Webinars have always been a popular way for businesses to reach audiences. In fact, for over 15 years webinars have been consistently one of the best top of the funnel lead generation tools for businesses and organizations.
We know that educational videos and webinars have been a strong tactic for marketers. A recent report by Ascend2 (and highlighted in Marketing Charts) says that 54% of marketing professionals believe video is the best format for sharing thought leadership and 38% say webinars are the best format.
With that said, video and webinars are continuing to grow in popularity and use, and are essential for businesses and organizations interested in sharing information effectively with audiences.
However, every webinar requires one key ingredient to be successful: planning.
Over our careers, the team at Your Webinar Experts have managed, moderated and spoken on hundreds of webinars going as far back as the early 2000s. Based on our experience, we have put together a detailed checklist that helps you to create a webinar from start to finish.
For every webinar, you have some initial steps to take before you can get into the substance of the event. You need to start with some basic questions, such as:
What is your event going to be about?
Who is your audience?
When do you want to hold the webinar?
This part of the webinar checklist will help you get started.
Though the time frame from planning to holding an event can vary due to a number of factors, you typically want 3 to 4 weeks of time to promote. Since speaker acquisition can take time, this part of the planning process should start between 6 and 8 weeks before an event is scheduled to take place. This can give you some cushion to make sure your speakers are all confirmed.
Select a topic
Topic selection is typically the first step in creating a webinar. Something has prompted you to hold a webinar. What is it? Are you trying to address a question asked by a prospect or customer? Do you see an emerging trend you want your subject matter experts to weigh in on?
Whatever your motivation for holding a webinar, create a list of potential topics and see which ones best apply to the interests and needs of your audience.
Identify your target audience
Who is it you want to reach?
Think about the topic and the solution and who is the best fit for your event. Maybe this webinar is very high-level and perfect for executive thought leaders? Or maybe it is more technical and perfect for IT administrators? Identify your audience as best as you can. Just make sure your topic and audience align to one another.
Select speaker(s) and moderator
Who do want to speak at your webinar? Do you need someone who can run a demo? A person with subject matter expertise? Or perhaps a mix of people with industry-wide name recognition? Finding the right qualifications is just the first step. You need to make sure they can present well and they are available to prepare, practice and present on the dates you need them.
You also need to answer the question, "How many speakers will you have?" Are you planning on 1? 2? 3? Or more? For most webinars, including panel discussions, we do not recommend more than 5 speakers with a moderator. Even at 5 you start to run into challenges with providing each person enough time to contribute in a meaningful way.
We do recommend a moderator - someone who can introduce the event and speaker and help either manage the total event or provide a different voice for Q&A sessions and other activities. Even if you are planning one a single speaker - a moderator can set-up the event for the audience and assist in gathering questions to keep the presenter focused on delivering the information the audience is looking for.
For your webinar, do you need technical integrations or have security concerns?
Many of today's webinar software platforms can integrate with other systems, such as a CRM. You should determine how important that is before you select a provider.
Another topic to consider is security. If you are a government agency, do you need a FedRAMP Authorized solution? Does your business have specific security protocols that eliminate some providers from consideration? Do you need a solution that sends out unique login links? Or do you prefer a solution that has one link, but a password?
Lastly, how important is ease of use? Some webinar solutions can require audiences to download and install a plugin or application, while others are just web-based / HTML. Some user interfaces (UI) are very easy and intuitive, while others are better for more advanced audiences.
Depending on who you are - these could be critical questions to answer before you enter into a contract with a webinar provider.
What webinar provider will you use?
You can certainly look at our directory of Webinar Providers, ask us our thoughts based on your needs, or use a platform you heard works well. But you need to make a selection early on in the webinar planning process otherwise you won't be able to promote your event.
Pick a date
Once you have a topic and speakers confirmed, you need to lock in your date for the event. Just make sure there are no competing conferences or other webinars that might draw away your target audience. You also should be respectful of major religious holidays and national events.
What do you hope to accomplish with your webinar? How will you consider your event a success? Setting goals is an important first step in the planning process.
Keep in mind, goals can be adjusted as circumstances change. However, do your best to set a reasonable bar of registrations and other metrics.
Determine if you will provide handouts, the slides or other post-event resources
First, decide if you will provide the slide deck to your audience. It is one of the most popular questions asked during an event and something every participant has come to expect.
Second, decide if you will provide resource materials before, during and/or after the event. Typically, audiences like receiving valuable resources and tools that they can use. Especially if they are free to use. The more value you provide to your audience, the more likely you will achieve your registration goals.
