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Live events have a different energy.
It’s like a giant feedback mechanism.
The presenter feeds of the energy of the audience and the audience feeds off the energy of the presenter. Not only that, but people also are able to interact with each other and forge new connections.
The problem with a live event is that it can be expensive for both the presenter and the attendees. That’s where webinars come in.
You’re able to gather a large group of people together, teach or share, and generate instant revenue. This guide breaks down the nuances of webinars, how they work, tools, and the many use cases.
A webinar is a live or automated virtual event that’s carried out online. It can be instructional, training, or sales-oriented but always includes both audio and visual components and one or more speakers interact with a group of attendees. Though not a requirement, many webinars have an interactive Q&A session.
The power of webinars comes from the live component. The audience can interact with each other and the presenter in real-time, have their questions answered, and otherwise gain the benefits of in-person events.
What is a webinar?
Though we’ve defined it, there’s a lot more that goes into webinar creation and execution. The name comes from “web seminar” in the same way that blogs got their name from web logs. I know, we’re not a very creative bunch.
For the majority of our existence, companies, groups, and other types of organizations were forced to meet in person for any kind of large event. The technology and internet speeds weren’t available before then.
In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift. Individuals and organizations are able to conduct larger and larger meetings online. People from all over the world have the opportunity to tune in from the comfort of their homes or offices.
There’s no need to travel and you get most of the benefits of a live event without the massive overheads and logistic nightmares.
These one-to-many meetings are called webinars and have many elements that come together to make it possible:
- A live online event
- A video stream
- Audio stream
- A live chat to take questions
- A presentation that has been prepared ahead of time
These come into play during the actual event. Let’s look at all the moving pieces involved in setting up, hosting, and following up on a webinar.
How does a webinar work?
There are multiple moving pieces in every webinar and a lot of people who would otherwise try webinars avoid them because of it. Though it can be challenging to set up your first presentation, it’s well worth the effort.
The event organizer uses different strategies and tactics to get the word out about their upcoming webinar. Maybe they’re active on Instagram and create a few posts for their audience. Or email marketing could be their main traffic driver.
There’s also a possibility that they decide to use paid ads from platforms like Facebook to send people to a landing page where they register for the event. Usually, the prospective attendee submits their name, email, and any additional information.
After submitting contact details, the registered attendee is sent to a confirmation page. This page can do many things such as welcome the attendee, reconfirm the date of the webinar, and even get them to take the next step in your sales funnel.
Get a confirmation email
After successfully registering, the attendee will get a confirmation email. Yes, the organizer will mention the date of the event and possibly give them the link to join at the allotted time.
The main goal of this email is to reiterate what they’ll gain from attending the webinar. It’s to get the attendee excited about what’s to come and let them know what to expect over the next few days before the webinar.
At the same time, they’re added to your email marketing service of choice. The next step can be done within the webinar marketing tool or from the email marketing service you use.
Email marketing follow-up
Many people who hold a webinar for the first time don’t realize that most of the people who register don’t show up. The average attendance rate for all webinars over 100 registrants was 43.3% and that number is lowest for marketing related webinars and highest for communications related webinars.
If you don’t do any pre-webinar email follow up, those numbers will be considerably lower. People get busy, lose interest, or any number of things. That’s why this aspect of the webinar is so important.
The tactics vary but an effective way to do this is creating a series of 3 emails that go out before the webinar. Each one focuses on a different aspect of the training and the transformation that it’ll create for attendees.
When the email follow-up is done successfully, a larger number of people will show up for the live event. The nuances of the live event are beyond the scope of this article so I’ll just give you a general overview of how you may want to structure your presentation.
For an hour-long webinar, there will be at least four different parts of the presentation. The introduction where you establish your credibility. The lessons, training, messages, etc. that make up the bulk of the presentation come next. A pitch or CTA and finally a Q&A section.
If you have a marketing/sales webinar, this is the area where the majority of revenue comes in. Yes, a few people will buy live but a large portion need to consider the purchase. Without the follow-up emails, an offer made on the webinar may be forgotten.
Depending on the price of your offer, you can also follow up with phone calls. If you don’t have an office phone system then you may want to consider getting an inexpensive one. You can compare cloud and hosted PBX solutions over at GetVoIP.
The post-event emails ensure that you stay top of mind and the attendee has all the information they need to make a decision. The follow-up sequence, as well as the event, may need tweaking to get right but once they’re working well together, it can unlock a new level of growth in your business.
