Webinars are the online version of a seminar. They are much less expensive to host than in-person events, an excellent way to engage an audience that prefers online communication and a great tactic to generate or nurture leads for your products and services.
But as with any event, you have to compete for your audience’s precious time, and if you do get their time, you’d better host a compelling event. If you bore your audience with irrelevant content, dull their senses with text-cramped slides, or numb them by reading from a script in a flat monotone, your customers and prospects will be pulling back their virtual chairs and running for the exits.
Here’s how to host a successful Webinar, one that will have your audience paying attention to what you have to say and benefit your company as well. We divide the Webinar campaign into three periods – Advance Planning, Day Of, and Post Event – and offer a list of best practices for each.
- Decide how you will measure success. It could be attendance, number of leads to follow up on or some other metric.
- Select an educational topic that addresses an issue or challenge your customers and prospects face. Relevant, educational topics build credibility for your company and set a strong foundation for future events. Articulate what benefits your audience will receive. Use those benefits as your guide when developing your presentation.
- If you don’t already have one, choose a Webinar vendor. Your vendor should be able to handle sending out invitations, accepting registrations, hosting the presentation, providing audio (via phone and/or computer) and tracking who attended and who didn’t. Additional useful features include online chatting during the presentation, conducting audience polls during the event and sending follow-up surveys to attendees.
- Choose speakers. If you can find a customer or industry expert to join you on the Webinar, all the better for credibility and variety.
- Develop your slides, script and a strong benefit-oriented title and description. The text you put on slides is a visual guide to the content you are presenting — not a script to be read. Use more visuals, fewer bullet points. Keep your presentation short. An hour is too long; 20 minutes is probably not worth your audience’s time. Plan for 30 minutes maximum, with a few minutes for questions.
- E-mail invitations to your list and promote the Webinar on your Web site or other online areas such as e-newsletters and partner Web sites.
- Rehearse and time your presentation. Be completely familiar with your content and comfortable with your delivery.
- Send an e-mail reminder to registered attendees a few hours before the Webinar is scheduled to begin. Be sure to include log-in instructions if needed.
- Search for a newsworthy item about your industry or topic that you can weave into your presentation early on. You don’t need to change your slides. Just mention the news item and how it applies to today’s presentation. This will give your Webinar a fresh, topical feel to it.
- Start on time and keep to the schedule.
- Speak in a natural and conversational tone. Don’t shout, mumble or treat the event as a lecture. Speak as if you have a room full of people in front of you.
- Use polling questions to interact with your audience and post the results in real time during the presentation. Ask about issues they face or their current processes for solving them.
- Record the presentation and archive it on your Web site so others can view it.
- Send follow-up thank you e-mails to all attendees. If you have the capability, include a brief survey requesting their feedback. A great question to ask is if they want a salesperson to contact them. Anyone who checks yes is an instant hot lead for your sales team.
- Send “sorry we missed you” e-mails to those who registered but didn’t attend. Point them to the archived presentation on your Web site so they can view it at their convenience. Be sure to invite them to register for your next Webinar.
- Use follow-up e-mails to direct customers and prospects to additional valuable information, such as white papers and executive briefs.
- Plan your next Webinar based on the results of this one. Better yet, plan a series of Webinars that will keep you in front of motivated customers and prospects in the months ahead.