Who is doing webinars?
According to GoToWebinar's data, business to business (B2B) companies host the most webinars per year at 61%. Business to consumer (B2C) companies were second with 17%. Non-profit organizations come in third with 11%. Federal, state and local government comprised only 2% of all webinars (though other companies have metrics that show government agencies produce 7% of all webinars).
Webinar Planning (Event Set Up Steps)
Now that the foundation has been laid for your webinar, it is time to start building the frame around it - the basic structure. This is where your webinar starts to take shape for others to see and consider.
If you are planning on three weeks of promotional activity, you want to make sure you tackle these steps 4 to 5 weeks prior to your event date. This will give any internal stakeholders time to review and approve, as well as give you time to meet any internal deadlines / processes.
Create outline of webinar topic
When creating an outline of your webinar topic, start by placing the topic title and what you hope to achieve at the very top. If you put the title and primary goals at the top, you can easily see if your outline is aligned to both OR if you need to change something.
One of the most traditional ways to outline a webinar or set the flow of an event is to start by identifying the problem or defining the central issue that you seek to address and work through it to set the context for audience (why the topic is important to them), identify a solution and then provide an example of the solution succeeding. The model is:
Case Studies / Examples of solution in action
Your webinar description does not need to be long - but you should provide a detailed roadmap of what people should expect.
What's more, the most effective webinars always provide resources and information that are valuable to the audience. Do not expect to charge a price for what you provide - you should already be receiving the information of who is registered for the event.
Create webinar landing page / registration page
You webinar landing page or registration page should include:
Date and time of the event (be sure to include different time zones)
Speakers (if possible, a picture of the speakers and some biographical information
For the registration page - you want to keep your form as simple as possible. Only ask for the data you absolutely need for your business or organization. The more fields a person needs to complete, the less likely they will finish the form. You do not want to get someone to the registration page and then create a barrier to them signing up.
Create marketing tool kit
To successfully promote your webinar, you need to build out a marketing toolkit. This will include:
Images for landing page banner, email banner, advertising (if you are conducting paid media) and social media banners and promos (LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram).
Emails for event promotion with different subject lines and copy. If you have a sales team, you might consider providing separate plain text copy for them to send out to their prospects and existing customers.
Emails for post-event promotion of on-demand event.
Pre-event blog post (if you desire) to draw attention to the event
Social media promotional copy that people in your organization can copy and paste in their profiles (you might consider unique urls to track performance).
Create event partner / speakers assets and distribute. If your webinar has partners or speakers who are from outside your organization, ask if they can promote the event and provide some basic resources for them to share event registration to their networks.
Outline and create placeholders for post-event promotional ads and social media, as well as post-event blog post recap and/or post-event landing page.
Consider creating a 30 to 60 second teaser video to promote the webinar.
Create first draft of webinar slide deck
The key to the first draft is to focus on the content and the ideas without getting too wrapped up in the design. You want to get an idea of the flow of your presentation - what you will discuss - and start to flag what you need. For example, if you think you want to show a video, place a box and note in a slide with information on the video. If you need to add a chart or image or quote - note that. They key is to start building the pieces and start tasking people to find the key resources you need to complete the presentation.
Set dates for all promotional activities
In many companies and organizations, you need to schedule email sends, paid media and social media promotion. Therefore, it is a good idea to set dates and get the digital assets into the hands of the people who need them as soon as possible. If you have delays in scheduling and sharing assets, don't be surprised if internal teams reduce the number of promotions they send OR send your webinar promotions at ineffective times.
Schedule your practice sessions
Make sure you get practice sessions on the calendar with your speaker(s). The higher profile your speaker(s), the greater need to get on their calendar as soon as possible with practice sessions.
Identify and reserve your webinar room(s)
If you are looking to hold the webinar in a special room at your office with good internet, light and comfortable seats, make sure you book the room well in advance and your get a confirmation. Be sure to add a little time before the event and after so you can get set up and have a brief recap after the event is over.
Ensure all speakers have a hard line connection to the Internet (no WiFi)
A wired internet connection is always better than WiFi. If you speaker(s) is remote, make sure they test their internet connection. We always recommend that anything that could use internet bandwidth and slow a webinar connection gets turned off for the event. If your speaker(s) has no choice but to use WiFi - look for ways to maximize their connection by reducing the drain on their signal.
