content that highlights the issues you’re focusing on, drives conversation and boosts registrations in the lead-up to an event.
Another way to maintain interest is to make sure your subject lines have impact. Use numbers, ask questions and don’t be afraid to highlight the negative results a business might face for not doing something, as opposed to just the positive results if they do.
Remember, a key question everyone at your webinar will want an answer to is: ‘What’s in it for me?’
3. Calendars, Scheduling and Branding
Getting your timing right is key to maximising attendance to any online event, especially webinars, which may also be part of a series.
A good way to boost interest is to align your webinar, or series of webinars, with a major industry or world event, the release of a major study, a convention, fair or trade show, a change in rules or regulations, or something else that will impact your clients, prospects, partners or other stakeholders.
Our research shows that mid-mornings and mid-afternoon on a Tuesday or Wednesday are the most popular times for people to attend events. If you’re running a series of webinars, consistency is key, so whatever time and day you choose it’s usually best to stick to it throughout the whole series.
Pre-recording your webinar will let you broadcast it at the most opportune time in every time zone, while a live webinar can build anticipation and create more spontaneity.
If you’re holding a single webinar you might want to stick with your own branding to make the most of the opportunity, but if you’re hosting a series, think about sourcing different partners, business units or other organisations to sponsor each episode.
You can also align different sponsors to relevant sections of your webinar.
4. Style and format
Full service professional video conference platforms like Redback Connect offer a number of ways you can produce your webinar.
Do you plan to have a moderator who can facilitate your event and segments such as a Q&A?
A panel of presenters at a desk might be suitable for a more formal conversation, while speakers seated on lounge chairs or stools can provide a more casual environment.
Formal topics also generally require a more in-depth presentation and slides.
It’s also important to consider your budget and location. Will your event cross to remote speakers or can your presenters come into a studio?
The success of any virtual event often comes down to how engaging your presenters are.
They should not only be comfortable speaking in front of a group of strangers, but they should also be familiar with the online environment where it’s harder to feed off the energy of the audience.
What makes a presenter awesome? While resources and subject knowledge are key, from our experience the most important attribute of an effective presenter is passion — someone who can connect to an audience, understand their needs and take them on a journey to solve the challenges they face.
There are three things you should think about when deciding on who your presenters are going to be.
Firstly, consider the technology you’re using, as well as what your presenter has access to. Where will they be located? How reliable is their internet connection? Are they familiar with the technology or will you have to train them?
Secondly, take into account the content. What will each speaker cover? How long will they speak? Are they comfortable taking live questions? Will you need a stand-alone moderator to manage things like late arrivals, chat rooms, or someone who might need to be ejected?
Finally, think about the features you want to take advantage of. Will every speaker need slides? Will everyone be on video? Will sessions include a Q&A or public chat session? Do your presenters have any additional resources they want to use that will need to be uploaded to the platform?
Marketing your webinar should include more than just an email. Invitations, landing pages, content marketing, banner ads, social tiles, pre-event Twitter chats, video snippets, LinkedIn posts and Facebook discussions can all be utilised as part of your marketing campaign.
Use a variety of channels, leverage your speakers and their community, and consider both organic and paid opportunities.
If you’re running a series of webinars, keep it consistent — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. Create a process that works for you and stick to it.
Your registration process should be used as a marketing channel in its own right. Make sure you include a stand-alone registration page with relevant information, a summary of the content and introductions to your speakers. Send invitation emails to your community, and a confirmation email to registrants that makes it easy to save it in their online calendar. Send a reminder email to create urgency, and reinforce the benefits of attending within 24 hours of your event.
Finally, make sure you follow up with attendees after the event. Include links to the recording, resources and upcoming webinars.
7. Interaction and Engagement
The use of features such as Q&A sessions, polling and videos are an easy way to boost engagement and interaction.
Create a narrative throughout your presentation that people can easily follow to a conclusion. A facilitator can also be useful to assist with interactive sessions and to add an extra voice to the conversation.
Consider open and/or private chat based on your audience and the sensitivity of your material.
Poll early and often, and make sure you use the data collected to engage with your audience.
Most people take in more information when it’s presented visually, so consider whether you can explain your point using a video or graphic instead of just text.
8. In-Event Marketing
Don’t miss the opportunity to tell your captive audience about other resources, or ask them questions about how you can improve future events.
Direct them to relevant gated content, link to upcoming webinars while they’re fresh in your audience’s mind, and hold short surveys, Q&A sessions and polls to ask questions about topics and ideas they’re interested in that might form an upcoming webinar.
9. Q&A Sessions
We find that Q&A sessions can be one of the most productive tools a webinar host can utilise. Not only do they facilitate engagement and interaction, they can also highlight key topic areas your audience is interested in.
Q&As can be held remotely and accessed through an online interface, such as a chat feature where the speaker or facilitator can view and moderate the questions.
They can also be held in a studio and viewed and managed live on a tablet.
Hybrid events, where some people are connected remotely and others are located in a studio, are a good way to increase spontaneity and get a conversation going.
Hybrid events can be more complex, though, so it usually pays to include a moderator to handle questions from remote attendees so your presenter can focus on the content.
Keep up the momentum by gathering insights from your Q&As, polls, surveys and general audience interactions.
Use your marketing reports to calculate registrations versus attendees, email open and click-through rates, and social marketing statistics.
Webinar performance reports should include polling, engagement through Q&As and general interactions during your event.
Post-event reports should also provide you information on interaction with gated content, views of content such as blogs and your website, return attendees, leads, and existing names and conversion rates.
Remember, if you take time to plan your webinar properly, both you and your audience will take much more away from the event, and you’ll also have a template to work with for your next one.