Valerie Castillo, Senior Director of Marketing, TrustYou
A Google News search for “webinar” turns up more than 1.2 million results; a lot of companies do webinars. However, some companies do them better than others. These companies have figured out the keys to making webinars successful, many of which can be easily incorporated to make online presentations engaging and informative.
Before the webinar
Much of a successful webinar is determined before the event actually takes place. From basics like scheduling (and avoiding holidays or major industry tradeshows), to creating smart topics that generate interest from potential participants, it’s imperative to get things right in the planning phase.
One mistake that companies often make is that they go at it alone. Many companies try to host webinars to promote their own materials, instead of looking for partners with whom they can share the spotlight with. For instance, a technology vendor is usually better off hosting a webinar with one of their clients, or a partner in the industry, than going it alone. The obvious reason for this is that it helps to make the webinar less self-promotional (and therefore less likely to turn off potential participants who fear being aggressively pitched during the webinar). The less obvious, but perhaps more important reason, is that it gives each company access to a bigger pool of potential attendees. Rather than relying on a list of customers and prospects that are in your company’s CRM system (meaning you already knows about these people), hosting an online event with partners expands the number of people who might attend.
A second way that companies/presenters can up their webinar game is by practicing, many times, in advance of the actual event. Technology fails far more often than we’d like, and it’s important to trouble shoot and “get the kinks out” before there are hundreds of people attending a virtual meeting. It’s also important from the standpoint of knowing the content inside and out. If/when technology goes out, a presenter who is intimately familiar with the material will be able to push through and maintain the audience’s attention. It will be clear to the audience who has or hasn’t prepared in advance of the meeting.
During the webinar
As a presenter, it’s easy to gaze into the computer screen or look at the speaker phone and forget that you’ve got an actual audience paying attention. People didn’t join the webinar to be part of a standard conference call, they came to learn something new from someone who’s both knowledgeable and engaging. There are a few tricks presenters can use in order to sound more authoritative and engaged. One is to be sure the presenter is standing up for the webinar. This opens their airways, and adds resonance to their voice. The other trick is to remember that silence is OK in small doses. Many people feel like presenting on a webinar requires a constant stream of audio. It’s perfectly OK to take a breath here and there, even if it means a brief pause in the action.
Another thing to consider is for the Q&A section of a webinar; no one likes to ask the first question. As a webinar is wrapping up, it’s important to have a few canned questions queued up, meaning that as a presenter, you need to have an idea of what your audience will be interested in, and where it’s possible that they will want more information.
After the webinar
Once a webinar ends, it’s easy to take a deep breath and assume that everything is done and over with. This is the wrong approach. Content begets content, and webinars are no exception. If your webinar had survey questions during the presentation, those responses could lead to follow up commentary as blog posts or bylined articles. It’s also possible to send surveys to participants after the event, which can be used to inform the content of your next webinar.
If the session was recorded, it can be uploaded to YouTube so that folks who were unable to attend can view it at a later date (sending an email to the CRM lists of both companies participating can help to drive viewership at a later date). PowerPoint decks that were presented can also be shared on sites like SlideShare, to extend their shelf life. These are great assets to your website’s “resources” library, as well. Gate the content and generate even more leads from a single source.
Webinars are a tremendous way for businesses to engage customers and prospects, but because so many companies utilize them, it can be hard to stand out. However, those who adequately prepare for their events, take advantage of partnerships to increase attendance, and leverage all of the content that’s created, will get extra mileage out of their efforts.