Like any event, a successful webinar takes careful and meticulous planning. Webinar automation can be used in a number of ways to improve efficiencies, reduce manual intervention and ease some of the burdens. There are two main ways that automation is used within the context of webinars.
The Fully Automated Webinar
Fully automated webinars are similar to on-demand webinars in that once you set them up, you can allow them to run without manual intervention. The difference is that an automated webinar is usually set to run at a specific time on a specific day, rather than being available 24/7 at your audience’s leisure. When marketed correctly this can create an additional sense of urgency and more of a buzz than something that’s available “whenever” that people may put off viewing.
For a fully automated webinar, organizers would run the pre-webinar promotion in exactly the same way as a live webinar; targeting intended audiences with tailored communications across the usual channels and sending prospective attendees invitation links as they sign up. From the point that those attendees join the webinar until the point at which they leave, everything else is then predetermined and automated. This could include introductory video content, presentations, polls, transitions, calls to action, and more, depending on the automation capabilities of the webinar platform being used.
The key benefit to this approach is being able to construct the entire experience very carefully. You’re able to review, refine and edit the content in advance of any external audiences ever seeing any of it. You can take the time to ensure that every part of your automated webinar is as slick and professional as it possibly can be and use colleagues to act as your webinar test attendees, providing further feedback that you can use to improve the experience.
The potential downside to fully automating is that you do lose the opportunity to interact directly with your audience, there and then. One of the key benefits of a live webinar is the feeling of being part of something as it happens and encouraging that conversation between audience and brand. With an automated webinar, yes, you can provide calls to action, downloadable content, and links, but in contrast, to live discussion, these may break that feeling of immediacy that a live webinar can generate.
The degree of effect that this will have largely depends on your objectives, the webinar’s topic, and - critically - ensuring you don’t over-promise and end up giving your attendees false expectations.
Automation Within a Live Webinar
In addition to fully automated webinars, automation can also be used as part of a live webinar experience. Using automation as part of a live webinar could be a great middle-ground for many, providing some of the benefits of being able to carefully fine-tune some of your content, while still enabling that direct interaction with your audience on the day.
If taking this approach, automation could be used to handle as much or as little of the bulk of the webinar content itself, while allowing scope interaction at various points throughout. Whether that’s through a live Q&A session, polling, open discussions following or in between pre-recorded sections, or fielding questions as they arise through chat.
This approach also allows the same hosts that are “presenting” in the pre-recorded sections to field questions as they arise, that otherwise would have to have been saved for later or handled through a facilitator.
Do Not Look Behind the Curtain!
There may be a temptation here to promote your automated webinar as if it was a live event. If all functionality remains the same, and to all intents and purposes your audience would otherwise be unaware that it’s a pre-record, then does it really matter?
We’d argue that, yes - it probably does.
You might get away with it, of course… but if you don’t, if people recognize that a webinar you’ve promoted as live is actually automated, then they’ll be left feeling lied to, and they’ll associate those negative feelings of betrayal with your brand.
Given the important role that events play in building brand advocacy, of establishing and strengthening those relationships and bonds, this could switch your audience off entirely from engaging with your brand in the future. It’s better to be open with your intended audience.
Webinar automation offers a wealth of benefits to those looking to run these online events. Whether that’s being able to carefully curate and quality control all aspects of the webinar to provide the best possible attendee experience, reducing on-the-day tech stress for hosts and facilitators, allowing more focus on attendee engagement and interactivity, or extending the opportunity of hosting to a wider range of people all around the world who can pre-record sessions. As with many aspects of business, automation can be a game-changer.
Choosing a webinar platform that incorporates automation tools gives organizers additional options and allows them to really think outside the box when it comes to planning their webinars.