Digital Marketing Guide for Business

What I Learned From Watching 15 Video Streams in One Month as a Marketer

What to tick on your checklist if you plan to host a webinar

Bianca Mathe
May 6, 2020 · 9 min read

The global lockdown stopped the world in the most literal sense, cancelling thousands of events, including business events, sports leagues, concerts, awards, and even postponing to 2021 many prominent events, including the Olympic Games, among many others.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

But even in the face of natural adversity, marketing professionals and content creators found a new way to continue their plans and push through these unfortunate circumstances.

With real events, conferences, shows, workshops, and gatherings vanishing overnight, many of them moved in the digital realm. Webinars, live streams, digital summits — April 2020 was filled with conference streaming, across countless industries.

Video streaming for business is not a new concept. Webinars and other forms of live video shows have been around for years now, and are mostly used by companies, brands, and content creators to engage with their clients, customers, or following.

Top reasons include:

The sudden (re)gained popularity of conference streams

With many desk workers doing their jobs from home for many weeks now, a lot of companies and brands saw an unmissable opportunity to build their digital presence, and capitalize on people’s new-found free time. And what better way to keep people connected than through live video content? And everything is available for free, in the safety of one’s house, with the click of a button.

“If I don’t host a webinar to keep my consumers/clients/audience entertained, then someone else will.” — Marketer thinking in the shower, late March 2020

During April 2020, I watched 15 webinars, for various reasons — I wanted to make the most out of my lockdown time and learn new things (I admit this sounds like a cliche), feel like I am a part of some kind of community again, because my boss made me, and ultimately, to pass time. And yes, watching webinars can be a fun activity, especially if you’re chatting with colleagues and friends about what’s happening on the screen.

Here are the most important things to know if you plan to organise a webinar, digital summit, or live stream:

1) Getting people to engage can be hard, especially if they’re already bored

People dozing off through conferences is not something new. And most business events on this planet are guilty of committing the sin of bringing onboard Linkedin-renowned keynote speakers. They spend 45 minutes stating truisms with enthusiasm without delivering ONE single new point of view on the debated matter.

The beauty of the online medium? Rules no longer exist. No one can be forced to watch a 45 minutes session. There is no peer pressure, no one around to notice what you are doing, or to give you a disapproving look when you choose to pull out your phone and scroll through feeds instead of listening to what is in front of you. It’s just you, in the comfort of your home, wearing pyjamas, and looking for something that is not boring. And if it is, you will close the window within 3 seconds.

What to do:

  • Prepare a comprehensive and exciting agenda — make sure attendees fully understand the topics you plan to discuss. 15 genuinely interested people are more valuable than one 100 who will close the window within the first 5 minutes.
  • Encourage attendees to send questions before the session, and make sure you cover the topics during the live webinar. Mention where you got the question from. It shows that you care and pay attention to what people want to talk about.
  • Make sure you have a live chat/email address/social media account where you can receive questions as you go. Answer all of them, even if they seem basic. The chances are people joined to learn something, and you should help them achieve that goal.

2) Know your content, pick your battles

Live streaming it’s not for everyone. Not every company, brand or creator should include this in their marketing plan, even if they have the means to do so. A bad webinar can negatively affect your reputation, make people rethink their opinions about you, and overlook your future efforts.

This is not about the company size, prestige, or how much money one can afford to spend, but rather it revolves around two aspects: finding the right content and delivering it by asking the right people.

Start with content, and think about the following questions:

  • Was my topic already covered extensively in the media?
  • What are the key messages which tend to repeat?
  • Do I have a different angle to this?
  • Can I talk about it for 45 minutes without repeating information?
  • Have my customers ever expressed interest in the matter?

You get the drill. Ask as many questions as possible, and be honest with yourself. Webinars can be time-consuming projects, with a lot of teeny tiny resource-eating tasks. Be smart about it and think things through before deciding. If you cannot find any value in your idea, consult with other people, do a survey, see if the interest is real. You’ll get a clear answer within the 24h.

What to do:

  • Choose a broad subject, and then narrow it down. Find an interesting angle and start the conversation from there. Go as in-depth as possible and avoid talking about flaky and ephemeral trends (unless that’s what’s what you want to present). Showing fresh stats or analyzing data can be exciting and educational.
  • Select your speakers carefully. Make sure their expertise overlaps with your chosen topic (almost) perfectly. Watch videos or previous keynotes they delivered to ensure they are coherent, fluent, and have an unusual take on your desired topic. Don’t fall for people with Keynote Speaker in their LinkedIn description — Mark Ritson explains for Marketing Week why.
  • Keep the promotional part to a minimum. Feel free to add a call to action at the very end, but otherwise stick to the key messages and make an effort to present it in an easy to follow manner, using supporting evidence. If they pressed the REGISTER button, people already know who you are and what you do, no need to be an overkill.

3) Foster human connection, help people talk

Knowing how to network and meet people is one skill which can be used no matter what your job title is. And the digital world makes it easier to do it, without having to stand in long impromptu meetings with strangers you don’t know how to approach.

