7 tips for better webinars and virtual events

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Virtual events are a great addition to your marketing arsenal. But what if you have no experience hosting virtual events? A great starting point is learning how to run a webinar.

After all, webinars are proven channels for generating demand and supporting products. They educate while building trust and wearing down buyer resistance. But what if your webinar goes astray, attracting a small, unengaged audience that tunes out after a few minutes? That’s a major defeat because it takes a serious commitment of time, brainpower, and collaboration to pull off a webinar.

Thus, it pays to know the top virtual conference best practices when you’re planning a webinar. These seven tips should set you on the right course to webinar success.

1. Set specific webinar objectives

Let’s say you’re the marketing director for a midsized B2B manufacturing firm. Your company builds devices for heating and cooling the next generation of electric cars. Naturally, your webinar should attract your ideal customers: electric car manufacturers. What would appeal to them the most? Start with your product line. Your company just introduced a new generation of air conditioner units that consume 27 percent less electricity than competing A/C units.

This is a big deal for your target audience because A/C units are major battery drains for electric cars. Electric-car manufacturers are desperate to extend their cars’ range on a single battery charge.

This gives you a great opportunity for a specific objective: Educating electric-car manufacturing decision-makers on how to reduce energy consumption from A/C units. You can apply this concept in any market: Pick a new product and educate your target market on a related topic.

2. Choose a clear webinar topic

Never underestimate the importance of a clear, easy-to-understand topic. You need a subject that’s interesting enough to hold your target audience’s attention for 30 to 60 minutes. Your webinar topic also should be:

  • Targeted, speaking to a well-defined group of people.
  • Specific, telling the audience exactly what to expect. Ideally, it’s something they aren’t getting somewhere else.
  • Value-driven, giving your audience something they want.

In our B2B example, you want decision-makers from electric car manufacturers in your marketing funnel so you can use content to move them closer to choosing your A/C units.

Don’t waste their time with a sales-related topic. They’re experts at tuning out sales talk. Stick to what they need: Insights on reducing energy consumption and extending driving range, which gives them a competitive advantage.

Thus, your webinar topic could be “Keeping Electric Cars Cool Without Sacrificing Driving Range.” That’s an unambiguous pain point for an entire industry, which makes it a worthy webinar topic.

3. Beat webinar fatigue 

Webinar fatigue makes your audience bored, distracted, and tempted to tune out. A few ways to keep your webinar lively:

  • Invite trustworthy, engaging guests. You want people you know your audience wants to listen to. If you use in-house experts, make sure they can hold an audience’s interest.
  • Break things down into sections. Create an outline with time limits for each section.
  • Stay on topic. Don’t let discussions get derailed by off-topic rambling.
  • Get interactive. Ask questions of your audience and answer the best ones. If your webinar platform has a polling or survey function, put it to work.

Remember, web audiences are one click or tap away from a better use of their time.

4. Mix up your media 

Of course, you’ll need a slide deck. But you can also add short videos, infographics, still photography, audio files, editorial cartoons, and so on. Anything that helps keep your audience engaged without overwhelming them is a candidate.

Just remember how people consume your media. When you’re giving your executive suite a 27-slide PowerPoint to analyze over the next week, they’ll have time to call it up on their computers and consume the data and graphics at a comfortable pace.

This is not how your webinar audience experiences a PowerPoint. They’re trying to follow a conversation while reading the data on each slide. Many are using phones with tiny screens and can’t see small words or numbers.

Thus, your slides must reveal just a few data points that are easy to absorb. So, don’t grab a pitch deck built for another purpose and plug it into your webinar. Build slides specifically for your webinar audience.

Watch a few Ted Talks for inspiration. The best Ted presenters use simple slides that make clear visual points. Do the same in your webinar.

5. Launch an exit survey immediately after 

Create a survey asking people their reactions to the webinar. Keep it simple — no more than a half-dozen questions. Make sure the questions can generate insights that will help you next time around. This is a good place to ask people if they want more marketing information.

Remember, your survey will not produce statistically valid insights, but it will provide useful hints for improving future webinars. You might even score a few warm leads.

6. Avoid technical glitches 

Technical difficulties are the bane of webinar producers. Do your best to anticipate problems and choose a trusted, proven webinar platform. Ask friends and colleagues who have hosted webinars how they avoided problems.

Check with your IT team to make sure you have enough bandwidth for all the media you’re planning to use. Work out how to start the webinar and get into (and out of) screen-sharing mode. If you’re conducting a software demo, make sure it’s running stable on the computer you’ll be using during the webinar.

A wired microphone, camera and headphones will produce the best audiovisual quality for your audience.

7. Practice, practice, practice 

Always rehearse your webinar. Convene guests ahead of time and walk them through all the topics you’ll cover. Don’t put this off till the last minute. Plan it for a few days before the event, so everybody gets comfortable with the topics and structure.

Bring in all your media and make sure it works well. And test your equipment to make sure everything plays nice together.

Webinar success comes down to planning and promotion

If you’re the marketing director of our hypothetical B2B manufacturer of electric car parts, you now have the nuts and bolts of hosting a successful webinar. Please note we’ve left out one critical component: attracting an audience. That’s a topic for a future blog.

For now, rest assured you’ll need to put some thought into announcing and promoting your webinar. It’ll mean collaborating with your email and social media teams to figure out where your audience is and creating messaging to reel them in. Paid-social-media campaigns can be a huge help, so don’t rule out spending money to build an audience.

Everything you do to plan the content and execution of your webinar will pay off when the time comes to ask people to do business with you. That’ll be much more likely if you do what it takes to give them value and earn their trust.

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