What is a webinar? That answer will vary from organization to organization. One thing is for sure though: webinars have undergone an extreme makeover in the past year+, and if you want to keep pace with your competitors, a webinar “glow up” should be part of your strategy.
This tried-and-true marketing channel, the old school “virtual event” if you will, is still a vital part of a B2B marketer’s mix. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the many reasons why webinars are as vital today as they ever were, where they stand right now in terms of formats and content, and how organizations have upped their games to deliver best-in-class digital experiences, including the types of webinar platforms they’re using.
The Current State of Webinars
According to Wyzowl, 73% of marketers said they’d plan to use webinars in 2021. Not a surprise, considering their effectiveness as a demand generation tool—and because of the increased digitization of the events channel, the reasonable way to go.
Webinars offer the ability to communicate with customers and prospects at scale. And, over the course of 2020/2021, this has made them more valuable to businesses. Marketers have pivoted away from in-person events and, as a result, have invested in digital channels.
But this enormous pivot online presents its own set of challenges. Not only is it hard to capture an audience, but screen fatigue, mounting distractions, and up-leveled audience expectations also mean it is even harder to keep attendees engaged.
The good news is that with the right approach, you can elevate your webinar productions to new highs by driving more engagement, leads, and revenue than ever before.
Marketing and webinars: a demand gen lead machine
Webinars long have been a staple of most marketers’ demand-generation engines. They can be used across the lead lifecycle to drive awareness, deliver thought leadership, nurture
leads, showcase products, and create raving fans in customers. It’s no wonder that adoption continues to grow.
“COVID-19 has speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years—and many of these changes could be here for the long haul.” —McKinsey & Company, 2020
What Makes Webinars So Popular? They can be targeted and personalized, and they can allow you to interact directly with your target audience while still operating at scale.
Faithfully following traditional formats
If it aint’ broke, don’t fix it, right? Webinars have followed the same format for many, many years. Here are a few telltale signs of the status quo to compare against your current webinars:
- Average webinar presentation times range from 30 to 60 minutes
- Overwhelming majority of webinar attendees join from desktop computers
- Often feature pre-recorded content
- Usually feature one or two hosts talking over slides
- Speakers typically have their video cameras off
- May feature a singular attendee poll to drive engagement
Before the world pivoted to digital, the status quo was sufficient. Today, these status quo experiences will erode engagement. This status quo experience isn’t limited to your attendees.
On the presentation side, you may have suffered through antiquated user experiences, with limited capabilities beyond running simple presentations or polling. Reporting was limited to how many people attended and how long they stayed. It’s time the entire experience was given an upgrade.
3 reasons why it’s time to re-think your webinar program
Old-school webinars focused on presenting—a static experience fixated on clicking through slides and talking heads. Zoom fatigue, balancing work and home, and separation from co-workers mean people want a new experience—one where they are engaged with, not talked to.
Here are three key pitfalls of status quo webinars.
- They offer little—if any—interaction between the speaker and attendees or between
- attendees. Limited engagement and opportunities for attendee interactivity leads to lower overall attendee engagement.
- Follow-up takes place on the event organizer’s schedule, not the attendees. Attendees prefer webinar experiences with a Q&A session and follow-up opportunities that are in real-time or scheduled for other times that meet their own needs.
- They provide minimal flexibility in the attendee experience. Inflexibility in webinar scheduling, offering only live content vs. content on demand, and limited program interactivity may lead to a negative webinar experience for the attendees.
4 ways to create compelling and successful webinars
Breaking out of the malaise isn’t as difficult as you may think. You just need the right strategy and webinar platform. By following a simple formula to stand out from the crowd and drive
engagement with attendees, you’re on the way to leveling-up your webinar experience:
Content + Production + Interactivity = maximum engagement.
Content: The story you want to tell and the message you want to share. Include enticing language, messaging hooks, and key takeaways for your attendees.
Production: How you visually bring your message to life using text, overlays, images, speaker dynamism, and lower thirds. A passionate presenter can only get you so far; by producing a visually appealing webinar, attendees will stay interested and for longer.
Interactivity and Technology: Use webinar technology to your advantage, including Q&A, chat, and polling features, to increase attendee interactivity and overall webinar-engagement results.
The power of quality content
With webinars and digital events, there’s no doubt about it, your content IS your event. Be sure to curate and customize quality content resonates with your audience. You may want to consider a series approach for your webinars by focusing on one core webinar theme and then offering multiple webinars on related sub-topics.
By doing so, you will extend the attention and time spent with your brand through more "bingeable" moments, with the added plus of spending less time promoting your webinars. Be creative and flexible with webinar timing and duration—it’s ok to break away from the traditional 30-minute times!
Webinars should be thought of as multi-layer experiences. In addition to showcasing programmed content, consider adding breakout sessions or pre- and/or post-webinar Q&A opportunities.
