10 Tips to Turn Webinars Into Masterpieces

Thanks to Eric Vidal of Target Marketing for this excellent tip sheet for webinars. It makes a compelling case to produce one but it eliminates tons of mistakes that would surely occur without a handy Top 10 Webinar Tips Checklist. It’s filled with common sense and lots of excellent marketing synergies available from following these steps.

I’m fond of the Neuro Linguistic Programing (NLP) supposition that the meaning of a communication is the response that it elicits. That’s particularly appropriate for webinars.Audience attendance, participation, questions, feedback and sharing make webinars an ideal tool for refining business strategies and tactics.

Weninars or webcasts have become popular for delivering important information to a targeted—yet geographically-dispersed—audience, and bringing new leads into the sales funnel. Webinars provide the immediacy, intimacy and interaction of a live presentation, but without the need to rent a large room or have participants travel from all over to attend.

If it’s promoted well, the event can reinforce your relationship with existing clients and prospects, or attract new prospects and show them you understand the questions they’re facing in the marketplace.Yet as with any tool, a webinar is only as good as the people presenting it. These 10 tips will help ensure your webinars grab the attendees’ attention, holds it throughout the presentation and deliver the insights they’re looking for.

1. Create Goals, Strategy and a Plan
When webinars were first introduced, companies were very careful to ensure they knew why they were offering them and the results they wanted to achieve because webinars took a lot of work. Now, because webinars are so common and the technology is so easy to use, some of those initial steps are often left out in the rush to get the next one out.

Start by defining your goal, and then build a strategy that will help you reach that goal. To get you started, here are the top responses from a recent survey of 341 business leaders on how they use virtual solutions to impact their businesses:

  • Get products and services to market faster
  • Reach more audiences at a lower cost
  • Develop more effective and efficient sales teams and channel partners
  • Shorten sales cycles
  • Create stronger relationships with prospects, customers and partners
  • Reduce support costs by training customers

2. Use a Catchy Title and Description
Having a catchy title and description will help your webinar stand out from all the other emails and announcements your target audience receives and ensure they know there’s something in it for them. As you develop your title and description, keep these tips in mind:

  • Take a cue from copywriters and use action verbs to amp up the wattage.
  • Include searchable keywords if you’re promoting your webinar to people outside of your invitee list so search engines will pick up your content.
  • In the description, be sure to spell out clearly what the session is about and what attendees will get out of it for the time they invest.
  • Use bullet points to make it easier for busy people to read and understand your key points quickly.
  • Offering an incentive for participating, such as a free download, can also help increase attendance.

3. Create a Promotion Plan

With your message created, it’s time to start promoting your webinar. Start with marketing tools that have little or no cost attached to them, such as your website, intranet, and email blasts to prospect lists. Send two or three email invitations, and create a robust microsite that easily walks respondents through the registration process.

Social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can help you spread the word quickly. Find LinkedIn groups relevant to your audience and post there. Create a hashtag for your event on Twitter and then use it to post roughly three times per week prior to the event. You can also create a Facebook event page and then update it at least once a week.

If you have some marketing budget to support your event, consider issuing an e-newsletter, perhaps supplemented with additional names from a list broker. Purchase Google AdwordsOpens in a new window and place event sections in local newspapers and/or trade publication websites. Leverage any public relations you’re doing and be sure to take advantage of any mechanisms your partners have, as well.

Finally, be sure to embed a “promo code” into each communication so you can track the effectiveness of each vehicle. That way you can find which worked best so you can refine your marketing efforts for your next webinar.

4. Use Slides as Visual Aids, Not Visual Points
While it’s not uncommon to see a PowerPoint presentation packed with information on every slide, the truth is, having too much information distracts from the presenter and usually ensures that attendees will have trouble understanding and remembering the material. Instead, use your slides to guide your conversation. Use graphics frequently; for text-based slides, include only the main points, and just enough about them to help viewers keep their place. Your presentation will be more natural and it will be easier for attendees to stay focused on your message.

5. Use Story-Telling Techniques
The most effective speakers, whether they’re in front of a live audience or on a webinar, use stories to hold attention and illustrate concepts. Common analogies and specific examples, such as case studies, help your audience relate to the material better than a dry recitation of facts. You can use one or two statistics or hard data points to move the material from the theoretical to the practical, but don’t overload your audience with details or you’ll risk losing them. You can always make more information available after the webinar for those who are interested.

6. Keep the Session Interactive
Involve your audience throughout the presentation to keep them interested, minimize “multitasking” and encourage them to contribute. Make it clear in your introduction that the session will be collaborative, and encourage them to ask questions or make comments via the webinar client throughout, rather than waiting until the end.

Another technique you can use is to ask one or two poll questions within the first two to three minutes. You’ll set the tone and gain information that can help you tailor your delivery to the points of greatest interest to your audience. Be sure to reserve time at the end for Q&A as well as a way to wrap things up. If you have an ongoing forum, refer your audience there to continue the conversation.

7. Create Memorable Content
In the webinar virtual world, content is king. Select interesting speakers, engaging subjects and timely themes that resonate with your audience. Invite industry experts, customers or high-profile pundits to join you and help draw more participants. Keep the topic general and educational rather than specific to your products or services, because adding to your prospects’ knowledge base will attract more interest than a blatant sales pitch—and increase your chances of bringing them back for another webinar down the road.

8. Extend the Conversation Before and After the Event
Use your webinar as a conversation driver, not an isolated event. Create interest in advance by blogging about it and posting to discussion boards or groups to build anticipation for the topic. Use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to generate awareness and excitement as well.

After the event, create a centralized place such as a virtual environment or conference where the conversation can continue. Be sure your subject matter experts are prepared to continue participating as well.

9. Remember the Folks Who Register but Don’t Attend
Although not everyone who registers will be able to attend your webinar, anyone who registers is probably interested in your topic. Follow up diligently with all. Send attendees a “thank you for attending” note; send those who didn’t a “sorry we missed you” note and encourage them to access the webinar on-demand by sending a link to the archived content. The on-demand period can generate 40 percent or more of your total attendees, so don’t take it for granted.

10. Conduct Post-event Analysis
Evaluate your content, presentations and event from your own perspective as well as that of your attendees. Read feedback, survey results, chats, polls and Q&A from the session. Determine how many people actively participated, and whether their comments/questions were appropriate to the topic. If not, go back over your promotional materials, content and audience composition to determine if they were aligned. Also look at how many stayed through the entire session and how many dropped out (and at what point). The more information you can glean from this session, the better and more successful your next webinars will be.

Eric Vidal  is the director of product marketing for the Event Services Business Segment at Chicago-based conferencing and collaboration services provider InterCallOpens in a new window. Reach him at ericv@unisfair.com.