By Ty Collins
Whether your work has you interacting with current customers, holding external meetings, or prospects who are interested in your product, you're likely to benefit from deepening engagement with your target market. Learning how to host a webinar can move you forward with targeted, engaged contact.
It can be challenging to create content and communication opportunities that offer value to customers, but it’s well worth the effort. They raise your profile by providing practical, interesting information for prospects and customers.
The webinar format has only grown in popularity throughout 2020. These events are more than video calls or conferences. They provide a packaged, value-driven sources of information, and they are well-crafted to make every minute of attention count.
You may be curious about how to best host a webinar for your potential or current customers. We have some valuable tips for how to organize, market and structure your webinar. By following these guidelines, you'll boost your customers' confidence in you and your brand.
Webinars have the potential to bring in lots of new faces and boost engagement from lukewarm clients. However, customers may respond poorly if you bill your event as a webinar but it turns into something else.
For instance, webinars are typically informative, so your customers are unlikely to expect a traditional sales pitch. If your webinar is going to function as a sales pitch, you need to make that very clear beforehand.
Another common downfall of webinars is under-preparedness. You'll need a lot of content to justify the time that your attendees take to listen to your event — it’s always better to have to leave some material out than to run out of content mid-webinar.
While there are other outlets for quick news updates or product information, like newsletters, blog posts and even short podcasts, webinars should be reserved for your most robust information sharing.
Ultimately, you'll know best whether your chosen topic can fill the time allotted for the webinar, but carefully considering the method of delivery for your content is key.
While your attendees will expect a substantial lesson or discussion from the webinar, you'll want to make sure you narrow the scope of your discussion so that it remains focused. No one wants to receive feedback that the webinar was 'all over the place.'
One way to get started on this step is to write a bulleted list of all the concepts you might like to cover. Try to write down double or triple the amount of topics you can possibly fit into the time you have available. Then start crossing off the least relevant items.
In this way, you'll be left with only the most relevant aspects to cover, and you can begin structuring an outline and creating a title that tightly describes only that which you are going to discuss.
In most fields, subject-matter experts are prized for their time. If you happen to have the background to run a webinar yourself, you can absolutely be the leader, but in many cases, you'll want to moderate and have one or more experts do the teaching.
Consider the trade-offs of the various experts you could bring in: it may be easier to find experts who are still gaining a following and who will benefit from the exposure. These experts may be excited to collaborate with you and learn more about your company.
On the other hand, it may be worth the investment to get a well-known name that will draw a variety of new client prospects. For the leaders in your industry, hosting webinars is still a way to get the word out, even if they have established followings.
Once you have some ideas on which experts to include, make sure you give them a very thorough explanation of what you'd like from them in the format of the webinar. You'll both have a better experience if the expectations are clear from the outset.
Either on your own or collaboratively with your speakers, you'll want to start creating a minute-by-minute plan for your webinar. While there may be items that are added or skipped, having a clear plan helps you to flexibly respond over time.
You'll likely have an introduction time, perhaps some form of chat-engagement with your audience, a presentation and potentially time for a Q&A at the end. Your own agenda reflects your needs and the level of engagement you wish to achieve.
Allocate time to each element of the webinar carefully and show that you care about the viewers' time by planning on how you'll move forward promptly.
It leaves a sour taste for a busy client to have to log out of the webinar prematurely because it ran too long. Organization and moving the webinar along when necessary are key to making sure attendees walk away with a good impression of your company.
Your speakers may choose to create the slide deck for your webinar, but ask to see it at least a few days in advance in order to add any additional information you find relevant. Visual aids are a key expectation of modern webinars.
If you're in charge of the slide deck or collaboratively designing it, remember the strong principles of visual aids as you design.
For instance, less is more when it comes to text. Use color and photographs judiciously in order to maintain a professional look, and consider how you can engage your viewers’ thinking with questions directed at them in the slide deck.
As you prepare for your webinar, don't forget to secure a viewership — this should be the focus of the rest of your marketing team's efforts.
