11 Tips to host engaging webinars
Communication is pivotal in this era of social distancing bought on by the pandemic. Emails, phone calls, and the use of social media helped businesses stay afloat during the times of crisis. Yet another significant contributor to improving communication with clients was the advent of ‘Webinars.’ Even though the pandemic is behind us, webinars continue to stay and prove to be a tried and tested mode of interacting with clients and customers, and colleagues alike. This article defines webinars, their types, formats, and other crucial know-how in order to host effective and engaging webinars.
What is a webinar?
Simply put a seminar is a conference or meeting conducted via the webinar platforms. It allows you to conduct live and interactive presentations connecting people across the country and the world. The host of the webinar is visible through video and can conduct the seminar by sharing slides. Using webinars, the host can expound on his/her business and connect to a larger clientele. While the sessions are usually muted when the host speaks, the sessions can also be made interactive by unmuting in order to engage the live audience more.
Types of webinars
Webinars can be conducted in-house for the employees or can address clients and potential clients. Similarly, there are several types of online webinars depending on the purpose.
- Generate leads:
It provides detailed information and educates new clients about the area of expertise of the company or business. Webinars are one of the best ways for businesses to generate new leads and engage with an existing pipeline of leads.
- Expand the network:
The goal here is to position your company as the leader and provide an insider’s viewpoint to the clients. Use webinars as a powerful medium to showcase your company's thought leaders and network with other proven personalities in your industry.
- Engage customers:
It demonstrates to the clients how their needs can be met by employing your services and provides an in-depth understanding of the products/service. Webinars give your audience to share their feedback and suggestions without any barriers.
- Educate clients:
Here, the goal is to educate the client by sharing knowledge and the latest updates using the virtual classroom. Educating your customers helps you establish trust in their minds and lead them down the funnel in a surefire way.
- Product demonstration:
Illustrate the latest features of the product and how to use them. Using webinars is one of the many creative ways including social media to let your prospective clients and consumers engage with the product or service before the actual purchase.
- Train employees:
Training and educating the staff and employees about the company’s HR policies, culture, and other subject/product information. Since most webinars are recorded, they can be used by multiple people to recap the small details over longer periods.
Different formats of a webinar
A webinar needs to capture the audience and keep them engaged. Thus, apart from interesting and relevant content, it is important to develop the right format to present the material.
- Presentation by a keynote speaker:
An expert on the subject matter reveals all information on the topic and often illustrates using slides to share deeper insights on the webinar topic giving examples, sharing playbooks, case studies, and use cases.
A dialogue between two people of similar interests and repute. There is usually a host and a guest who have unstructured talk around the topic of the webinar.
A host interviews the head of a company, a leader of a group, or an influencer from outside. In this format of the Webinar, the set of questions are usually preset and the person giving the interview has deep expertise in answering the questions being asked. The interviewee generally offers examples, anecdotes, tips, case studies, and personal experiences as forms of answers to the incoming questions.
A host conducts a panel discussion among several dignitaries who are experts and exhibit thought leadership in the given topic for the Webinar. The host is in charge of moderating the discussions and ensuring a proper flow to meet the objectives of the webinar attendees.
Usually, every webinar ends with a Q&A, but it can also be conducted in exclusivity to address, for instance, poll questions about the launch of a new product or to create brand awareness.
- Joint webinar:
Though not very common, it aims to bring two businesses together in order to benefit from each other’s client list and capitalize on their respective reputations.
Logistical requirements of a webinar platform
Once the type and format of a webinar are decided, the next on the list is to chalk out the requirements to set up a webinar right from the beginning and the technical inputs to marketing the webinar. Let’s look at these in detail.
- Choose the date and time:
It should work best for not just the host but other crew members as well especially the technical expert who needs to be available to sort out any snag before or during the actual webinar itself. You need to keep in mind your target audience as well. Usually, office goers are busiest on Mondays after a weekend, and mostly relaxed on Friday looking forward to the weekend! Thus, Tuesdays through Thursdays work best.
With regards to time, again it depends on if your target audience is local or global. In the case of local, then fixing a suitable time is not difficult but in case of a global reach then different time zones are to be considered before finalizing. Noon Eastern Standard Time works best for most people across the globe. An hour or two should be the duration of the webinar.
- Choose a webinar software platform:
Many options are available and you can explore the one that suits your needs best. Some options are:
You might want to consider these factors before zeroing in on one of these.
Check whether they are enabled for pre-recorded and live webinars.