Attendees can be encouraged to meet other like-minded humans before, during, or after webinars, and as an organiser, there are ways to facilitate social interaction.

What to do:

  • Allow people to engage: create a social media/email group for attendees, and make it easier for people to interact. If your streaming platform has a built-in chat functionality, turn it on.
  • Let people know who else is attending, and offer to make them connect via their preferred channel. This applies mostly to companies in a niche industry who are looking to expand their industry relations network. Make a public list where people can leave their details to be contacted by others, or ask the attendees permission to share their info with others.
  • If you host a series of webinars, consider using a platform which allows attendees to build their own profile featuring their LinkedIn photo, email, current location, and social handles.

4) Doing a dry run isn’t optional

Your planning is going great. You have an impressive angle for the presentation, some great people with extensive expertise on the matter as your guests, and the attendance list is almost full after only one day since opening the registrations. You are ready to celebrate your success.

But first, let’s make sure your efforts are not in vain. You need to make sure that people can hear what you are saying, they can see what you are presenting and that your branding is not taking up half of your screen.

Two weeks ago, I attended a content marketing conference, which was streamed live on Facebook. The moderator was screaming in the microphone from his bedroom, the first speaker wasn’t sure how to enter the presentation mode, and the second one was nowhere to be found.

Five minutes spent listening to them trying to get ahold of each other, while other attendees were expressing their thoughts on the live chat. It wasn’t pretty. I left that chaos after my brain got tired of trying to understand what was happening.

Capture of a live YouTube stream
Capture of a live YouTube stream
Presenter mode is shown to the audience on live Facebook stream

What to do:

  • Make sure you know how everything works. You need to know every technical detail by heart: every button, every arrow, every hidden tab. Avoid live awkward situations. You want people to stick around, and I guarantee they will not if you spend five minutes figuring out how to unmute yourself.
  • As the organiser, don’t put anyone on live mode without doing a test beforehand. Preferably some days ahead of time, so you can identify possible issues that can arise. Solve any technical problems, train your presenter, make sure everything is crystal clear.
  • Steer clear from blockers. Make the process as effortless as possible. As a rule of thumb, never ask attendees to download any software or create accounts on paid platforms. No one will make an effort since there are so many great options to stream content online, using a regular browser, without paying anything.

5) Make an effort, even if you’re speaking from your kitchen

If lockdown taught us something, it’s humanity. With so many people having Zoom meetings from their home, it’s inevitable not to see some private aspects of one’s life. Seeing someone’s pets in the background, hearing some kids screaming, or the washing machine is the new normal. And while everyone can understand the struggle, there are simple ways in which you can make your environment feel uncluttered.

What to do:

  • Even if you are talking from your bedroom, living room, or home office, make sure the background is clean, minimal, and preferably in a light solid colour. Use a white wall or a projector screen as a backdrop.
  • Remove personal objects scattered around you. If you can’t avoid showing a part of the room you’re in, then make sure everything is tidy, clean, and looks put together.

6) Watch out for nonverbal cues, don’t scratch your head

With the laptop’s camera less than 30 centimetres away from someone’s face, it’s effortless to watch their reactions and interpret accordingly. This process is performed by the human brain automatically. Most people can distinguish between human emotions by reading facial expressions, as the American Psychological Association points out.

But not only your face can tell people what you really think about a subject. Your hands play a bit role in how people perceive you. The best strategy? Cool down your nerves, keep your hands together and try to stay relaxed.

What to do:

  • Keep your back straight and watch your posture throughout the call. Sit at your desk on a chair, so you don’t feel way too comfortable, and your brain knows you are working.
  • Look into the camera when speaking and make sure your laptop is slightly lifted and people can see your face. If the device is too low placed, they will see inside your nose. You don’t want that. A quick fixer is to put your computer on a stable high position, like on a pile of books, or a sturdy box.
  • Don’t put your arms on your head, touch your nose, arrange your hair or play with objects. These little gestures can be very distracting, and the last thing you want is for people to watch what you are doing instead of listening to what you have to say.

7) Never spam people

Sending people countless reminders, emails, notifications, is not the way to attract an audience for your stream. The only thing you can accomplish of you bombard potential attendees with messages is pretty simple and straightforward: people will think you are pushy, desperate, and they will not join your events ever again.

A colleague of mine received as many as 15 emails with the same information, on the same layout, with the same call-to-action, for one single event. She passed on that opportunity. And I am sure most people would do the same.

What to do:

  • Promote your live event by using your own assets. Create a website landing page, and include a registration form which can be filled in less than 3 minutes. Leverage your email database, but make sure you are not repeating the same message over and over again. Find a new angle each time and don’t send too many emails if you don’t want your unsubscribe rate to skyrocket.
  • Kindly ask your speakers to help you spread the word about your live stream on social media, email, and other channels they use.
  • Try to get featured in relevant media outlets by pitching stories about the content you will present. Just remember: your event isn’t the news, but rather a solution to a particular problem in a much bigger context.

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