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Marketing Pros on How to Create Engaging Webinars That Boost Your Brand Authority

Marketing Pros on How to Create Engaging Webinars That Boost Your Brand Authority
REKLAM ALANI
24 Haziran 2024 14:00
48

In a sea of short-form content, webinars are a breath of fresh air to content marketers like me who want the opportunity to create stronger relationships with prospects and existing customers. In fact, learning how to create a webinar and take advantage of long-form and engaging content formats has become a crucial part of my marketing strategy.

How To Create a Webinar That Engages Your Prospects

Download Now: Free Webinar Planning Kit

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While webinars may have had their breakthrough moment during the pandemic, I believe they still have much to offer. When done well, they’re an effective way to keep your brand top-of-mind and sift through your funnel to find the most engaged and interested leads.

Let’s dive into why and how you can use webinars to your advantage.

Table of Contents

Are webinars dead?

In short, no. With 76% of employees working from home at least some of the time, webinars remain a crucial element of many marketing and sales strategies. However, I would say that webinars don’t exactly look the way they did before.

When I think of traditional webinars, I envision a single-speaker presentation about some technology product. While those are definitely still around, I’ve seen a growth in webinar usage especially in the finance and education sectors as well as more B2C events pop up.

Rather than slowly disappearing now that we’re a few years out from the pandemic, webinars have proven they’re here to stay. And, as audiences have become more familiar with virtual events, marketers can get more creative about integrating webinars into their marketing-to-sales pipeline.

Why create and host webinars?

In my experience, webinars are an excellent way to build relationships with existing and potential customers while improving brand awareness and reputation.

Because webinars are long-form content, they’re optimal for establishing authority on topics related to your products and interacting with your audience in real time.

That’s why webinars are still thriving, and the data backs it up. When we asked marketers about their primary goal for using webinars in their content strategy, the top reasons they provided were:

  • Brand awareness (46%).
  • Lead generation (42%).
  • Educational content delivery (32%).
  • Product demonstrations (29%).

As you can see, webinars are a valuable tool at all stages of the sales pipeline and customer journey. It’s all a matter of figuring out what information matters most in each step and using your webinar to create value for viewers — let’s explore how to do that below.

1. Brainstorm webinar ideas.

The first thing I do when creating a webinar is brainstorm ideas so I can decide on a topic. My goal is to select a topic that’s specific to my audience and answer questions they have about the industry or our product.

For example, if you’re hosting a webinar on email marketing, I may look at specific areas within that subject, like personalization or automation.

While brainstorming, I recommend thinking about your company and its unique value proposition. Ask yourself, “What topics do we have expertise on, and where can we provide value for our audience?”

Pat Mullin, marketing team supervisor at Kicksite, recommends focusing less on your product and more on what your audience cares about, explaining that:

“People aren’t attending a webinar for a sales pitch — if they wanted that, they’d schedule a demo. Your webinar topic should be something that provides value or education to your attendees, with an underlying connection to the product you offer.”

I also like to get input from my sales team, as a successful webinar results from sales and marketing alignment. If I want to successfully drive high-quality leads to sales reps, it’s crucial that the content I’m producing helps their conversations.

In my experience, I’ve gotten several great webinar ideas just by asking sales reps what they’d want the focus to be.

When you have this conversation with your sales team, you want to have their buy-in on the webinar topic before you plan it because it goes a long way in creating a seamless follow-up opportunity after the webinar ends.

2. Choose a webinar format.

While there are many webinar formats to choose from, I find myself using and recommending these four the most: single-speaker, interviews, panel discussions, and Q&A.

Single-Speaker Presentations

The single-speaker presentation is the most traditional and is still frequently used today. This type of webinar involves one presenter hosting and handling the Q&A.

I find these work best when you have an internal product expert or topics that have smaller audiences. They can also be easier to put together because you don’t have to find and schedule experts to interview.

I also recommend this format to B2C brands that want to explore webinars as a thought leadership or lead generation strategy. Since the buyer in these cases is an individual, it’s easier for them to relate and find value from a solo speaker.

Interviews

Interviews are also a great choice for webinars because you can bring in a variety of valuable guests, such as an industry expert, someone in your company, or even a current customer.

