To have a successful Webinar, you need to establish an event process and have excellent organization.
Webinars may seem easy, because they are online events. However, even though you do not have a physical venue to manage and the hassles of catering, room fees and other event logistics, you do have technology to manage, content to create, event scripting that needs to be done, coordination between speakers and communication with your audience.
If you are running a webinar for a larger organization, you also may have to coordinate the interaction between presenters and an operator, as well as involve strategic partners and other third parties.
And regardless of whether your event is at a physical location or virtual, you still have pre-event activities, such as promotion to be concerned about, and post-event actions, such as sales follow-up.
The truth of the matter is, a successful webinar follows many of the same steps as other types of events. Here are some steps to make sure you are well organized.
Step 1: Define Your Webinar Team
Every webinar should consist of a team to help balance responsibilities. Each person needs to have a specific set of tasks. Even if you consider yourself to be a team of “one,” in truth – there needs to be other people involved. No webinar can done well absent of some help.
Here is a basic guideline of your team, depending on the type of webinar you are delivering.
Content creator: This role is reserved for the person who develops the content for the webinar – either alone or in conjunction with others. For some organizations, this person can be focused on identifying the speakers and oversee their development of content for the webinar. Frequently, the content creator is the originator of the webinar, but not always. The content creator will have oversight on the title of the webinar, key messaging, as well as all slide content.
Key stakeholders / internal customer / goal owner: These people are often not heavily involved in webinar planning or execution, but they often have some oversight.
For example, if you are running a webinar for a particular sales team, they will likely want some approval over the webinar topic you select or to review some of your messaging to ensure you are meeting their goals and needs – or communicating the value of the product or service they must sell. If you have an internal customer who has defined the goal, you have to make sure that everything you produce for this webinar achieves that purpose. To that end, this individual will need to be consulted or kept “in the loop,” which makes them a valuable part of your team.
Overall, the key stakeholder will define “who” the audience type is for this webinar.
Project manager: An essential role. This person’s primary responsibility is to take the proposed date of the webinar, work backwards to present day, and have an outline of everyone’s tasks and deadlines. This person also gets the often thankless job of managing deliverables and harassing people to make sure they keep the webinar on schedule.
Note: The project manager does not need to be the person overseeing the topic and content creation for the webinar – though that may be the case. For a content creator or demand generation expert, having someone else handle the project timeline can be a great benefit as one’s energy can be focused on content creation and flow rather than logistics.
Email manager: Without sending email, you will not have much of an audience for your webinar. The tasks involved will include, but not be limited to:
- Email design and copy creation for 3 to 4 promotional emails, as well as 1 or 2 post-event emails. Emails will need to be consistent with your brand, have appropriate opt-out links, and the right messaging. You will want at least 3 promotional emails (one per week), and an email you send out the day of the event to remind people to attend. The post-event email can either be a “thank you” to all those who registered, or divided among those who attended and did not attend.
- Email list selection can be a straightforward selection process, or if you are part of a larger organization it can involve a lot of different categories and require insight from someone who oversees operations or the corporate database to ensure you flag the correct prospects.
- Email sends need to be scheduled, and this can often call to an email specialist or member of the operations team. Their job is to make sure certain audience segments are not getting too many communications at a given day and time. Hence, it is important to make sure that whomever has this responsibility coordinates email promotions well-enough in advance or you could have fewer opportunities to promote your webinar.
Creative designer: This person needs to create the graphics for the webinar, including, but not limited to, graphics for the slides, emails, and other marketing promotional materials. Often times, this person takes direction from a combination of people on the webinar team, including the content creator, the email manager and the project manager.
Speakers and moderator: No webinar can be a success without speakers. In some cases, you also may need a moderator to help manage the introductions and flow of the event, as well as any question and answer session.
Technical operator: A technical operator is the person who manages the webinar platform. This will include all of the pre-event logistics, such as creating a registration form, setting up the system, advancing the slides, pushing out polls, responding to audience questions (including requests for technical support) and other activities. For smaller teams, a technical operator and moderator and content creator may all be one person. For larger organizations, the operator is either an internal or external point of contact who is focused on making sure the webinar technology works and the audience has an error-free experience.