Offer to continue the webinar conversation by allowing attendees to virtually “meet” the speakers by participating in smaller breakout-discussion groups moderated by the speakers.
It’s also important to focus on the speaker experience. By utilizing a roundtable-style format, you’ll be able to allow multiple speakers to engage in a live conversation together while attendees watch.
Think of it like a talk show—speakers get to have a dynamic conversation with each other that is unscripted and authentic and piques the attendees’ interest. Mixing up webinar formats supports attendee engagement by allowing networking opportunities, attendee-to-attendee interaction, and attendee-to-speaker interaction.
Personalization promotes engagement
Webinars often are static experiences that deliver one experience for all attendees. Break free from that model, and personalize the webinar experience to each attendee’s role, interests, needs, and learning objectives. One way to do this is by using an online attendee-registration and -management system.
With these tools, you can send personalized promotions to specific audience segments with customized messages and dynamic registrations that will deliver content recommendations that resonate only with them.
Then, when they join the webinar, attendees will know which topics will be relevant to them before the programming even begins. During the event, engage attendees in the webinar chat
and Q&A. By knowing your audience and personalizing their experience, you can direct them to resources and additional content of interest after the webinar ends.
Webinar platforms: Up-leveling Production
Humans are distracted easily. One false move on your part and they may be onto the next item on their “to-do” lists. So, in order to cater to the 8-second human attention span, reimagine your role as that of executive producer, versus simply delivering a presentation. By up-leveling your webinar production game and keeping a quick pace, you will bring the content to life, hold attendees’ interest, and elevate the overall experience of the webinar.
During the session, change up the screen layouts and views with a variety of screen dynamics. Some options include rotating from the speaker in a full-screen view to the content as a full-screen view with a voiceover or using a side-by-side view of the speaker and content.
Use the entire presentation screen to your advantage. By adding fun facts, important statistics, and other details to the lower third of your presentation screen (e.g., displayed as a ticker), you can elevate the visual experience of the webinar and keep eyes scanning across the screen, instead of in webinar-zombie mode.
Use lower thirds to increase engagement. A lower third is a graphic that appears on the lower third of a video screen and draws a viewer’s attention to the content included there. The information often includes details about the speaker or additional context pertaining to what is being viewed—just like the breaking-news ticker on your favorite news broadcast.
When hosting the webinar, be sure to utilize proper speaker lighting, high-quality microphones, and unique backgrounds to limit distractions in non-professional studio spaces while maintaining the webinar’s visual and audio appeal.
Making your webinar more interactive
Encouraging attendee interactivity will improve the attendees’ overall webinar experience and will get them and keep them engaged. Consider using a webinar platform that allows attendees to type in live Q&A and to up-vote questions to prioritize speaker responses. Offering live polls throughout the webinar will also engage attendees, with the added bonus of collecting additional attendee data.
The use of breakout sessions/rooms during a webinar will also heighten attendee engagement. By quickly splitting attendees into small breakout groups during the webinar, attendees will be able to engage around a specific topic in a more intimate setting before being brought back into the main webinar session.
Enhancing attendee interactivity will create a more comprehensive webinar experience and make attendees feel like they are part of the session and a bigger community, as opposed to being simply external observers.
Metrics and measurement: a closer look at ROI
Standard webinars measure success via registration, overall attendance, and duration of attendance. While these still are important metrics to collect, Webinars Reimagined go a layer deeper when painting a picture of ROI.
Engagement is the main metric that demonstrates a webinar’s success. By tracking how attendees participated during the live-interaction segments of the webinar (e.g., in polls, Q&A, and chat), you can determine how engaged any specific attendee was AND view and follow up with their individual responses during these segments.
Using this data, you then can capture attendees and calculate your next best offer: either delivering them to sales as new leads or continuing to nurture them in existing marketing programs involving their interests, based on content they have consumed or their captured responses.
Never underestimate the power of an attendee survey. After the initial speaker registration, use those responses to personalize your outreach to attendees further. This may include requesting additional information from them on topics of interest, what their learning objectives are for the session, and if they have any questions to submit in advance.
After the webinar, be sure to send out a post-webinar survey that is as customized and personalized as possible. The feedback you receive from the post-webinar survey will provide an additional level of insight direct from the attendees (as opposed to inferred engagement), which can be equally as valuable to improve the quality of the content you presented, determine follow-up needs, and identify warm-to-hot leads.
Webinars have been reimagined, and marketers need to update their approach to these lead gathering experiences to stay relevant in the increasingly digital world. Look beyond attendance metrics, and over time, you can build a full funnel to prove your business impact. Using the best practices and tips we discussed above, and you’ll be able to:
- Capture the attention of your attendee, and for a longer time.
- Draw deeper insights based on this engagement.
- Build a clearer picture of interest.
- Accelerate intelligent follow-up.
- Prove the business impact.
For more information about how to update your webinar program, check out our Hot Topic Webinar Series.