Although interviewing someone with a large following may encourage people to sign up for your webinar and help you reach a new audience, I recommend focusing on guests who deliver the best experience for your target viewer.

On that note, Amy Kauffman, chief marketing officer at CMO Room, recommends that you “Choose knowledgeable speakers who can bring the content to life, and provide ample prep time to coach them on virtual presentation best practices” when doing interview-style webinars.

You can also prepare a list of questions you want to ask and share them with the person you’re interviewing ahead of time so they have time to think things through and provide the best responses.

Panel Discussions

For panel discussions, you can invite industry experts to discuss a niche or current topic within your industry.

I love using panel discussions for webinars that cover industry trends and new technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, because your audience benefits from seeing different perspectives.

This expands your attendees’ understanding of the topic in ways that wouldn’t be possible with one speaker’s input.

In addition to finding the right guest speakers, I find that it’s important to choose the best moderator for your topic.

Your moderator is responsible for establishing the rules of the discussion, keeping track of time, and keeping the panel on topic. I also recommend setting a high-level agenda for the discussion that the moderator can refer back to if the conversation veers off-topic.

Q&As

I like to use Q&A webinars to connect with current users and bottom-of-the-funnel leads. In this format, you only need your team’s product experts to answer your customers’ questions.

This format lends itself well to being more heavily focused on your product while generating user engagement and giving you the opportunity to learn about your target audience’s challenges.

That said, live Q&As are the most unpredictable format on this list because you’re not the one preparing the questions. As such, I always like to brainstorm some ideas for questions my team or I may receive from the audience and have responses prepared.

It’s also helpful to have someone on your team playing a support role in the chatroom. This person isn’t on screen, but they’re listening in and providing links to the resources your product team mentions in their responses.

Your support person can also keep track of questions that didn’t get answered during the live session. You can use these answers later in the webinar follow-up communications to continue to provide value.

3. Pick a webinar tool.

There are many platforms available for hosting webinars, and I’ve used a wide variety of them, including both free and paid options.

I’ve found that when choosing a tool, it’s best to start by considering your objectives and desired functionality.

It’s also important to consider how many people you think will attend, as most free options have a maximum number of audience members.

Once you have your list of requirements, you can check out these free and paid webinar software providers to see which one has the features you need and is the best fit for your budget.

Free Webinar Tools

Paid Webinar Tools

4. Assign roles to your team members.

The next step I take is assigning roles in my team. Typically, I need to fill the following four roles when I’m creating a webinar:

  • The organizer. This person handles all the planning, from ideation to content creation, and is often the primary contact on the webinar platform.
  • The presenter. The subject matter expert who is responsible for presenting on the chosen topic. The presenter can be someone inside or outside of your organization.
  • The moderator. The moderator guides the discussion when you have an interview or panel discussion. They’re not always needed for single-speaker formats, but if your presenter is not from your company, it can be helpful to have someone on your team in this role to greet people and introduce the speaker in a single-speaker webinar.
  • Assistants. Team members you have on hand to support the presenter and help in case of emergencies or technical difficulties. Typically, they remain off-camera, but they can also help with responding to audience members in the chat.

5. Produce the content.

At this point, I’ve assembled my team, and it’s time to create the content for the webinar. For educational webinars and the single-speaker format, I like to use slideshows to give the audience an agenda, highlight key points, and provide visuals for difficult concepts.

All of that should be prepared beforehand, and keep in mind that slides are there to keep your audience engaged — not serve as a script for speakers.

For interviews and panel discussions, you may not need a full slideshow, but you want to have an agenda and questions prepared. You can also have polls and questions prepared for the chat to keep the audience involved.

When putting on a Q&A webinar, it can be helpful to gather customer support resources, such as tutorial clips or case studies, that might come in handy during the discussion. I also like to give people a chance to ask a question when they sign up for a Q&A session.

This way, I have some questions for a moderator to ask if the audience engagement drops.

6. Choose your webinar’s date and time.

Once I have my topic and content ready to go, I choose a date and time for the webinar. I start this by considering where my audience lives, using tools like Google Analytics.

ON24 suggests scheduling your webinar in the middle of the week for the highest engagement, while data from Contrast found that webinars starting at 12 PM and 2 PM in the attendee’s time zone saw the highest engagement.

