Marketing Events

How to Host a Successful Webinar

Webinars are a great way to generate customer interest, especially for business-to-business marketers. You can showcase your expertise, provide useful demonstrations, and invite customer feedback. But a bad webinar can be truly brand-crushing.

Here’s how to make sure your presentation is top notch:

Start with the best platform. You’ll want a simple-to-use platform that best meets your needs. To determine what’s best for you, there are essential questions to ask: How many participants do you expect? Are special features needed? Do you want much participation from the audience? Will you be showing video? Do you want participants to take control of the desktop? Also, how do you want to handle audio—with integrated streaming audio or with participants dialing in? And, if they do dial in, will you provide a toll-free number? No one platform covers everyone’s needs the same, so make sure you know what you expect of the webinar platform you choose.

Reach out to your audience before the event. Publicize your webinar with ample time for planning. Use social media, digital advertising, e-mail lists, and online event calendars. Create a hashtag, and start a social media conversation about what you plan to present. Gauge the temperature of respondents to make sure your plans are on track with potential customer needs.

Pick a format. Your webinar can be a straight lecture and still gain interest. Or, you can opt to have a discussion panel, interview, or even audience discussion.  When the audience is participating, it typically gains a much deeper understanding of the topic. Just make sure the audience questions remain focused.

Create a super-amazing deck. Graphics count a lot in a webinar. Without your gestures or facial expressions to help move the content along, your graphics must carry more weight. Also, remember that users get tired looking at the same graphics for more than a minute. Therefore, each slide should have only 40 seconds or less of screen-time, which means you’ll be creating a much larger deck than for a traditional presentation. And don’t simply repeat what you are saying on the slides. Develop slides that complement your script.

Script it out. Speaking of scripts, webinars are not the place to “wing” a presentation. You must script what you are saying, if not word-for-word, at least major talking points. Since you’ll probably want to record your webinar, you want a tight and crisp presentation with staying power.

Incorporate stories. Avoid dry, fact-filled scripts. Make sure you include a few anecdotes to drive home your point. Make your product the hero of your story, but keep it interesting enough to capture attention. Talk about a particularly knotty problem and how your product ultimately saved the day.

Practice. Schedule a practice session a few days before your event. During your session, make sure everyone on your webinar team understands how to use the webinar platform. Test the equipment, and retest it.

Start 2 minutes past the hour. This little breathing room will allow late-comers to join without interruption. It also allows for you to adjust technical issues and provide yourself a bit of mental readiness as well.

Be structured. Since people may opt to stop and start a webcast rebroadcast at their own pace, begin with a clear outline of the segments you will cover. Stick to this outline, too. It will make for happier viewers.

Offer a question-and-answer session. Provide enough time to answer questions, but make sure the Q&A is at the end. Not everyone wants to stick around for this section, so give participants the option to bow out before it starts.

Plan for reruns. Your live webcast is important, but perhaps even more vital is the number of times it will be replayed. After your initial webcast, also provide a transcript, giving people the option to either replay the presentation or read it.

Consider interviews. The interview format provides an opportunity to vary voices and vocal tones. That’s key for maintaining interest in a podcast. It’s also a well-known and simple formula.

Try smaller bites. Not everyone has the bandwidth to hear a 20-minute podcast. However, 5- to 10-minute segments on a particular topic are usually digestible.

Rinse and repeat. Many people listening to podcasts are doing other things, such as jogging, making dinner, or walking the dog. Every once in a while, repeat an important point. Don’t do it too often, but when you want to make sure it’s heard, say it again.

Edit wisely. Avoid over-editing, but remove strange silences and anything else that disrupts your flow.

Provide great show notes. Not everyone wants to listen to your podcast, no matter how brilliant. For those who would rather read than hear your podcast, provide show notes with comprehensive links, images, and all other references to ensure a good experience.

Remember, regular webcasts are a great way to generate loyalty. Just evaluate your efforts regularly to ensure you’re providing great content your audience enjoys and finds helpful. Also, if your presentation is successful, consider a series. Vary up the content to stay current and keep customers interested.