Third party promotion / strategic partners: Depending on the nature of your event, you may have third parties or strategic partners who are willing to promote the event. However, these groups need to be part of your team and receive graphics and email copy, as well as details about the event to ensure they can easily promote the webinar for you.
Additional marketing support: Lastly, you may have additional marketing support staff involved. Again, this depends on the size of your organization and webinar goals, but you could need to include the person or team that manages your social media to assist you in promotion. There also may be an advertising or paid media team that
Step 2: Create Your Webinar Project Plan
The project plan is an essential step for every webinar. You typically want to plan for 4 weeks of promotional activities – 3 at the least. You then need to take into account the time it takes to properly identify your topic and speakers, as well as the time to create graphics, emails, and presentation content.
Even if you think you have most of the pieces to the webinar locked down or identified, you are looking at a minimum of 5 weeks to a maximum of 8 weeks from start to finish.
Your project plan should work backwards from the target date of the webinar, and include all the steps needed, who is responsible for each task, and when they need to be completed by.
Step 3: Identify Your Audience, Topic and Speakers
Once you have your team and project plan, the next step is to identify your audience, finalize the topic and locate the best speakers for the content you want to deliver.
Audience: This is where your chief internal stakeholder or the person asking for the webinar comes into the equation. Who are they trying to reach? Audience identification can be just as difficult as audience acquisition. Depending on the industry you are in and the topic you select – your audience can be very broad or very niche. You could be interested in reaching anyone who wants to send small business emails, or people who are interested in XML documentation, or women who want to open their own microblade eyebrow boutiques. Whomever you are trying to reach, you need to define your audience before take another step. And you must take them into account as your build out your topic and define your speakers.
Topic: Your topic should always come back to something your organization provides a solution to, or represents an issue that your target audience cares about deeply. In addition to relevance, timeliness is another important factor to consider when selecting a topic. For example, is your topic something that has been discussed a million times over the last few years? Or is it something that has emerged recently and become a hot-button issue?
Moderator: It is common that many webinars have an experienced moderator, or someone who is well-known in the industry. In some cases, if your webinar in being run or sponsored by a media company, you will likely have to use the moderator they designate. In either case, you want to make sure they are well-prepared and knowledgeable (or educated) on your topic.
Speakers: When it comes to speakers, you may have lots of options. Look internally to see who is a thought-leader within your own organization. If you need outside expertise, look at who is speaking and writing consistently about the topics you want to discuss. Once you have a list, make some phone calls and see how people sound and gauge their interest in participating.
For some ideas on finding a speaker, read “5 Tips On How To Find A Good Webinar Speaker.”
Step 4: Determine the Webinar Format and Flow
The flow to a webinar can play a significant role in how the audience views your event. Here are some webinar format options you may consider:
Roundtable: A virtual roundtable can consist of three to five speakers discussing a topic that flows from a larger event theme. Each person can present 1 to 2 slides of information. And then the group engages in a moderator-led discussion. This often includes a few questions from the audience. Once a section or topic is finished, the roundtable then proceeds to the next topic. In a 60-minute webinar, you should be able to get through 3, but no more than 5 topics.
Traditional – baton passing: A tradition webinar is one where each speaker presents slides. Once one speaker has finished, they pass the baton to the next speaker, who addresses another area of the presentation content. Typically this event format has a moderator and one to three speakers.
Sales demo: A sales demo webinar often starts with a challenge, and then uses the demonstration to show how a product or services solves the problem. Some organizations may mix a light sales demo prior to a thought-leadership webinar, but there is some debate on whether there is value to this approach.
Consumer-facing: A consumer-facing webinar is often designed to sell you a product or service, but is designed to bring to the decision to buy in an incremental process. The format / flow of this webinar is to get you excited about an opportunity to do something that will bring value to your life, impress you with examples of success stories, remove the fear of making a decision, impress you with the potential to change your life, and then ask you to take a small step forward – OR – make a decision to buy.