If you can’t schedule at those times, I find that mornings tend to be better for attendance and engagement than afternoons.

Note that if you’re hosting a global event, there might not be a time that’s perfect for everyone. In those cases, I recommend focusing on the time zone where most of your audience lives and recording those webinars so you and attendees can share them with people who might not be able to attend the live version.

7. Create a contingency plan.

In a perfect world, everything would proceed smoothly and go just as you planned. However, in my experience, mistakes and issues can come up during webinars. As such, I always recommend having a contingency plan.

Here are some of the steps I always take so I always have a solid backup plan:

  • Set up a backup internet connection. Make sure you have access to a wired internet connection or wireless hotspot you can use in case your primary internet connection goes out before or during the webinar.
  • Create pre-recorded content. Pre-recorded content is an excellent way to keep attendees in the virtual room and engaged if you have to troubleshoot issues such as a speaker’s sound or internet connection.
  • Print a hard copy of slides and notes. If your computer screen freezes or you lose video connection, having a hard copy of the presentation will allow you to continue without the digital assets. I’ve also emailed attendees a printout of slides or other resources before the webinar to help them stay engaged if technical issues arise on their end.
  • Have troubleshooting resources at the ready. Sometimes, technical issues can come from the attendee’s side. Have an assistant ready in the chat with responses to common troubleshooting issues that may affect individual attendees.
  • Create a pre-show checklist. If you need to troubleshoot in the moment, it can be easy to forget to hit record or publish a poll. Create a checklist that you can run through at the top of the show to make sure that you have everything ready when you go live.

8. Practice your webinar before the event.

In my experience, practice is a must for a successful webinar. While you can choose to focus solely on practicing the content of your presentation, I highly recommend creating and running through a test event on your webinar platform.

Once you have the event created, walk through a registrant’s journey and make sure people can sign up. Then, you can deliver your presentation on your webinar platform and have someone on your team serve as the audience to make sure everything works, and you’re familiar with all the functionality you need.

I also find that doing a practice run is an excellent way to ensure all of your presenters are comfortable with the agenda and the technology before they’re live.

9. Promote your webinar.

With the backend work done and a contingency plan in place, I move on to promoting the webinar to my target audience. My first step is creating a webinar landing page where people can sign up, and then I use other channels like social and email to distribute the link.

If you want to reach a broader audience, I recommend running ads through social media and search engines. Beyond that, I find email to be an excellent way to announce webinars.

Moreover, I’ve found reminder emails to be a helpful way to increase registrations. I like to send “Don’t Miss Out” or “Seats Are Filling Up” emails as the day gets closer to generate more urgency.

I also make sure that I have campaigns in place to remind people about the event after they’ve signed up. Specifically, I like to send them a link to the event about one hour before it starts. This keeps it top of mind and makes it so they don’t have to search through their inbox for the initial registration confirmation email.

10. Follow up with your audience.

If you’re like me, you might breathe a sigh of relief once your live webinar closes. That said, you haven’t reached the finish line just yet. Webinars are excellent sales opportunities, and it’s crucial to capitalize on them through follow-up.

I’ve found that attendees (and registrants who couldn’t make it) generally like to have a recording, so at the very least, I’ll send a follow-up email that thanks them for registering and provides them with a link to view the video. That said, the more value you create in your follow-up, the better.

Gini Roberts, senior director of media and sponsorships at the digital marketing consultancy Convince & Convert, also believes in the importance of post-event follow-up and recommends:

“Having some ‘bonus content’ to send after the event works well to share out additional thought leadership from your company. It also helps make the webinar experience more valuable to registrants who are providing their contact information to attend.”

She goes on to provide examples of bonus content by saying, “At Convince & Convert, we aim to have an ebook, worksheet, infographic, or research report related to the webinar topic for use in the post-event follow-up.”

Now that you know all the steps involved in how to create a webinar, let’s dive deeper into what’s involved in hosting the event.

1. Arrive early and greet your audience.

I always invite registrants to show up 5-10 minutes before the webinar is scheduled to start. This gives people time to get settled and provides a buffer period for the host or assistants to work through individual troubleshooting before the main content begins.

That said, as a host, you want to be present when people show up to the event. During this time, you can set the tone for the webinar by arriving enthusiastically and engaging people as they filter into the room.

