Ten tips for hosting successful business webinars

23 Apr 2010

Webinars are a key tool in the corporate communications toolbox. They provide a cost effective and convenient way of demonstrating expertise and enhancing relationships with customers and prospects. Despite their usefulness, many companies are failing to harness webinars effectively. We must keep in mind that the fundamentals don’t change because of the medium. Like any […]

Webinars are a key tool in the corporate communications toolbox. They provide a cost effective and convenient way of demonstrating expertise and enhancing relationships with customers and prospects. Despite their usefulness, many companies are failing to harness webinars effectively.

We must keep in mind that the fundamentals don’t change because of the medium. Like any event, hosting a webinar requires proper planning and promotion, and getting it wrong can damage your brand and alienate prospects.

This blog post puts forward ten tips for the effective planning and delivery of business webinars. These tips are based on insights gained from attendance at and delivery of a variety of webinars over the last number of years.

Before (research and prepare)

1. Evaluate the options and choose a user-friendly tool – Running a webinar is as easy as the technology you choose. There are a wide variety of tools – Webex, Go2Webinar, Brightalk etc., most come with a free trial so it’s worth testing them before making a final decision.

2. Use a suitable host to present good quality content – This sounds easy but many get it wrong. Like any event, you need a good topic that people are interested in. Keep your target audience in mind when deciding on the concept and indeed for your invite list. Investing an hour at your desk may be easier than attending a half-day conference, but none-the-less most people are busy and don’t want to waste time.

3. Pick an appropriate date and time – Webinars remove geographic barriers for both attendees and presenters. You can present a webinar from Dublin which is aimed at attendees in Dubai. Similarly, once you promote your event on the web you get people registering from many locations. However, if focusing on the Irish market, choose a convenient time such as 11am on a Wednesday. If one is targeting an international audience, adjust your timing to take time zones into account.

For example, one of our recent webinars was presented by an analyst in Washington DC, moderated from Dublin and had attendees from eight countries. We had to pick an afternoon slot to suit the presenter and take into account British Summer Time (BST) when sending out the invite.

4. Promote the event extensively both online and in regular media – Create a concise abstract/description to form the core of your communications efforts. Maximise the usage of the different mediums available to promote to a wider audience.

  • Send out a targeted email invite
  • Issue a press release and/or event notice
  • Promote through partners
  • Use Social Media such as LinkedIn Groups and Twitter
  • Consider using online advertising such as Google Adwords.

All communications should direct the user to a web-based registration form on your website (or a third parties). This will help maximise the number of invitations that convert to registrations.

5. Preparation and rehearsal are essential – A common issue occurs when the presenter spends the first five minutes trying to overcome audio difficulties. Avoid this and other problems by running a practice session with both the speakers and moderators to test web connectivity, audio quality, etc. This is especially true if your presenters are at different locations.

Create a step-by-step checklist to ensure you use and test all the features required, e.g., Q&A, recording, etc. A variation of this checklist can be used during the actual webinar to ensure that nothing is forgotten.

During (first impressions matter)

6. Have two roles, an organiser/moderator and a presenter – This will ensure the smooth running of the webinar. A facilitator can both introduce and conclude the webinar. At the beginning the organiser can explain how to use the webinar tool and the audio options. Throughout, the organiser can monitor the time as well as manage all questions that come through. To conclude, ensure to provide details of follow up collateral and upcoming events.

Indeed Gartner, the technology analysts, who regularly deliver exceptional webinars manage the two roles well.

7. Don’t sell – Remember why you are hosting webinars. It’s to demonstrate expertise and create relationships. Avoid commercial content as much as possible. Your knowledge and skills are on display here, not your products.

After (follow-up and improve)

8. Quickly follow-up to maintain momentum – Post-event ensure that the slides, etc., are available within 24 hours to create a positive user experience, encourage repeat visits, and generate buzz. Once added to the website, the content also becomes available to a wider audience, helps to enhance the thought leadership claim and improve the search engine ranking for phrases and keywords related to the topic.

It’s important that both attendees and registered non-attendees are emailed promptly.

  • For attendees, send a follow-up e-mail thanking them for their participation. Include additional relevant information and resources, invite them to the next webinar and provide an opportunity to give feedback.
  • For non-attendees, send an “although you were unable to attend” email. Ensure that these prospects are invited to attend the next event. Pass all registrants and participants to Sales for follow up. Include survey/qualifying information.

9. Host a series – It (a) shows the depth of expertise and (b) the repetitive promotion has cumulative benefits; all those attending webinar one will consider webinar two, etc.

This approach also allows you to build a reference library of past webinars for your customers and prospects to access, and in turn has search engine optimisation (SEO) benefits. Recorded webinars and their Q&As can also be very helpful in training new employees or reviewing customer input prior to a new product launch, selling event, or internal business strategy session.

10. Review and refine – An internal review of each webinar should take place immediately afterwards. This allows you to consider potential areas of improvement and avoid pitfalls in the future. Combine this with all feedback gathered from the webinar attendees to enhance the process and create more engaging webinars. Consider variations in the registration options, presentation content, and Q&A. If you had any technical problems with audio, etc. make sure these are resolved before the next webinar.

There is no doubt that webinars are an effective tool for the marketing mix. Driven by a proliferation of providers/platforms, lower costs, increased eMarketing adoption and, remarkably, limited marketing budgets, their usage has increased in recent years.

Despite their increasing adoption, many organisations have yet to host webinars and others have yet to maximise their effectiveness. Whether you are considering the webinar or they are already part of your marketing efforts, I hope that at least one of the tips above will be of use to you.

Michael O’Connell

Marketing at Sogeti Ireland


Useful links:

Citrix Go2Webinar – http://www.gotomeeting.com/fec/webinar

Cisco Webex – http://www.webex.com/

Arkadin – http://www.arkadin.ie/

Brightalk – http://www.brighttalk.com/

Friday 23rd April 2010, 3:23 pm
By Michael O’Connell

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