Allows more than one presenter
Whether the audience can engage in live chat sessions and if the chats can be filtered – a very useful feature
Whether presenters can share screens and show slides etc.
Whether it allows for invites and automatic calendar reminders
What are the options available for attendees, to listen via dial-in via phone or access through Weblink
If the webinar can be recorded and archived for future reference and if need be, for distribution purposes.
Once you have all these in place, ensure your technical team is briefed and completely understands how to set up and run the software. It is prudent to conduct trail runs before the actual event lest you be taken by surprise with compatibility issues or other snags.
Advertise and market your webinar
In order to ensure your webinar reaches a large audience, you need to put in the time, effort, and money to advertise and market it properly.
Interact with your audience through promotions before the webinar
If your audience is unaware or is not interested in a specific product or a particular subject you are introducing them to then they will not be interested. Keep tweeting about it and submitting articles for it to promote and create a new way that you can share it online. In order for you to get people to comment and provide feedback before a meeting or conference you should send them an e-mail or a message to the audience you are planning on promoting. In addition, when you offer a giveaway or other feature for the webinar, distribute this information to differentiate your webinar in a more distinct fashion.
Send out a pre-webinar questionnaire
Send an email for registration to this webinar. Listening to audience questions during a webinar can help you prepare the slideshow to get answers to the important questions.
Have your webinar attendees submit questions prior to the webinar
Having an online chat with the audience is a great tool for marketing communications with an audience. If your webinars are really going to go further it is possible to invite people to submit questions during webinars beforehand. This gives the attendees greater engagement, but you'll also have direct insights into what you want to understand! It'll be an enjoyable learning experience. To accomplish these tasks using Mentimeter, you have to create a presentation using the Q&A Question Type. You can adjust the presentation to audience speeds so the audience can respond in their own ways. Just give it a vote before your webinar.
Start by creating an eye-catching title akin to the title of a blog post or a book that grabs the reader’s attention. You can use search engine optimization (SEO) to garner interest and reach a large audience. Briefly describe the content of the webinar without giving away too much, in order to build anticipation and deliver on your promise. Make sure to include all basic information, name of the company, who will be the host, his/her credentials, whether the webinar is free or if a cost is involved how to purchase, etc. Ensure all hyperlinks (if any) in the outgoing email open in a new and right window.
Use appropriate images that will intrigue the audience, high-resolution photos of the guest speaker, etc.
· Create a landing page on your website
· Email your contact list
· Ensure there is a pop-up window once a visitor enters your website
· Use social media extensively to promote the event. Use hashtags exclusively for marketing purposes. Cover virtual events on all forms of social media Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Threads, etc.
· Run an ad in a digital as well as print publication. They have a wide range of subscribers.
· Issue a press release.
Double check all important details such as name, date, time, etc. before putting it out on social media. Start promoting early and often, rule of 7 states that people need to be exposed to something seven times before they act on it. Also, verify all the registered attendees have the necessary login information well beforehand.
Backend preparation for your webinar
A basic checklist while you get the technical team to gear up for the webinar.
High-speed internet access
Good camera angles
Good picture quality
Good lighting and sound
What are the key elements of a webinar?
A good content will determine the success of your webinar. It should include a welcome address, introduction, core content outline, Q&A session, and concluding remarks. A one-hour webinar should ideally allocate 10-15 mins for welcome and introductory remarks, half an hour for the main course content including presentation, and the remaining 10-15 mins should be devoted to Q&A and concluding remarks.
A brief outline of the various elements
Greet the audience in a warm and friendly manner. A cheery "Hello everyone!" or "Welcome, I am very excited to share this new information/product with you!"; either way be sincere and real. Start by thanking the audience for their valuable time. Introduce yourself or the speakers, as the case may be in an engaging manner, and tell a bit about the journey, a anecdote or a story always proves entertaining. Use this time to also provide logistical information such as muting themselves, using chat window to communicate, etc.
Give a brief outline or a three-point agenda of the content and state the purpose of the webinar. Give them an overview of the structure of the presentation. No need to go into details, just the main points so the attendees know what to look forward to. Let the audience know how to interact with the panel, when and where to ask questions, etc. This way, if the webinar content interests them they will stay on or else will log off without feeling they have wasted their time.