Even if your guests don’t have their cameras on, you can ask people to share their names and the city they’re located in via chat and welcome people individually this way.

2. Explain the webinar’s features.

After you’ve spent time greeting people, you can give them the lay of the land for your webinar platform. I like to explain any features I plan to use for audience engagement, such as the chat, polls, or Q&A.

Depending on how your webinar hosting software works, you may also need to instruct people to keep their microphones turned off.

At this time, if you’re recording the presentation and plan to send a link to the video later, it’s good to let your audience know. This lets attendees focus on the speakers in real time and worry less about taking copious notes.

3. Introduce the topic and speakers.

Once the software-related housekeeping is done, it’s time to introduce your speakers and the topic of the webinar. If you’re a single-speaker host, that means introducing yourself.

When I’m doing a self-introduction, I like to include my current job title and two to three highlights of my professional experience to build credibility with my audience, whether that’s previous roles or results I’ve produced. I also tend to throw in a fun personal fact.

If you have guests for an interview or a panel, you can introduce them by name and title and then invite them to give a brief overview of their experience.

After your viewers have met the presenters, you can reiterate the title of the webinar and go over a high-level agenda. I like to tease valuable content or any free offers that will be available at the end of the presentation to incentivize people to stay until the very end.

4. Moderate the talk.

For the remainder of the presentation, it’s the host’s job to moderate the discussion. In a single-speaker presentation, this means going through your talking points while keeping an eye on any questions that appear in the chat.

You can then answer them right away or let people know if you’ll cover the answer later. Either way, addressing questions as they appear in the chat shows that you’re paying attention and encourages more viewers to ask theirs.

If you’re moderating a panel or guest interview, you want to focus on adding value and keeping speakers on topic. To add value, ask follow-up questions that will lead to more information for your audience.

You can also use additional questions to redirect speaker responses to the main topics if you sense they’re going on a tangent.

Webinar Examples

1. The SEO Update by Yoast

The SEO update webinar by Yoast.

Image Source

The SEO Update by Yoast is a good example of an ongoing panel discussion webinar that covers the latest news and trends in search engine optimization (SEO) each month. It features insights from two SEO experts, Alex Moss and Carolyn Shelby, in a discussion moderated by Taco Verdonschot.

Together, the three speakers address new developments in the world of SEO and then break down this information into what it means for their audience of marketers and website developers.

At the end, they host a Q&A session where the expert speakers can address the audience’s specific concerns and provide actionable advice.

2. M&A in the Ever-Changing Fintech Landscape by Morgan Lewis

M&A in the Ever-Changing Fintech Landscape webinar by Morgan Lewis.

Image Source

M&A in the Ever-Changing Fintech Landscape is an expert panel presentation webinar aimed specifically at the fintech sector. During this event, experts from Morgan Lewis took turns presenting their findings and takeaways on a given subtopic.

The discussion covered issues such as the relationships between banks and Fintech companies, SEC and cryptocurrency, and global finance regulatory updates.

By using this format, Morgan Lewis provides valuable educational information to a specific segment of its target audience. The company also demonstrates the wide breadth and depth of its expertise by highlighting several internal experts.

3. Managing Clients with Invoices, Contracts, and Proposals by Squarespace

Managing Clients with Invoices, Contracts, and Proposals webinar by Squarespace

Image Source

This Ask a Squarespace Product Manager webinar is a Q&A style event focused on the brand’s new invoicing and client documents features. It’s aimed at a specific segment of its audience: people who use Squarespace to market their services to potential clients on a project basis.

It’s also a good way to host a product-focused webinar that engages attendees rather than one that feels primarily like a sales pitch. Squarespace has also prepared a forum post where registrants can ask specific questions beforehand.

Using the forum post to gather audience requests ahead of time allows the Squarespace team to show up more prepared and even create tools to share, such as short tutorial clips related to audience questions.

Tips to Improve Your Webinar Strategy

If you’re feeling comfortable with the basics of creating and hosting a webinar, here are some strategies I like to use to create a more engaging webinar experience.

Go for a discussion-style webinar.

I’ve found that using unscripted and discussion-style webinars keeps audiences engaged throughout. In fact, many of the live events I plan now forgo the slideshow completely and instead bring in two speakers to answer questions from a host.

