The world of business underwent a lot of changes in 2020, but one thing remained the same: the need to communicate and engage as part of a business plan, no matter the industry or area you’re in.
The webinar proved its worth during these trying times and remains one of the easiest ways to get your message across to an audience anywhere in the world, while still remaining personable.
So, what is a webinar?
A webinar can be simply defined as an online presentation, with a host, and sometimes other panelists, sharing content to an audience. Within that broad definition though, a webinar is a virtual place where people can sell products, drum up interest, teach and mentor, share ideas, or communicate to a group of people, and there are lots of features available to use.
As one of the most successful marketing and communication tools for businesses seeking better audience engagement, there’s a good chance you’ve considered adding webinars to your repertoire at some time or another.
To help you unpack what they’re all about and what to expect if you run one, we’ve created a straightforward guide that answers all of your questions.
What Is A Webinar?
A webinar is an online meeting or virtual presentation, with a host connecting to members of the audience remotely through the internet.
These presentations generally feature video and audio and may allow for other capabilities like screen sharing, live chat, and panelists to join in with presenting.
Unlike a meeting, a webinar is more about one person or person presenting content to others, and not usually as collaborative, although they can be in some circumstances. There are many platforms available that allow you to host a webinar, and within each of them are features you can utilize to make them your own.
You may choose to have more audience engagement with things like live chat and polling or want the option to screen share and show your ideas visually to the audience.
Some webinars can also be recorded or live streamed elsewhere, so the right choice in webinar software or platform is essential to achieving what you want.
The History Behind Webinars
Webinars were created while the internet was still young, and according to unverified history reports, first took place around the late 1980s.
In 1996, public web conferences or webinars began picking up steam, thanks to Microsoft’s NetMeeting software giving the ability to host them from this platform with ease.
The first verified webinar platform, WebEx Meeting Center, was created in 1999, and today it’s known more simply as WebEx. From there, the world of webinars has grown and emerged, with a whole suite of options on the market including Zoom, Google Meet, and GoToWebinar.
Where the webinar used to be a niche marketing tool, it’s now become the norm for many businesses. as the whole world moved online once Covid forced everyone into lockdown and working from home, we looked for ways to stay connected to others, and to share our ideas and products with those that were interested.
The modern webinar software of today has many features that it never used to, like virtual rooms to hang out in, polls and surveys for engagement, and screen sharing from the host to the audience.
Although they’ve evolved so much, the same basic premise still remains, and that’s to reach out to a virtual audience around the world from any location and in real-time, putting a personal touch on your marketing and communications strategy.
Who Are Webinars For?
One of the biggest misconceptions about webinars is that they’re only suited to marketing professionals, but there are lots of industries and careers that can utilize them.
Just recently we’ve seen how effective online and real-time exhibitions can be, and there’s no limit to who can benefit from this type of presentation:
- Educators: There are lots of great opportunities for educating through webinars, whether you’re doing an online tutorial for a new product at work or teaching a specific subject to students. A webinar is a great tool for not only presenting but allowing feedback and questions from students.
- Salespeople: Marketing and sales go hand in hand with webinars, and they’re a great tool to build leads, spread awareness of a product or service, and set yourself up as an expert in your field. You can offer free or paid webinars as part of your marketing strategy but must ensure that the content is worthy.
- Innovators: Sharing ideas is done easier visually in many cases, and using a webinar to do this is a perfect way. You can invite people that are interested in new ideas and innovations to watch your presentation, and include technologies like screen sharing and in-webinar video to take it further.
- Experts: Whether you’re an existing expert in your field or hoping to cement your position as one, a webinar is the ideal platform to present ideas and educate others.
8 Benefits of Hosting a Webinar
A webinar is a savvy marketing and communications tool that lets you reach a larger audience without ever having to leave the office.
Regardless of the field you’re in or the purpose behind hosting a webinar, there are loads of benefits to this type of virtual event.
Of all of the content your brand creates, there’s nothing as engaging as a live webinar.
Rather than sending out emails or sharing a video on YouTube, you’re able to connect in real-time with the audience, and give them a chance to have their input as well.
If you’re having issues with getting engagement from customers and clients, this simple tool can turn it all around.
