Webinars have been a useful tool for organizations, businesses, and thought leaders for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic transformed webinars from an occasional tool to a staple of the professional world. To help you better utilize webinars or similar virtual events, let’s take a closer look at what webinars are, how they work, and how you can host one successfully.
As you might guess from the name, a webinar is a web-based seminar. It can take many forms and cover countless subject areas, but webinars are informative sessions that are cast online. They generally follow a lecture format, with one or a few presenters speaking to an audience, though some webinars also incorporate interactive questions or activities throughout,
There are many different types of webinars, and they can be categorized in a few ways. Most often, we can categorize webinars by their delivery and their purpose.
While all webinars are virtual events, there are multiple ways to deliver them. Most often, you’ll see webinars as live video events, with the hosts delivering the presentation in real-time. Pre-recorded webinars are also common, though, especially for training purposes.
We can also break down types of webinars by the type of video they use. Most webinars are either demonstration videos with the host demonstrating a task or strategy, or presentation webinars that show presentation slides while the host lectures. But there are also “talking head” webinars that show the host as they speak, as well as animated webinars that animate the points that the host is discussing.
Webinars are common across multiple industries, but we can group them into a few categories based on the purpose they serve. One common purpose for webinars is internal training, teaching new staff members how to perform certain tasks. There are also sales webinars, though, to introduce the audience to your product or service. Some webinars are informative webinars as well, designed as a master class-like session for the host to share tips, strategies, and best practices with the audience.
Webinars are rather simple: one host or a few hosts providing a demonstration or lecture to an audience. They can be any length, though most are between 30 minutes and one hour. Most webinars are live events that are scheduled for a specific time, though some are pre-recorded for later use.
Luckily, webinars don’t require a lot of specialized equipment. All you need is a webinar platform, a computer that can run the software, and a webcam and microphone if your computer doesn’t already have these built-in. You might also want lighting equipment like a ring light to create more flattering and predictable lighting.
As with other types of virtual events, webinars need a dedicated platform that can cast the video over the internet to your audience. The platform you choose will make a critical difference. Not only does it need to be reliable and user-friendly, but it needs to include the features you want, such as hand-raising signals or a chat area to accommodate live questions, muting capabilities so the host can mute all attendees, recording capabilities, and screen sharing options.
To host a successful webinar that informs and engages your audience, keep these best practices in mind:
Particularly if you want your webinar to be interactive, you want to make sure as many attendees as possible can tune in. Consider who your target audience is, how their days are generally structured, and when might be a convenient time.
No matter how fantastic your webinar’s content is, it can be derailed quickly by technical glitches. To lower that risk, get familiar with your technology including your webinar platform in advance so you can operate it smoothly on the big day.
To avoid losing your audience’s attention, try not to lecture for too long at a time. Instead, incorporate interactive questions or activities every five to ten minutes to keep your audience’s focus. Make sure to leave time for questions at the end too – a feature that 92% of webinar attendees say they appreciate.
Your webinar will only serve its purpose if it’s seen, so how do you pull in an engaged audience? Promote your webinar well in advance with these strategies.
Email marketing is an incredibly useful tool. Your webinar may be designed for a specific pool of people, like colleagues within your organization. Or, it could be open to the public, and you can spread the word to your mailing list. After registrants sign up, you can also send them period emails about exciting features of the webinar to encourage them to invite their friends.
Social media platforms let you spread the word to a large number of people quickly and cost-effectively. Promote your webinar on all your organization’s social media channels, and consider paid ads to expand your reach further.
Your own website should promote your webinar with calls to action on various pages and possibly a pop-up as well. Make it simple and clear for users to find more information about your webinar and to register.