If speakers need to use a camera, schedule a test of equipment
Scheduling tests of cameras and microphones are common pre-webinar practices.
However, there are some cases where you may need to actually send a speaker(s) equipment to ensure their webinar presentation is optimal. If that is the case, you will need to coordinate well in advance of the event to make sure the equipment arrives on time and you are able to walk through the set-up process and testing of the technology.
When do webinar registrations happen?
Though registration performance can vary, there is truth to higher registration when you reach people earlier in the day and when you promote aggressively in the final week. Industry data shows that:
36% of registrations occur between 8-10 am.
59% of registrations occur less than a week before the webinar (17% on the day of the event)
Webinar Promotion and Registration Reporting
Send out first email
Your first email is a great tool to test everything you have created thus far. When you look at the results, you can use the "open rate" to gauge the effectiveness of your subject line, the "click rate" to determine if your email messaging needs to be improved and your "registration report" to assess the conversion of your registration page.
When you send your first email, make sure you send it earlier in the day and earlier in the week - as that time frame tends to have the highest conversion potential.
Note: If you are sending to audiences in different time zones, it would be ideal to program your send so that everyone gets the message at the same point in their day. If you do program email sends to adjust for time zones, an email scheduled to hit inboxes at 8:00 am Eastern Time (NYC), will arrive to inboxes at 5 am Pacific Time (Los Angeles) and 10 pm in Australia.
Launch paid media and social media campaign
When you launch paid and social media campaigns, be sure to include tracking URLs so you know where registrations are coming from. Most likely, email will be the biggest driver of registrations - however it is important to qualify if your paid efforts are effective or not.
Lastly, do not base the success or failure on your paid and social media campaigns on the total number of registrations. If each lead has a monetary value to your company or organization, qualify that. Depending on your business, you may find that higher revenue potential leads came from your paid and social media campaigns. In which case, spending on these campaigns may be completely justified in the future.
3 to 5 days following first promotions, create and share registration report
The first registration report should be both a quick summary of the key important data as well as a break down on what is working and what is not working with your webinar promotional activities.
Look at the effectiveness of your subject line, paid and social media messaging and see if you are generating enough interest. If your first point of contact is not generating clicks, you may need to change up how you are framing the event. The first point of contact should grab the audience's attention and drive them to click and explore.
Use the registration report to review each layer of engagement to determine strengths and weaknesses.
Lastly, make sure all the key stakeholders have the registration report. If there are specific "calls to action" or CTAs for the sales teams - please make sure they are clearly highlighted and that you include: 1) what steps they need to take and 2) the resources they need to take them.
Complete draft of promotional blog post
A blog post that promotes your upcoming webinar is a great idea. It helps to provide some additional context to what your event will be about as well as share some resources to help entice people to registering.
There are different ways you can approach a pre-event blog post, such as:
Interview of one or all speakers on topics that relate to the event
Examples of the problem you seek to solve to show the audience you know / feel their pain.
A video preview embedded in the blog post with a person or people talking about why this is important.
A simple blog post outlining the event with a link to register.
Whatever format you choose, a blog post can also be shared on LinkedIn. The more topical and filled with value (actionable information), the more likely people will read it. The more readers - the more it becomes an effective advertisement for your event.
Publish promotional blog post and share on social media
Make sure you publish at least 7 to 14 days before the event to give the post time to be effective.
Create email suppression list
Before you send out another promotional email, you want to create an email suppression list. This list will be everyone who has registered for the webinar to date.The goal of a suppression list is to make sure people who have registered no longer get promotional emails. Not only is it confusing for people who have received webinar confirmations to be asked to register - it is really annoying.
Send out second email
Review social media performance and make sure programs are running
You will add this data to your metrics / reporting, but you want to check to make sure that your campaigns launched and are active. Take a look at the performance and see if you need to make any adjustments.
3 to 5 days following second promotion, create and share registration report
Continue to analyze your registration data to determine if you see a positive or negative trend in your registrations. Are you on target for hitting your registration goal (if you set one) or are you in danger of falling short? Are your "open rates" and "click rates" strong or improving? The closer you get to an event, the higher your registrations should get. People normally register for webinars closer to the event date.
Below registration goal action
If you find that you are below where you need to be to achieve your registration goal after the first email, there are some steps you can take to improve your performance, such as:
If you have a speaker who is well known, highlight them in the next email - make sure their name is in the subject line. Sometimes the topic may be of interest but a specific person may be more compelling for your audience.