Affordable marketing tool
Any good business has a marketing budget they stick to, and among the varied costs for marketing tools your business will use, you can count on the webinar to be an affordable option.
There are even free platforms out there that you can use or do a trial run until you’re ready to upgrade, so there’s no financial risk when giving it a go.
As far as content goes, hosting a quality webinar is one of the better options, and it’s the perfect way to elevate the content offerings of your brand.
By adding webinars to your lineup, you’re delivering a valuable piece of content and something that’s outside of the box, provided you can make the subject matter entertaining and informative.
A webinar can be broadcast around the world with ease, and if you’re looking to extend your brand’s reach, it’s an easy way to do it.
You’ll need to market it right to gather attention from the locations you want, but there’s no need to leave your office or home to host an international presentation, all thanks to the webinar.
Delivering a well-researched and engaging webinar is the quickest and easiest way to solidify your status within your field.
With just one quality webinar, you’ll show others that you’re a leader in the industry, knowledge, and have something to offer them in terms of content.
After a successful webinar, you’ll be able to host more and already have a loyal following who are hoping to register.
If you’re hoping to build the reputation and trust of your brand with customers and clients, webinars are a great way to do that.
With each presentation, you’ll solidify your expert status on the subject, and show others that your brand has a lot of worth to offer other than just your products and services.
Using webinars as a marketing tool is a great tactic because it gives you the names and contact information of those in your industry.
Even a simple branded registration page can be used to network and build a contact list of like-minded professionals and potential future clients and customers.
After the event, you can reach out to the attendees for further insights and networking opportunities.
Learning about the audience
Rather than just putting up a video and having people watch it, a webinar allows for more engagement and input.
You’ll be able to learn what the audience wants, what they think about topics, and whether they have feedback or insight that can be valuable.
The analytics tools provided by webinar platforms can be an instrumental tool for understanding your audience better.
Planning the Perfect Webinar
As with any other marketing tool or communications strategy, a good webinar needs to be carefully planned out.
First are foremost, you’ll need to think about why you’re hosting a webinar and what you hope to get out of it. Using these goals, whether it’s sharing a new product or boosting engagement with customers, you’ll need to plan the talking points that can help you achieve them.
To keep people engaged, you want to stick to a script between 30 to 60 minutes so that nobody gets bored with your presentation.
Next, think about the timing and gather input from guests about when would suit them. You’ll need to consider time zones, regular work hours, and holidays, all of which can impact how many attend your webinar. Create invitations and registration pages for those you want to attend and leave registration open to newcomers as well if you’re hoping to attract a larger audience. Market the event through social channels, email campaigns, and any other tools at your disposal.
Finally, you’ll have to plan the audio and visual tools for the presentation and make sure you have a good handle on whatever webinar platform or software you’re using.
Think about whether you’ll enable chat, a Q&A session, screen sharing, and more. Practice the script before the webinar begins and be open to audience input and engagement, as well as being prepared for whatever issues arise.
Common Challenges of Hosting Webinars
No matter how much (or how little) you plan for a webinar, there are some common challenges that all hosts face.
Whether it’s an issue with the software or unpreparedness on your part, something is bound to go wrong. To ensure you’re ready for the worst, think about some of these scenarios and have a backup plan so you can move on quickly and professionally in the face of adversity.
A common problem is lack of accessibility for your audience, whether it’s an error code, not having the right plug-in installed, or the page not loading efficiently. These can be easily rectified by choosing a reputable webinar platform that takes make the process simple for participants and offers a quick resolution.
Lack of engagement
A webinar that’s not engaging will lead to fewer questions during Q&A and a lack of follow-up once it’s over. Think about your presentation from the audience’s seat and be brutally honest about whether or not you’d be bothered getting involved while you watch it.
A quality registration page is worth its weight in gold when it comes to webinars. One issue with this and you could lose all of your potential attendees. Keep the form short and sweet, make sure it’s branded so people can see what it’s about, supply your contact information, and tell them what they’ll benefit from tuning in.
Although you might get lots of registrations for your webinar, studies show that the actual attendance rate is much less. While there’s nothing you can do about people changing their minds, having a good landing page and offering other good content can cement your position as someone worthy of listening to.
Whenever you’re working with computers or online, there’s a good chance technical issues will crop up. To keep these at a minimum, choose a good webinar platform with the support staff at the ready to make sure they only cause a minor disruption.