Planning is key to the success of your webinar. Identify the goal of your webinar. It could be to sell a product or create awareness of your new business, or simply reach out to a large audience and grow your email list for future business opportunities. Selecting the right topic for your webinar is as important. Keep it simple and specific. Prepare content that is not too overwhelming or filled with more information than they can digest. Give some valuable inputs that will benefit the audience and leave them asking for more. Most importantly stick to the script, it is easy to veer off-topic especially if a question from the audience takes you away from the intended topic. Conduct presentations, use slides, conduct product demos as the case may be, etc.
At the start of the webinar, let the audience know that there will be time allotted for a Q&A session. This way they can jot down their queries through the webinar and ask them when the time is right. Anticipate the questions and keep answers ready to respond effectively and efficiently. With the help of the technical team filter out the questions that appear on the chat window and use the relevant ones, if you do not know the answer to any question be honest and let them know you will get back to them. Alternatively prepare a set of questions and answers beforehand, in case the attendees are reluctant to ask any. This way you get to keep them engaged to the very end of the talk. Give instructions as to how to turn on and off the mic during the session. Set a time limit and stick to it. At the end of it, if there are still some questions left unanswered, you can address these after the webinar is over. Alternatively, choose to respond to them via email. So that those who want to leave can do so, without feeling they have to sit through extended sessions.
Reiterate the core message, give takeaways, provide contact information to know more, and provide product links if need be. Recap the main points of the webinar which will help them recall what they have learned. Provide a call to action, ask the attendees to tell their friends/colleagues about the webinar, and join your email list for more updates and product information as the case may be. Ensure you give the audience a discount code to be used for the next webinar or a discount on the initial purchase of the product. Thank all the presenters, and audiences for their time and presence.
Tips to host engaging webinars
First and foremost, put yourself in the shoes of the viewer which will help you prepare an engaging webinar with appropriate and correct content. What would you like to take away from the webinar?
1. Use high speed and hard-wired internet connection
Despite good content, if an investment is not done in a good connection, then all effort is futile. Ensure proper lighting, and shots, test for audio, invest in a good mic, play out the controls beforehand, etc. The audience should be able to hear clearly every word you speak and not struggle to hear. Ensure you invest in a high-quality headset or microphone and not rely on the laptop's in-built mic.
2. Use engaging content
The content should be relevant, entertaining, interesting, and should add value to the targeted audience. Your passion towards the subject should come across via the content and talk. Make eye contact even if only virtually, by looking at the camera. Use engagement tools like Quiz, Polls, etc. during the webinar, today's tech-savvy webinar attendees are used to seeing mixed-format presentations and will appreciate experiencing something dynamic. You are not required to cover all topics in a single webinar, select the most important part and stay focused. Do not stray from the said topic. The audience should not get bored and feel disconnected. Offer them enough to leave them wanting more. Remember stories are used to leave a lasting impact and are often easier to recall. Thus, weave stories and experiences around your webinar topic.
3. Practice trial runs
The importance of practice can never be reiterated enough. The more fluent you are with the content and familiar with the camera, the more at ease you will be at the final event. Ensure your angles are shot correctly with no light bouncing off your face. Presentations should be done naturally and should not appear to be read off a paper. Use teleprompter or cue cards to assist you. Enunciate and speak at a moderate speed, neither too fast nor too slow. Do practice extensively to create an engaging webinar flow and see how you can bind the slides of the webinar in a story format. Ensure all your slides are clear and keep the text to a minimum so that the audience can catch up with the presentation. Practice before a trusted colleague, friend, or superior in order to receive suggestions, feedbacks, etc.
4. Make the webinar personal
In other words, bring your personal touch and your personality to the webinar. A pleasing and charming personality engages the audience's attention. Modulate your voice, do not drone, use gestures, and use body language to emphasize points. Alternatively, you can also choose to use speakers from within your company or get industry experts from outside. The speaker should have credibility and demonstrate authority. You can have one or more speakers in order to break the monotony and keep the audience engaged. Make sure you are able to answer audience questions during the webinar or if you want to keep your webinars distraction-free, do the Q&A session towards the end of the webinar.
5. Put yourself in the place of the audience
If you were the attendee, what would you like to see and hear? What is the result you desire? Recall webinars you have attended in the past and what caught your attention, what made an impact, what was distasteful or disagreeable, and incorporate those learnings into your next webinar too. Keep re-engaging your online audience, this way you get to hear from them directly and ensure you deliver what they want to hear. Use bite-sized contents for easy assimilation.