Review your metrics and see where the quick-wins are. For example, perhaps your registration form is below a lot of text? Consider moving it up on the page. Maybe you have too many registration fields? Consider removing a few to see if that improves your conversion. Look for easy changes and see if that helps to improve registration numbers.
Overall, the results after the first email are not reason to panic. However, you should start looking at ways you can take action to get back on track. Remember: registration will likely increase the closer you get to an event's date. But there is no reason to not be pro-active to ensure you get the results you want.
Update email suppression list
Make sure you update the suppression list with the latest registration report for the webinar.
Send out third email
Update email suppression list
We hate sounding like a broken record about this, but you REALLY do not want to send marketing emails to people who have already registered. By moving them into a suppression list, you will make sure they only get the messages that are relevant to them. It's a great professional touch.
Send out fourth email (if part of your plan)
Send out day before event email / promotions
Emailing prospects the day before a webinar should be very effective at picking up your last batch of registrations. Unless you also are planning one for the day of the event - you will want the messaging to be your most compelling and include a little "Fear of Missing Out" or FOMO wording, like "Don't miss hearing [speaker name]."
Send out final / pre-event registration report to key stakeholders
The final report has the final data summary and key metrics, as well as the final "Calls To Action" or CTAs for your sales team.
If you are sharing these reports with the speakers, you might want to adapt and have one report for your internal stakeholders and another for your speakers. This can help minimize the clutter and confusion, especially if you have specific tasks for different groups of people. We know that sending two or three reports to different groups may seem like a lot of work - but if you keep the emails focused and shorter the more likely people will take action and not ignore them.
Update email suppression list
Send out day of event email / promotions
Not everyone will feel the need to send out a promotional email the day of an event. For online conferences, we do recommend this. For webinars, it really depends on your goals and the results you have achieved to this point. If you think you have reached a saturation point - it is better for your list integrity to cancel an email than to annoy everyone in your prospect and customer database.
Plan for your Q&A session
92% of attendees expect a live Q&A session at the end of the webinar. Why? Because this a great chance for people to interact with subject matter experts and get their insights directly. So, it is important to prepare speakers for the Q&A session.
Webinar Planning (1 Week Before Event)
With one week to go before the event, this marks a crucial time for planning and execution.
While marketing promotion is going on in the background, you, your speakers, moderator and any other support staff involved in managing the event need to tackle some vital tasks to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The presentation should be very close to done in the final days before the webinar.
Make sure you are using high quality images and that you have a clear agenda and good flow throughout the presentation.
Too many people wait until the last minute to finalize the slide deck and that creates way too much stress for everyone involved. If you are managing a webinar, insist on slide delivery and stay on top of speakers to make sure you get the content by a specific date.
Create and distribute a webinar script for the moderator and speaker(s)
One of the best values you can provide your moderator and speakers is to script out much of the webinar.
A script can take many forms. For the moderator or person handling the introductions - a word for word script will provide a great guide and reduce stress. It also will create a highly professional opening and closing of the webinar.
Other pieces of the webinar can be scripted - but more loosely. For example, simply noting when Polls will be launched and when transitions will take place can be exceptionally helpful for a speaker.
Overall, timely sharing of the script takes away a lot of uncertainty for your webinar moderator and speaker(s). Make sure they have the script a few days before the event. In all the years we have produced and managed webinars, scripts have been highly praised and separated our events from others people have participated in.
Schedule your post-webinar review meeting
You may have two post-webinar review meetings.
Normally, we like to make sure we touch base with the speakers and other key players immediately following an event. This allows everyone to review the process to date and the event performance while it is fresh on their minds.
The other meeting is with internal stakeholders to evaluate event performance. This is especially important if you have business objectives / registration goals that you are striving to meet. This meeting will allow you to provide a quick recap of the data and outline next steps. NOTE: In larger organizations, this can be accomplished by a post-event recap email that includes links to key assets, such as the on-demand recording.
Confirm that leads are routing correctly to sales (or the process for post-event lead routing has been identified)
For many businesses or organizations running webinars, lead routing could involve uploading a spreadsheet into a database or CRM. However, in more advanced organizations, the lead routing will either be happening automatically with each registration through an integration OR you will take one final list and upload the lead list making sure to map each of the registration fields to what exists in your database structure.
Whatever process your organization follows, be sure that you have it identified at least a week before the event occurs. This way you can ensure your leads will get loaded in a timely manner.
