The Internet lets people living several time zones apart teach each other as if they’re in the same room, spreading information quicker than ever before. This sharing of ideas should be huge for the business word, but in many cases, it’s not leveraged properly. The webinar, the most common type of business-to-business remote learning, fails to evoke much excitement. While they make great educational and marketing platforms, webinars have been largely misused, a matter that needs to be resolved.
Webinar leaders fall into many of the same traps again and again, according to Shelby Britton, a Senior Product Manager at Adobe. Britton points out that marketers hosting these sessions often get caught up in housekeeping, displaying behavior that frustrates their audience, and fail to interact properly with attendees.
Most attendees already know about the company, but so many webinars begin with an unnecessary five to ten-minute company overview. Technical glitches like poorly executed screen shares frustrate attendees, when the webinar leader could have simply uploaded the content directly. And some hosts just aren’t cut out to be teachers, trailing off and disengaging the audience rather than focusing the content around them and their experience.
Issues like these point to a much larger failing in the holistic strategizing necessary to execute a successful experience. However, focusing on a few aspects of webinar strategy can boost user engagement and overall effectiveness.
Before the webinar ever goes live, the host company needs to make sure that people will actually attend. According to MarketingProfs.com, the size of a webinar audience can increase by 36% when promoted a week or more prior to the session date. Also, according to ON24’s Webinar Benchmark Report, registration increased anywhere from 6% to 8% when promotion emails were sent between Tuesday and Thursday.
Maybe the most important feature of a webinar is its content. Who will be speaking? Will there be training or analysis? Are questions welcomed? These are just a few questions that users will ask themselves. One hinge point for user engagement in webinars has been the interactive experience. Companies have to remember that users are not there in the flesh, so the host needs to create opportunities for attendees to interact to hold their interest and attention.
The Harvard Business Review offers two ways to develop engaging content:
1. Topics. Be sure to consult others when choosing webinar topics. Training tends to produce better engagement than analysis. People want to learn how to do something rather than simply take in information. Training also offers the ability to create shorter presentations, rather than drawn-out explanations
2. Dialogue and feedback. Webinars needs to ensure that their attendees’ questions are answered. With that in mind, a real-time questions feature should be available for users to voice their thoughts. Feedback is crucial for attendees to feel like they are receiving value from the webinar. Another way to create value is to provide some sort of quiz or survey at the end of the webinar that allows attendees to test their newly gained knowledge. This provides a sense of accomplishment, while keeping the audience engaged at the end of the session.
There is still work to be done once the webinar is complete. It is a best practice to send attendees copies of any PowerPoint or video used and a recording of the full webinar. Lots of information gets overlooked during the initial webinar, so it’s nice for users to have something tangible that they can reflect on and analyze in greater detail.
It’s also important to follow up quickly so that leads do not grow cold. There will be prospects who registered or responded to some call to action during the webinar, so it is important to supply those users with whatever information was promised to them within 24 hours.
Webinars can be an effective tool for businesses and associations if curated correctly. A strategy that incorporates best practices for promotion, content and follow-up efforts is one that will produce the best results. When planned and executed correctly, a webinar is a marketing opportunity that helps to position businesses and organizations as thought leaders within their particular industries while providing attendees with the knowledge and know-how of a particular subject.