Many social media, blog content and advertising teams will welcome new content to share and promote, especially when it develops your company's reputation for thought leadership.
Give yourself some lead time on the webinar so that it can get some organic buzz going online, be it from the LinkedIn blog posts on your company's profile or through a link in the company's email newsletter. Make it easy to sign up for the webinar ahead of time through a variety of venues.
Your company may already be loyal to a particular video conferencing platform, but make sure that it comes with the capabilities you need to make your webinar a success.
Some webinars have been derailed in the past when too many participants tried to join, for instance, given the limitations of the video conferencing platform. Make sure your goals fit the parameters of the platform.
Ask others in your field what they recommend for a webinar and what platform offers the features that will boost both reliability and engagement. Having a chat feature, for instance, or the ability to have a Q&A session, can be valuable depending on your particular needs.
When you've selected your platform and are getting sign-ups, include a Calendly link so that people will get the time scheduled into their various calendars. You can use Calendly to make scheduling much easier in a variety of contexts, including webinars.
It should be expected that a certain percentage of people will be too busy at the last minute, but there will be others who simply forget that they'd planned on participating in your webinar. Use Calendly’s scheduling tool to make sure the webinar remains top of mind.
Speaking of sign-ups, make sure you're carefully logging those who sign up using your CRM or other system — whether your webinar is publically available or focused on current clients, you still might see a surprising sign-up or two.
Those interested sign-ups are great sources of future conversations that move customers up in their level of engagement or make an opening to discuss with a prospect. The webinar has given you a reason to reach out and start or re-start a sales conversation.
Especially with high-attendance webinars, it’s paramount that all platforms and devices involved work well. While something will inevitably be a little slow or work differently than planned, dry runs of your webinar are so helpful that it's worth doing at least one or two.
Check to make sure that multiple kinds of computers and phones can access the webinar using the links you've given. You can have coworkers help with this. You can also practice sharing the slide deck and receiving questions through a chat feature.
The fewer things that are tried for the first time on the day of the webinar, the better. Remember that a simpler plan, such as using just one platform instead of trying to make three different software products work together, reduces the potential for tech difficulties.
If your webinar involves high-ranking experts, you might not be able to practice with them — their time is in high demand, after all.
However, if you are both the organizer and the presenter, consider running through your entire script and slide deck in real time.
You'll gain insight on minor issues, like whether an anecdote feels forced or useful, and more critical issues, like whether you can really fit all of your content into the time allotted.
Since you're taking this time anyway, consider making a screen recording of your entire planned webinar in case something goes wrong and you want to be able to share the content quickly with your viewers.
Whether this is unnecessary or helpful really depends on how easily you believe you could reschedule and get similar attendance levels, but it's one way to feel more at ease about the technological what-ifs.
Assume you'll need 30 minutes to an hour preceding the webinar to get everything set up, from making your space perfectly quiet to testing microphones and admitting people into the webinar.
This setup period can be a good time for some small-talk in the comments section, which can increase viewer engagement. If you can spare the "meeting room" participants, you can also bring along help. You can, for instance, have someone in the webinar to read the questions aloud so that you can feel a real interaction during the Q&A.
If possible, make sure you have an IT specialist on hand to deal with any issues. This will free you and any other presenters up to keep the webinar on track instead of getting side tracked with troubleshooting.
Understanding how to host a webinar is an important tool in your customer success or sales toolbelt. Webinars offer a clear added value for those who are trying to expand their understanding of your field. They also offer opportunities to gather data that leads to further contact, boosting engagement.
When you have permission to record all involved parties, you can also turn your webinar into a valuable download or private video link that you can share with potential leads, prospects or customers who opt in to a premium experience or tier.
Lastly, you can repurpose the information in the webinar to create other forms of content, and consider what any questions in the Q&A might mean for your next direction in customer success or sales. Their requests may provide fruitful insights for future webinars or outreach efforts.
Ty is the head of digital acquisition and content at Calendly.
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