Finding the Best Platform
A webinar’s success isn’t only judged by its content but also the platform it’s hosted on, and this is true for both you and your attendees.
There are countless programs out there designed to help you deliver the perfect webinar, but depending on your goals and requirements for these virtual presentations, only a handful will be the perfect fit.
Consider these things when you’re trying to choose the right webinar platform:
Webinar platforms range from completely free to tens of thousands of dollars a year, so there’s a huge variance in cost. Think about what portion of your marketing budget you want to put towards this type of content and let that guide you.
Having access to a customer support team or person can be a godsend when dealing with webinars so you want to make sure you’re covered. You’ll be able to direct questions, get input on presentations, and have on-hand assistance for any technical issues that arise.
Ease of use
A webinar should be easy to create and depending on how much input you want to have in this process, there should be a platform that suits this. Many of these services walk you through every step and use a wizard to create a webinar, so it’s easy even if you’ve never done it before.
Branding and marketing tools
The ability to customize your webinar, registration and landing pages are essential for making it your own. Additionally, you want to be provided with marketing tools like lead captures, audience insights, follow-up services, and integration with other third-party providers and platforms.
Give the audience a chance to engage beyond simply watching the webinar by choosing a platform with the right engagement tools. These include things like live chat, virtual networking rooms, polls, surveys, hand raising, and breakout rooms.
Audio and video
Quality audio and video are crucial when delivering a message, so choose a webinar platform that delivers on both fronts. The presentation of your message is everything and anything less than a professional finish will come off as amateurish for you and your brand.
Recording and streaming
Being able to record a webinar is a helpful tool, as you can use it to watch over later, make changes to the presentation, share it with others, or keep it as part of your marketing strategy. Some also offer the opportunity to live stream a session on your social media accounts or website which can be helpful.
The option to analyze how a webinar performed, audience numbers, engagement, and registration figures are important for planning future webinars. Not only should software be able to provide this data for you, but it needs to be easy to understand as well.
The Future of Webinars in a Post Covid World
The business world, like the rest of the world, changed when Covid hit, and it became apparent how much we relied on technology to get through our everyday lives.
Marketing and communications tools like webinars became a primary tool for content creation and offered something unique from other methods.
Unlike YouTube videos that don’t allow for audience engagement nor live interaction, or a web conference that can muddle up the many voices of attendees, the webinar delivers an efficient, engaging, and modern way to deliver your message to a crowd.
You can have just one person attend, or thousands, and they’ll feel as though they’re right there with you because they’re experiencing your presentation in real-time.
According to a 2020 study conducted by On24 about webinar benchmarks, the best performing day to attend a webinar is now Tuesday, where it used to be Wednesday and Thursday predominantly.
This is because webinars now seem to be happening regularly and across the workweek, rather than just being left to midweek when there used to be more interest. As the webinar becomes a standard communication tool in many industries, this trend will likely continue.
A Personal Approach to Content Marketing
Utilizing a webinar for your content marketing and communications strategy is a step in the right direction and a simple way to get your message across on a personal level.
With webinar platforms only becoming more powerful and effective in this post-lockdown world, there’s no telling what they’ll be able to offer businesses in the future.
Webinars are a great tool to use as part of your marketing reach, but they’re not so straightforward when you’re just starting out.
To help you understand even more about what a webinar involves, check out our expert answers to some FAQs that can do just that.
How Many People Can Attend My Webinar?
All webinar platforms have a maximum occupancy limit for attendees but may offer registration up to even more than this to account for no-shows.
Currently, the largest number of audience members you can have at a webinar is 50,000 and this is using Zoom’s Video Webinar product.
Are Webinars Free?
A webinar may be free to attend or incur a fee, depending on what’s being offered by the host and the content that’s presented.
You’ll be able to establish the cost before registering for an event and these are usually pre-paid if a payment is required, so there’s no risk of being asked for money after the webinar session has finished.
Do I Have to Talk in a Webinar?
Most attendees of a webinar will not be required to talk, as it’s not a collaborative session like a virtual meeting, but more of a presentation where you act as the audience only.
You’ll likely be muted for the duration of the webinar and if the host requires input from attendees, they have the power to unmute you, with your permission.