Encouraging audience dialogue and responses on X (formerly Twitter) using an event hashtag helps keep the content informative and conversational. Sometimes, I’ll have assistants flag interesting posts from attendees and provide them to the host to bring up in the live talk.

Use breakout sessions.

If you want to give participants a chance to speak and interact with others, breakout sessions are an excellent tool.

I like to use these when I’m teaching a new concept and want to give the audience a chance to try it out. For example, I might split viewers up into smaller groups and let them work through a step of a process.

When using these, I find it helpful to have a couple of assistants on hand who can jump in and out of rooms and help moderate or answer questions. When people come back to the main meeting, I ask them about their experience and see if any questions come up.

Add interactive features to the webinar registration page.

When I work with other brands, I’ve noticed that the webinar sign-up page can be an underutilized resource. Most people know to collect names and email addresses for follow-ups, but they miss the opportunity to start engaging with their audience before the event even happens.

Some of the ways I like to boost engagement are by adding voting features for people to upvote their top questions. This encourages more interaction early and helps you prioritize the material to cater to the topics your audience is most interested in learning about.

Webinar Statistics

In my experience, webinars are one of the best ways to build relationships with potential customers and bring in highly qualified leads. Here are some webinar statistics to help you learn more about this content marketing strategy.

Webinar Attendance and Engagement Statistics

ON24 found that the average number of webinar attendees is 202, and people who attend typically stay engaged for 53 minutes.

In a world where brands are competing to capture their audience’s attention for a few seconds on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram, webinars provide a unique opportunity for more in-depth interactions.

That said, according to our survey, 46% of marketers list audience engagement as the main challenge for running webinars. If you want to increase audience participation, I suggest experimenting with breakout rooms.

Webinar Lead Generation Statistics

Our survey found that 42% of marketers use webinars specifically for lead generation.

In my experience, webinars are excellent ways to generate high-quality and sales-ready leads because they help you learn more about prospects and demonstrate your products’ relevance and how they add value in very specific use cases.

Webinar Personalization Statistics

When I use personalization in webinars, I find that my results are significantly better than without, and other brands see this too. ON24 reports that marketers who tailor webinar content to unique audience segments see an average of 68% more CTA engagement and 4X more demo requests from attendees.

Webinar Conversion Statistics

According to ON24, the average registrant-to-attendee rate for webinars is 56%, which is up 3% from the previous year. Although many webinars are recorded and made available on demand, we’re seeing more than half of registrants show up for the live sessions.

If you want to improve conversions, make sure your landing page incentivizes showing up in person by advertising live Q&A sessions or free offerings for those who attend.

Webinar FAQs

How do I create a free webinar?

You can use platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet to host free webinars. Once you select a free webinar platform, invite attendees, prepare your materials, and rehearse your webinar before hosting it live.

How do I conduct a successful webinar?

To conduct an effective webinar, start by finding a topic relevant to your target audience and speakers who are experts on it. Prepare your webinar materials ahead of time and choose a reputable platform to host it on. After the webinar, make sure to follow up with attendees to keep them engaged.

What equipment do I need to host a professional webinar?

To host a professional webinar, you will need a webinar platform and a computer or laptop with a webcam for the host and presenters. If you want higher-quality audio or video, you can invest in an external web camera or microphone.

What are the steps for creating and hosting a webinar?

The steps for creating and hosting a webinar are:

1. Brainstorm webinar ideas.
2. Choose a webinar format.
3. Pick a webinar tool.
4. Assign roles to your team members.
5. Produce the content.
6. Choose your webinar’s date and time.
7. Create a contingency plan for your webinar presentation.
8. Practice your webinar before the event.
9. Promote your webinar.
10. Follow up with your audience.

Improve Brand Awareness and Bring in More Convertible Leads with Webinars

Far from being a content format of the past, webinars remain a valuable tool for content marketers who want to build brand awareness, engage with prospects, and generate highly qualified sales leads.

Learning how to create a webinar that engages attendees can help you strengthen your relationships with potential and existing customers and stay up to date on the most urgent issues and questions your target audience has.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2022 and was updated in June 2024 for comprehensiveness.

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