6. Keep it real and simple
Bring the human element into the talk. Share anecdotes or real-life experiences to break the monotony of the presentation. In case, an attendee has posed a question invite him/her on the screen to ask the same, it will help keep the session active. Use polls, open discussions, quizzes, and other communication and interactive tools, to encourage the audience to interact. It will feel more interactive and less like a lecture. Ideally, you can have two panelists and a moderator to keep the conversation more lively and at the same time meet the goal of your webinar.
7. Be punctual
Start on time, be it a real event or virtual it reflects discipline, strength of character, and value of time for oneself and others. Keep a sufficient time slot to sort out any unexpected technical delays or to help attendees who are new to the process of attending a virtual seminar. In spite of your best preparations, be prepared for delays either in the form of technical issues or some other problems. Facilitate the waiting time by talking to the audience, letting them know what the issue is, how many have joined, etc. You can even do a small Q&A or a poll before the webinar so as to get to know your audience better.
8. Work out the kinks
Technical run-throughs are vital to the success of an event. Despite engaging content and speakers, if the internet connection is spotty or slow or if videos freeze in the middle of a compelling talk, it can be counterproductive. Do a dry run before the live event. If you are planning to engage panelists, then host a practice webinar with them. This will help you chalk out a plan as to who will speak when and what points to be addressed etc.
9. Use slides effectively
Slides are an effective way to convey a lot using minimal content. With the help of charts, colors, diagrams, flow charts, etc. it becomes easy to get points across easily and efficiently. A picture is worth a thousand words. Striking and captivating images at once convey the intended message effectively. Keep the points brief and do not read off of your slides. The audience has come to hear you speak so keep the content less on the slides. You can always give the relevant and necessary information in the form of e-brochures as takeaways.
10. Talk ‘to’ your audience
In order to keep your audience engaged, interested, and involved in your talk, you need to pause and ask questions, even if rhetorical, and allow time to reflect and think. Review the registration list in advance to know your audience better. This will help you tweak your talk to deliver a more personalized experience. Prepare in advance the format of the webinar that will address the following questions. Will there be a formal Q & A ? How will the attendees submit the questions? When and in which format will you answer them? Audience engagement should not be an afterthought.
11. Allow sufficient time for Q&A
Question and answer sessions are usually the liveliest part of the webinar, as not everyone always likes to contribute and debate. Go prepared with your own set of questions that you anticipate based on the expectations and objectives of the webinar. Encourage the audience to ask questions and open the floor for an interactive discussion. Presentations work best when real-time feedback is made available to the audience. For instance, Mentimeter is an audience management solution that helps businesses to engage with audiences while doing interactive presentations. You can keep up a constant loop of communication by ensuring that questions show up during the presentation so that even the audience can view the question.
Post webinar follow up
A webinar helps convert prospective clients into clients and aids in bringing business. In order to capitalize on all the effort gone into the webinar, it is essential to do a proper follow-up email too.
· Send thank you notes to all the participants. Do not bombard them with emails or messages. An option to join your mailing list can be given with a request to follow you on social media to stay updated on the product or service.
· Use screenshots, quotes, or other relevant material used in the webinar to continue to connect with the webinar attendees, and give others who were unable to attend a chance to know get to know you. Keep a lookout for likes or mentions of your webinar in posts shared by the attendees and leave appropriate comments.
· Archive the webinar for future reference. These also may be made available in downloadable format for the attendees or for those who registered but were unable to attend.
A handy checklist for your webinar planning
· Select topic
· Select webinar type (Lead generation, training, product demonstration)
· Choose a webinar format (Presentation, interview, conversation, joint sessions)
· Choose your target audience and expert speakers, if applicable
· Identify and prepare your technical and logistics team
· Identify software that will be used for the webinar and train yourself thoroughly in it
· Advertise and market your webinar
· Prepare in advance the duration of the webinar and time allotted for each segment and stick to it so that you do not overshoot your timeline
· Prepare content with images, slides, and other tools and proof read them
· Send reminders to the technical team, logistical team, and the participants who have registered
· On the day of the webinar, be early and ensure the technical team has crosschecked connections, and other necessary equipment
· Be confident while you present the webinar and keep all information handy, use cue cards/teleprompter for assistance
· Send thank you notes and feedback forms to all involved towards the success of the webinar. Apart from participants be sure to thank your own teams, presenters, guests, etc.
· Use social media to talk about the success of the webinar, use quotes, screenshots of the live event, etc.
· Archive the webinar and make sure it is available to the participants as well as those who registered and were unable to attend