How to take your webinars to the next level

Webinars are an excellent way to engage and provide value to an audience. There is no secret webinar sauce, but there are a lot of great best practices you can use to make your webinars more successful. Webinars are filled with high-value content for the listener. In return, the webinar host can collect listeners’ information, such as: first name, last name, email address, company name, and possibly some other bits of data that are filled in firsthand. There are many other benefits to hosting a webinar, such as:

  • Develop authority and trust as a business
  • Create and build on business relationships
  • Understand your target audience (especially with interactive webinars)
  • Raise brand and product awareness
  • Expand marketing efforts affordably
  • Record and endlessly repurpose content
  • Add a revenue stream, if you choose to charge for the webinar
  • Generate and qualify more leads(gated content)

What content goes into a webinar?

Most importantly, webinars should be used to deliver value. They should not be used to deliver a sales pitch.

Is your idea worthy of a webinar? You’ll know it is if:

  • You believe a human explanation of your topic would be helpful
  • You’re joining together to work with a business partner
  • You want to educate about how to use a product, or new features of a product
  • You could offer an expert Q&A on your topic

Who should you invite to a webinar?

It’s natural to want to invite your entire audience to every webinar. However, I urge you not to! You can’t market to every type of person in one fell swoop. It’s common knowledge in marketing that the more you segment — the more targeted you get with your audience — the better results you achieve. So, I highly suggest you clearly map out your target audience and remember to not reach too broadly. By segmenting your list, you’ll be able to better position yourself as an industry thought leader and deliver highly relevant content with great value.

How long should your webinar be?

Most webinars are around one hour long, which includes 45 minutes of slides and/or a presentation and about 15 minutes of Q&A or open-ended discussion. Many companies find success with one-hour webinars; however, 60 minutes of valuable content is hard to create and people’s attention spans are growing shorter and shorter with more and more distractions getting in the way. If one of your goals is to have an audience that stays the entire length of the webinar, make sure your audience would be willing to step away from their other obligations, undistracted, for that amount of time.

If you find attendance drops off during certain time frames of your webinar, try shortening your presentation. You can test your webinars by trying for the total run time to be 30 minutes or even 15. If you’re going to shorten your webinar to less than 60 minutes, I recommend not completely cutting out the Q&A part. Instead, focus on cleaning up your presentation. Are there some slides that you could remove without affecting your key message?

A client of ours recently introduced a “Coffee Talk” Webinar Series and it was a hit! We had an increase in registrants and a lot more attendance than we had from previous one-hour-long webinars. People loved that they could attend this webinar during the same amount of time it took to drink a cup of coffee. Many people are aware they could use a quick 15 to 30 minute break during their work day, and they are more likely to see your short webinar as a worthwhile, productive reason to take that break.

Another way to make sure attendance doesn’t taper off is to offer an incentive. Many companies make their audience wait until the end of the webinar to receive the incentive. Some offer a chance to win a gift card for signing up and attending, and others have offered a discount on a service or promotion. Consider offering additional value to encourage registrants to stay for the entire webinar. Some other ideas include a free research paper, or a chapter from an ebook.

What steps do you need to take to create a webinar?

Here’s a simple chart to show what tasks should happen in a reasonable timeline to perform a successful webinar:

How can you promote your webinar?

Here are a couple of ways you can promote your webinar. It’s best to choose more than one outlet, as long as it’s appropriate. Some of your followers may be active on your Facebook page but others may not be following you at all, so an email might be your best way to reach them.

  1. Promote high-level details on your website. Create a paragraph or two of high-level details, otherwise known as an abstract, and add a link to register on your website homepage. After the webinar is complete, move it to a resources or webinars page with a “download now” button.
  2. Create a social media group. Invite a list of target audience members and market your webinar inside the group. You can entice registrants by marketing it as a special, invite-only event.
  3. Add social media posts to your accounts. Create an engaging graphic and let your social media platforms know about your upcoming webinar.
  4. Send out a press release. If applicable, send out a press release!
  5. Submit your webinar to blogs. If you co-write for any blogs, ask if you can market one of your webinars.
  6. Write a correlating blog post. Write a blog post that correlates with your webinar and publish it a couple weeks before the webinar is live. This is an excellent way to educate your registrants on what the content will be ahead of time, and increase attendance! You can also refer to this in a post on your social media platforms.
  7. Use the reach of speakers and networks to extend invites. If you have a high-profile speaker joining you for your webinar, ask them to cross-promote. Chances are, they will already be promoting the webinar if they’re taking the time to be a guest speaker, but it never hurts to double-check or to provide them with marketing content to help boost registrants.
  8. Set up a search engine advertising campaign. You can use paid advertising on Google or social media to help reach your audience. Paid social media is only recommended if you have a large following. If you think your topic is popular enough, adding a campaign to Google AdWords might find you a lot of success.
  9. Include “invite a friend” in your emails. You should already be sending out a series of emails pre-webinar; you could also invite people to share the webinar with a friend.
  10. Send calendar invites. This is an excellent best practice, not only to make sure the webinar stays on the registrant’s calendar so double-booking is less likely to happen, but also because many companies share work calendars with colleagues. If you send a calendar invite with a catchy name, chances are the registrant’s coworkers will see it as well.

*Tip: Don’t forget to add a registration link to all of your marketing initiatives! You can even add a referral code at the end of the URL so you can see where people are registering from and which initiatives are working.

How can you keep your webinar audience engaged?

Here are some ideas on how to keep your audience with you during the webinar. The key thing to remember is to present something memorable.

  • Include a picture and bio of the speaker at the beginning
  • Begin with a clear outline of what they will gain by attending — list some bullet points or talk through them
  • Address housekeeping items: will copies of slides will be provided post webinar? Will it be recorded and distributed? Will Q&A be at the end or are participants encouraged to chime in whenever? Will there be a particular hashtag to use during the webinar?
  • Design a next logical CTA for attendees — make sure it’s clear to your attendees what they should do after the webinar
  • Keep slide deliverability under 45 minutes
  • Use slides as visual aids instead of talking points — don’t read directly from the slide!
  • Use analytics and case studies
  • Use multiple speakers if possible

How do you wrap up the webinar?

End your webinar with a very clear call to action; for example, you can direct them to a relevant URL or post an event survey. And don’t forget to provide your contact information, in case they have any questions or want to hop on a phone call to learn more!

Should you follow up after the webinar?

Don’t forget that prompt followup is KEY. Leverage your recording in emails, on your website, and on social media. Also, consider hosting your webinars on a website such as Wistia, which allows you to gate your content — in other words, it requires a person’s full name and email address before allowing them to watch the recording. Those viewers are great leads!

Overall, webinars are a great lead-generation tool and they provide a lot of opportunities for promotions. Whether you’re just starting out with webinars or if you’re already a seasoned webinar presenter, feel free to reach out with any questions. I’d love to help build or refine your webinar strategy!

I’d love to keep this conversation going! Have questions or comments? Reach out to me here or over on Twitter — @jeslooch