A successful webinar is one that is engaging, informative, entertaining, and above all, no longer than it needs to be. Over the past year, as in-person events have had to transition to digital gatherings, the webinar has become more prevalent than ever.
A webinar can be an extremely effective tool for educating potential clients or expanding your brand’s recognizability among those in your industry. It can also be a tedious, monotonous, and downright painful experience for everyone involved if not executed properly.
In this article I’ll explain what you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of every webinar you host.
1. Build Your Audience by Promoting Beforehand
If you spend hours of your time carefully putting together a webinar presentation, you don’t want your efforts to go to waste because nobody showed up. It’s critical to use every tool at your disposal to get the word out about your webinar in the weeks leading up to the event.
The most effective platforms for promoting your web event are likely going to be social media, email, and your website. Writing a blog post or two about the content which you’ll be discussing can also help prime your audience and get them interested in the subject matter.
For those businesses who have active email lists of clients or customers, an email blast that details the 5 W’s of your upcoming webinar is a great way to spread the word to people who are already familiar with your company and the work you do.
People aren’t going to sign up for your webinar if they aren’t aware that it’s taking place. Thoughtful promotion leading up to the event is nearly as important as the presentation itself.
2. Engage, Engage, Engage
It’s almost become cliché to say that it’s important to keep your audience involved during a presentation, both in-person and/or virtual. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice.
Anyone who has ever spoken publicly to a large audience knows that keeping everyone’s attention is a constant battle…and that’s without all the distractions that inherently come with watching from home. If you aren’t actively trying to keep your viewers engaged, it’s inevitable that they’re going to tune out.
Choosing the right video hosting platform is crucial when putting together a strategy to engage your audience. Finding one that gives you the ability to conduct polls, short quizzes, or even some games, can make all the difference for the viewer. Here’s a great resource to help you “gamify” your webinar.
3. Consider the Visuals
It’s not 2006 anymore, and there are nearly endless options of presentation programs that are much more stimulating than PowerPoint or something similar. If you’re going to be utilizing a slide deck during your webinar (just about everybody does), it’s important to recognize that they are all not created equal.
Don’t go crazy on copy when putting together your slides. Images are much more appealing to an audience than paragraphs of text. Instead of “telling” your audience something with words, focus on “showing” them something with high-quality images that enhance the subject matter and tell the story visually.
4. Find an Expert
The best way to get people excited about a webinar is to include a guest that has a proven track record of being a leader in their field. Seek out someone who would be considered an “expert” in the material you’re presenting on, and have them share their wealth of knowledge with your viewers.
One benefit that webinars have over traditional in-person events is that guests don’t actually have to be there in order to participate. Since everything is virtual anyway, it won’t disturb the format if you have a colleague call in via Zoom.
Including a recognizable name in your industry, even just for a portion of the presentation, is sure to encourage people to check in. Reach out to multiple people and see who agrees to join – you may be surprised at who you can get!
5. Keep Things Structured
Sticking to a predetermined script might sound rigid and uninspiring. but having a drawn-out agenda for your webinar will help you move through the presentation with confidence. Additionally, it may actually help bring about more creative ideas since you won’t be afraid of getting “off topic” and can always return to where you left off.
When putting together a list of topics that you’ll cover in your webinar, ask around amongst your colleagues to see what aspects of the material they’re most interested in learning about. Once you have your “headline” topics prepared, add in some bullet points that you can use to guide you through the presentation. It may take some practice to avoid sounding like you’re reading off of a script, but it’s better than forgetting to make an important point because you didn’t write it down beforehand.
6. Think Like an Entertainer
Obviously your priority is going to be informing your audience, but if you can’t entertain them while you’re at it, the material simply isn’t going to stick.
Presenters often fall into what I’ll call “professor mode.” They neglect the audience (and their attention spans) because they’re hyper-focused on the subject matter. Sometimes it’s beneficial to sacrifice a little bit of material in the name of keeping things digestible for your viewers.
If your audience is able to connect with you, the presenter, they’re infinitely more likely to stay engaged with the topics you’re speaking about. Use humor, be yourself, and remember that it’s okay to have fun, lighthearted moments mixed in with your content.
Your webinar should feel more like an interactive experience than a lecture. Audiences who are tuning in virtually have distractions everywhere (just a browser tab away, in fact) and this reality must be taken into account when putting your presentation together. Don’t be afraid to do a trial run and ask for honest feedback – you may gain valuable insights that you wouldn’t have considered on your own.
Get creative, put yourself in the mindset of the audience, and bring the energy when it’s time to go live.