For the uninitiated, webinars are online seminars or master classes designed to educate around a clear and concise topic.
Generally around 30-40 minutes, these live events are a fantastic way to demo a product, show off a new feature, offer tips, hacks, or best practices, and perhaps most powerfully: to introduce yourself — your actual self — to customers.
Webinars have unique barriers to entry.
On the one hand, they seem conceptually easy. On the other, when you start thinking about what webinar platform to use (none two are alike), how to publicize the event, what content to share, etc., it quickly becomes clear that webinars are a lot like live theater: they take a crazy amount of planning and execution to pull off without a hitch.
Here’s everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about running a successful webinar.
1. If you’ve been struggling to decide which platform to use, don’t hesitate any longer. Go with GoToWebinar. Not only do you get a 30-day free trial, but unlike Adobe Connect (which only allows for a maximum of 25 attendees during your trial), GoToWebinar has a way higher limit, letting you actually run your first webinar while you’re trying the product out. After all, the best way to get the full picture of a product is to see how it works under the actual conditions of how you’re trying to use it.
2. Consider time zones
Take your audience into consideration, particularly where they will be logging in from. Now that you don’t have to worry about a platform, the one thing you should be thinking about at this point is timing - best time to schedule your webinar. This is going to depend on your audience and where they are in relation to you.
It’s important to create a landing page for the webinar that clearly states the time. If you’re working across multiple timezones it’s pretty much unavoidable that you’ll get multiple emails throughout the day saying, “Hey, isn’t the webinar supposed to start now?” These are people thinking it’s supposed to start at "11am" their time (for example). So do your best to clearly state the correct time in all communications.
You can always send the recording to people who can’t make the event live. Remember, a webinar is both a live event and a lasting record — a great tool for onboarding, demoing a feature, or clips for product support.
3. Create a landing page on Unbounce
So you have your time all set, everything’s ready to go on GoToWebinar. Now you need an effective landing page for people to sign up on.
It doesn't need to win any design awards, it just has to get the job done. Make sure it doesn’t distract the visitor and focuses on what’s important: making it quick and easy for anyone to sign up. Landing pages shouldn’t be where you describe the webinar. (We’ll get to this later.) The signup page should be for only one thing: signing up.
4. Link the landing page directly to GoToWebinar via Zapier
Landing pages can be automatically linked directly to GoToWebinar via Zapier, creating a “New Registrant” upon any “New Form Submission.” So the process for someone signing up looks like this:
Link → Landing page → Email confirmation from GoToWebinar
While all the nitty gritty goes on in the background:
Link → Optimized (or even A/B tested) landing page → Zapier connection → GoToWebinar attendee registration → Email confirmation from GoToWebinar
But how do you get people to your fancy new landing page?
5. Spread the word
Email and ssocial media are still by far the most effective ways to get the word out about something, and that’s especially true for webinars. For maximum effect, craft your messages with a clear focus and a direct reason for joining.
For example, you can share some surprising figures — a perfect opportunity to propose the upcoming webinar as a means of seeing the figures in action, to actually offer the direct value of breaking down the numbers.
Pro tip: Always emphasize the timing of the webinar as specifically as possible: “Thursday, July 24th at 11am PDT.” Putting it this way will actually trigger most mail apps to underline it so that the person can directly add it to their calendar, at least on iOS.
6. Create clear, directional slides
Have slides ready to give your talk structure and to emphasize things like links to visit, social accounts to follow, and features to check out.
Signpost everything — remember that the better organized your presentation is, the better people will be able to follow along and replicate the steps you’re showing off.
Always put together really nice Keynote slides. This lends your webinar the professionality it deserves and helps you keep track of where you are (seriously, talking for 30 minutes straight can be hard! It’s good to have something to remind you where you are).
7. Don’t forget to hit record!
This one may seem really obvious, but you’d be surprised at how much gets caught up in the excitement of talking to hundreds of people live and in real-time.
It’s pretty frustrating having to explain to a bunch of people who are waiting (and writing to you) for the recording that you simply forgot to hit the record button. So make sure you have a Post-It note or something handy, saying: PRESS RECORD.
8. Offer a tangible benefit to encourage attendance and participation
Make sure to offer real value when it comes to encouraging participation. Someone who takes the time to attend and take part in a webinar is more than likely someone who will stick around and use your service for the long term (depending, that is, on if they like what they see).
9. Don’t sweat the small stuff
If you give back to your community, they’ll give back to you. Webinars are actually a very forgiving medium when it comes to “the small stuff.” Little things like the awkwardness of a delay in switching screens, or a messy computer background full of files, or way too many tabs open on your browser — this stuff doesn’t really matter, and in fact, it goes a long way towards creating more direct interaction with your audience.
So don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, embrace the fact that part of the appeal of webinars is their very nature as a live event.
Have fun and be real — your audience will take care of the rest.