The flow of the webinar will largely depend on your format. You will need to determine if you are going to ask your audience poll questions, and if so – when. You will need to determine how speaker transitions will take place. Deciding on all of these details at the earliest stages of the webinar planning process will make it easier on you and your team, and go a long way to ensuring a successful event.
Step 5: What Webinar Platform Will You Use?
There are literally dozens of webinar platforms to choose from – all with various forms of features, functionality, third party system integrations and price points.
Our recommendation remains that you first find a provider or list of providers based on what you need to accomplish. Solve to the problem before you decide on the technology or define your budget. Because regardless of what a product or service costs, or how sophisticated it may sound, if it does not deliver what you need for your webinars, there is no reason to purchase it.
As part of your evaluation process, you also want to decide if the platform is something you can manage internally or if your need an external source to manage it. A webinar operator can cost between $700 and $1,500 per event – depending on the solution. However, if the solution you need comes with a lot of technical bells and whistles, you may consider the operator expense as a necessary cost of your lead generation / webinar efforts. There always is the option to get trained and gradually bring any webinar operation in-house.
As far as platforms are concerned, Your Webinar Experts is constantly adding to our Webinar Service or Platform Directory. If you have questions, please let us know.
Step 6: Create Compelling Content
“You should create content that is interesting to your audience.”– Captain Obvious
We know what you are thinking… “Really? Did you need to say this?”
Unfortunately, the greatest failures of webinars are content-related. If your content does not meet audience expectations, does not address the topic it is billed around, or has nothing to do with what your audience cares about… it is not compelling content.
Take time to ask yourself as your going through the content creation process:
- Does this content match the topic we selected?
- Is this content addressing an interest or concern of my audience?
- Are we answering the questions we identified or said we would answer?
One way to make sure you delivering on your promise to deliver compelling content is to have your stakeholder review an outline of your presentation. Another route is to bring in a person who is both a target for the webinar, but also someone who is already an evangelist or an advocate of what your organization is doing. These two voices often can provide the reality-check you need and keep your content on-target.
Step 7: Promote Your Webinar
The first step we listed was to define your team. If you read through that list of team responsibilities, you already know that promotion dominates much of the activities around a webinar.
Email marketing remains the most cost effective way to promote a webinar. However, there also are paid advertisements, social media posts, direct mail and direct / personal invitations by phone or in person.
Webinar promotion requires a great amount of time, preparation, asset creation and coordination.
What’s more, promotion of a webinar does not begin and end around a single production. Once an event has been recorded, it can be promoted to new audiences, as well as reintroduced to anyone who was invited and did not participate the first time.
At the end of the day, you want to set realistic expectations for how many people you want to register for your webinar, and how many you expect to attend “live.” Every event is a bit different, but as a baseline, you can expect anywhere from 35% to 50% of your total registrations attending the day of the event.
Step 8: Honestly Evaluate the Results
Finally, it is important to honestly evaluate the results once the event has ended.
The first step is to make sure you have a post-event survey that appears towards the end of your Q&A session or near the end of your webinar. You want to ask at least three questions:
- How would you rate the quality of this event? Provide options such as: It exceeded my expectations, it met my expectations, it did not meet my expectations.
- What types of events would you like to see in the future? Provide some options for people to select.
- Provide your assessment about this event, and thoughts for future events. This should be an open text field that allows people to say what they think.
The next step is to hold a post-event call to discuss the webinar.
The best time to do this is immediately after the event has ended or within a day or two. The sooner you discuss the webinar, the better. Key details will be fresh in your mind.
In your post-event assessment, do not worry about whether or not you are being too harsh or critical of yourself. Flagging mistakes is important, so you can hone processes and produce a better event in the future. With that said, be sure to mix in an equal amount of praise of each participant. People are more likely to take constructive criticism if they believe their contributions are valued.
Lastly, be sure to use any audience polls that were conducted and the post-event survey as key tools in your evaluation, as well as in your future planning.
With these 8 steps, you will be well prepared for your upcoming webinar.