How to run a successful webinar

A case study of our first public webinar for The Side Project Accelerator

Yesterday we ran our first public webinar on how to build your personal brand as a designer. It’s something that Sagi and I had been talking about for a long time, and finally got around to it.

Overall it was a HUGE success and proved to be far more valuable than we anticipated. We still have a lot of room to improve though, especially in the selling department. More than 250 people ended up registering for the live webinar or to watch the replay, and at the peak we hit about 65–70 people watching it live.

Our guests asked great questions that we got to address in real time and the chat window was filled with a steady stream of messages and feedback throughout our presentation. It was actually a lot of fun to run this, and I think that it was an extremely useful way to engage with our audience. Moreover it was a great way to provide a lot of value and didn’t require a whole lot of time.

I’ll share exactly what we did and how we did it.

The Setup

We used Crowdcast, a paid online platform, to host the webinar. We use them for all of the expert sessions in The Side Project Accelerator, so we were already familiar with the software. It’s pretty simple and has almost no learning curve, but sometimes has issues with accessing your camera or mic, so I recommend signing in early to make sure things run smoothly.

When you create a webinar in Crowdcast you can add a description and image, which becomes your registration page for the event. This is nice because you can describe exactly what your guests will get out of it, and also get them to sign up. In order to save their spot, they need to leave their email, which means that Crowdcast can send them reminder emails before the event, and more importantly- you can download all of those emails and send them follow up material afterwards. This is the real gold.

Another nice thing in the set up is that you can add a Facebook tracking pixel to the page. This allows you to build a custom audience and retarget these guests through paid Facebook advertising, if you so choose. We haven’t tried this yet, but it seems like a highly effective way to remind people to buy your premium offering, and an efficient use of funds.

Promoting it

It was our first time running this webinar, so we actually didn’t want to go too overboard with promoting it. We have a bunch of other webinars scheduled over the next three weeks during the launch of the second batch of The Side Project Accelerator, so we wanted to make sure the first one ran smoothly before we brought too many people in.

We shared a link to the Crowdcast signup page in our weekly newsletter, our Hacking UI Facebook group, and the Side Projects Facebook group that we also manage, a few Slack groups that we are members of and on Designer News. The response was crazy. We were expecting something like 50 people to join, but ended up getting over 250 and still counting.

The Format

For the actual webinar we decided on this format:

  • Introduce ourselves and say hi to everyone attending live: 5–10 minutes
  • PowerPoint presentation: 25–30 minutes
  • Answer questions from the audience: 20 minutes (or until the end)

The slides were adapted from a few previous talks we did, plus some material from the first lesson of The Side Project Accelerator. I love this presentation and I think it gets the point across really well. I wonder what’s the ideal time for the slideshow portion of a webinar though, and I think we were pushing the limit. In future webinars I think we will try to keep it to about 20 minutes.

The Sales Pitch

Up until now it’s been easy. Like scary easy. Well this right here is the tricky part. The business goal of our webinar is to promote interest in and sell seats in the next batch of The Side Project Accelerator. However, nobody wants to join a webinar and just get pitched to for an hour.

Finding the right way to do this is really difficult, and something I think we need to improve on. Crowdcast allows you to add a CTA button right underneath the video feed, so anyone watching can easily access your sign up or payment page. For our “sales pitch” we mentioned it at the beginning very briefly, mentioned it again at the end of the slides presentation, and mentioned it for the last time right before the last question we answered.

We need to improve on this and make our transition and pitch really sharp. My thoughts are that less is more when it comes to trying to sell. I think next time we will rehearse this part more beforehand, and probably only mention it one time at the end of the slides.

Following up after it ends

If people don’t buy right away, that’s OK because after you run the webinar you get the emails of the entire audience and can then send them some good follow up articles and more free material.

We haven’t sent anything to follow up yet, but will send on Monday a nice article that dives deeper into one of the questions we were asked, “which language should I write my blog in.” We’re also hosting another webinar next week which covers writing an article using our 7-step method. It’s a natural progression from the lesson in this one, which is about how to start building your personal brand.

The follow up webinar is a great idea, because it can help ensure that people take action and really take something away from this webinar. It’s also a great way to hone in on the most likely buyers of our program.

Overall I was really happy with how the webinar turned out and I think it will become a regular thing for us. We can continue to adapt our talks and portions of The Side Project Accelerator lessons and give them away for free. It’s excellent marketing and a really nice way to engage with our audience.

We’re hosting a free webinar on how to start writing using our 7-step writing workflow on Wednesday, October 19. If you’re interested in learning more about getting yourself out there and how to start writing, sign up!

This is the 13th article in the series of my 30-day writing challenge. 13 straight articles man, that’s hard work. Throw me a bone and hit that big fat ❤ to keep me going. I’d also love to hear what you think, so holla at me on twitter. Tweets if you liked it and DMs of course if you didn’t.