Establish contingency plan in case there is a problem
Create your softball questions for Q&A
Create your polls (if you will have polls during the webinar)
Create and upload your post-event survey
Hold your final dress rehearsal for the webinar
You want to make sure that your final dress rehearsal is as close to "prime time" as possible. We recommend recording it. In some cases, the final practice session can be a better event (less nervous speakers) than the LIVE event. In which case, you may be able to use the practice session as your on-demand recording.
Survey your audience and bring something to share
69% of webinars supply downloadable resources to engage their attendees. Webinar engagement statistics further point to surveys, polls and media as adequate engagement tools.
Webinar Day Activities
Today is the day of your webinar.
Schedule / send your webinar reminder
Though the frequency of reminders can depend on the nature of your event and your audience, event reminders typically go out:
Morning of the event
One hour before the webinar.
A few minutes before the webinar.
Remember: event reminders are different from promotional emails, because they are going to the people who have registered whereas your promotional emails should ONLY be sent to people who have not registered.
Make sure your subject headings for reminders instill an element of FOMO (fear of missing out) and urgency. Those kinds of headlines have higher open rates - which can help improve conversion and get more people to attend your event LIVE.
Make sure the moderator and each speaker is ready
Each speaker needs to make sure they are ready. A good speaker checklist would include:
Bathroom break prior to the webinar
Printed out copy of the presentation, script and questions
Telephone number to dial in case the Internet connection fails
A "Quiet" or "Do Not Disturb" sign for their office door
Two "Internet Speed Test" providers the moderator and speaker(s) can use to test their internet connection speed the day of the event.
Log into the webinar 20 to 30 minutes before
The moderator and each speaker should log into the webinar platform between 20 and 30 minutes before the event is scheduled to start. During this time you should:
Check the sound quality
Check the video quality
Turn off all cell phones and anything that will drain bandwidth
Webinars need to be free of distractions as much as possible. Make sure all moderator and speaker cell phones are off, email (if sharing the screen) or anything with pop-up notifications, is turned off.
If you are driving the webinar, you also need to make sure you do not have multiple devices running at the same time. Turn off the extra laptop or anything else that could drain bandwidth during an event. We have seen extra devices slow internet connectivity to the point of interrupting video transmission and audio clarity OR freezing a speaker complete for the entire audience.
Start the webinar on-time
Though it may seem polite to give people time to join a webinar, it is disrespectful to the other attendees who made it to the event on-time. Since people often have full schedules (COVID-19 also has wrecked havoc with many schedules), you need to start the event on-time. It is important to respect other people's time.
Finish the webinar on-time
We cannot control how long-winded people can be when they speak. But it is important to finish on-time as a sign of respect to your audience.
Don't forget to download the PDF version
The PDF version of this webinar checklist is designed to be printed and serve as more of a simple way to keep track of key tasks and check things off as they are completed.
With the webinar done, now it is time to execute your post-webinar activities.
Discuss the event immediately after it is over
While the event is still fresh in everyone's mind, it is a good idea to huddle for 10 to 15 minutes immediately after the event has concluded. This will be a great time to get instant feedback on what worked and what did not work.
Download and edit the video for on-demand use
Edit and finalize the video for on-demand use and make sure a copy of the original and the revised versions are uploaded to the cloud for future use.
Create a landing page for the on-demand webinar
It may be just adapting the existing page, or it may mean creating a new page. No matter you have to do, you need to have a page for people to go and view the on-demand webinar.
Send link of finalized / edited video to all those who registered
Once you have the final video ready for on-demand viewing, send out a link to everyone who registered so they can view the webinar video and download the slides from the presentation.
Ensure leads are loaded
Make sure that the leads from the webinar are loaded into your CRM or database.
Send out final report and next steps to your team
Send out a final report with a summary dashboard of metrics as well as some detailed information on total marketing performance.
Make sure you include the next steps now that the webinar is over, such as: Uploading leads for the sales team, promoting on-demand event and following-up with unanswered questions.
Respond to any unanswered questions from the Q&A session
If you had a robust Q&A session, you will likely have questions that did not get answered. Make sure you follow-up with the questions in a timely manner.
Some teams prefer to follow-up on a case by case basis. Another way is to write a post-event blog post wherein you summarize the key points and answer the questions that everyone asked.
Promote the on-demand event and continue to collect leads
As part of your webinar strategy, you should promote in different intervals the on-demand event.
You can do this through dedicated campaigns and/or make the on-demand webinar part of a longer lead nurture or drip email campaign.
Depending on the nature of your topic, a webinar typically can be leveraged for up a year.