Webinars are an effective way to communicate with one or many without geographic or time constraints.
They are a powerful marketing and educational tool when executed well. Delivering thoughtful, useful, timely and relevant information allows you to demonstrate your value to a group that has proven their interest by giving you their most precious resource – their time.
But the hurdles to producing an effective webinar can be significant. Many people and organizations shy away, fearing the time-sucking obstacles of producing the content, the difficulties in managing the technical details, or – in some cases – a general fear of public speaking.
Whether you are an old pro at webinar development and marketing or are cautiously stepping into the spotlight for the first time, these tips will help you succeed.
Step 1: Prep work
Start with an absolutely clear picture of your audience for this presentation. You can’t appeal to everyone, so prioritize your efforts and dive deep to understand your segment’s preferences for content style and types.
The more you know about your audience and their needs and preferences, the more targeted your presentation can be and the more likely that users will sign-up, stay, review, and share the presentation.
Pull together a quick brief for your content team that outlines the audience expectations and requirements. That brief should define your goals for the task at hand and directly inform the content that you develop.
- What are the viewer’s objectives in attending this webinar?
- How can you best satisfy those objectives through various learning approaches?
- What tone and voice should you be using?
- How much time do you need to illustrate key points and how long can you hold their attention on this material?
- Are there interactive elements involved?
- How will this content live on after the event?
- Will the audience be homogenous or represent many camps?
- What platform will you be utilizing to deliver the content?
Leave yourself enough time to gather great content, sleep on it for a few days or weeks, and go through some crucial editing. Getting a project manager and some design help on board early will help to polish the final product and avoid a last minute scramble.
Step 2: Create the content
Use your project brief to develop a content outline. It’s all about the audience, so lose the sales pitch and focus on the benefit to the attendee. The more relevant and valuable you can be, the more successful your effort in the end.
Think hard about your central thesis and boil it down to a succinct statement then look for ways to illustrate your supporting points creatively and memorably. Build in logical breaks to let your audience breathe and absorb the info.
Get help – different yet informed perspectives enrich the content. Curate good stuff you find elsewhere being careful to appropriately attribute others’ work or ideas. Customize for your audience referring back to your brief to avoid straying into irrelevant territory.
Do your homework to see what other resources are already available. You’re looking to add to the conversation – not regurgitate – and hopefully start a conversation. Allow time for questions if your format allows but be ready with some good questions of your own in case your audience is shy – or asleep.
Step 3: Deliver the content
Even the best content can’t overcome a flat presentation. Remember that humans respond to storytelling so punctuate with case studies, anecdotes, and interactive or narrative elements that make your presentation and your key points more memorable. Your slide content should be secondary to the storytelling and as visual as possible.
Reiterate key points in regular summary slides so that people can more easily track along with you and can grasp key concepts. The more straightforward you can be, the better. If your audience includes varying levels of experience make it clear at the beginning exactly what you plan to cover and don’t overuse industry jargon that some might find confusing.
Practice will help you get your timing and inflection down, reduce your nerves, and improve your delivery. As public speaking doesn’t come naturally to most of us, you should plan to practice as many times as it takes to hone your storytelling and help you make an interesting presentation.
The best way to do this is with an audience. Have a few friendly faces attend some practice sessions with a stopwatch and a notepad and incorporate their honest feedback to improve your final product. Do this within your technology platform at least once before game day so you don’t have any hesitancy with the tools of your presentation.
Step 4: Promoting the webinar
Promotion is actually not a last step. Rather, it should start as early as your planning. Use your project brief to help craft a webinar description that focuses on the benefit to the audience of attending – then work all your channels to get the word out.
The promotion plan will vary with your content, objective, and audience, but the basics involve using your existing networks and communities first with targeted outreach through the appropriate channels for your audience.
Absolutely use your own website, blogs, email lists, and social channels to spread the word among audiences familiar with you already. Then use targeted media and look-alike modeling to extend a compelling invite to those who may not know you – yet.
If your webinar is sponsored or you have partners in the production be sure to use their communities and digital properties to promote as well. Use both offline and online channels to get the word out and remove obstacles, like lengthy registration forms, to maximize participation.
Offer easy calendaring functionality to reduce drop-off on the day of the event. Also remember to send a reminder to registered attendees the day before and even the day of the event to keep them committed.
Depending on your resources and your budget, social media offers a wealth of targeted webinar promotion opportunities ranging from Facebook lead generation units to promoted content, Slideshare and LinkedIn programs, and video placements where appropriate.
Prior to the webinar, you can share your promo among influencers in your industry. Invite them to attend (or even co-present) and to share it with their audiences. A simple Tweet from the right person with a link to register can help build a qualified audience.
Don’t forget your post mortem – analyzing what worked and what didn’t can help improve future efforts.
A webinar is an investment and should be approached that way. When you have something to say and are willing to put the work and resources into the creation, delivery, and promotion of the webinar, you can expect a solid return on that investment.
Homepage and article images via Flickr.
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