Webinar types and use cases
Just like content marketing has many types (blogging, podcasting, videos) and use cases (awareness, lead generation, sales enablement), so too do webinars.
Webinars are most often delivered in a presentation style format. The host will create a series of PowerPoint (or equivalent) slides and talk about each one as it comes up on the screen. The presenter may or may not have a live stream of their face in a corner while streaming.
This format is attractive because it provides a visual anchor that makes many of the concepts you’re explaining easier for attendees to follow. It also makes it easier for you because you don’t have to memorize an hour-long presentation without an aid.
A pre-recorded webinar is also known as an automated or evergreen webinar. Most times, an attendee can view it on-demand after registering. It has been shown to increase attendance rates but it’s not live which is a major disadvantage.
There are webinar tools that allow you to simulate a live webinar. The problem is that if people find out that the webinar isn’t live during the presentation, they’ll feel mislead and tune you out.
If you go this route, it’s important to be transparent upfront and let people know the presentation has been recorded ahead of time. Or, you can remove the simulated aspects that make the presentation look like it’s live.
The trust of your audience is important. Don’t start the relationship on the wrong foot.
Pure live streaming isn’t as popular as many of the other types of webinars because it’s harder to hold the attention of your attendees. There are fewer visual aids – people are just looking at your face – and you’ll have to use notes to stay on track.
It does have the advantage of showing people your face but you can achieve a similar effect with a presentation. I’d suggest a hybrid model. Part of the webinar is live-streamed with just your face but the majority has a visual aid like a PowerPoint to keep people engaged.
Screen sharing is a great way to host a webinar because you can show people, in real-time, how you do something. This is the perfect option if you want to train people via a webinar. It can also be useful if you have a digital product and you want to show how it works through a live presentation.
Before you use a screen sharing webinar, be sure to check if your computer can handle it. Webinar software is resource-intensive and if your set up isn’t strong enough, you and attendees will experience audio and visual lag.
Webinar use cases
Though they can be used by anyone, the industry that uses webinars the most is the software/tech industry. This may be due to the fact that their products are in the cloud and there’s little to no physical contact with customers.
Webinars have become a medium for them and other industries to sell, train, and communicate with audiences.
As the name implies, the main goal of the sales webinar is to generate revenue for your business. It’s effective for a number of reasons but one of the most important is the interactivity.
In a sales setting, an interested prospect will ask questions to better understand the product being sold. When you have a normal sales page, you have to anticipate all of the questions that will be asked. A webinar allows you to do that in real-time while turning the objection into a positive.
Companies like ConvertKit used Webinars to generate millions of dollars in revenue.
Another type of webinar is strictly for training attendees on a specific topic. While sales webinars may have a training aspect, that’s not their main goal. A training webinar, on the other hand, makes sure the attendees go away with a deep understanding of the material.
It’s usually reserved for people who are already customers. For example, if you have a software product, you may host a training webinar so your users can get the most out of your tool. If you have a training course, part of the program may be bi-weekly training or Q&A for customers.
These types of webinars help you communicate with your audience about important events, products, or features related to your company. A good comparison would be the way Apple creates events to announce new computers, phones, etc. In their case, people come to the Apple offices and participate in the event.
Apple has the resources to do this.
Many small businesses and solopreneurs don’t have the luxury of renting out a space and calling the press to cover their event. Instead, they use webinars to get their message across, engage their audience, and produce the first bit of revenue.
How long should your webinar be?
Right after “what is a webinar” the most important question is how long should a webinar be. That’s a tough question to answer because it depends on a number of factors such as:
- Type of webinar
- Use case
With that being said, we do have averages that people have used in the past which may be a good benchmark to aim for. Just know that if a webinar is too long, people will drop off. They can’t spend their entire day listening to you no matter how interesting the topic.
According to the ON24 benchmarks report, the average viewing time for webinars is 58 minutes. This include the introduction and the Q&A portion.
88% of webinar hosts say their webinars last for between 30 – 60 minutes. If you’re in doubt, aim for that time frame and tweak it as you go to find the sweet spot for your specific audience.
Webinar tools to consider
There are dozens of webinar platforms on the market and we’ve written an in-depth guide about the platforms here. You can check that out to understand the most popular and versatile tools available.
Here’s our shortlist
Demio is a great choice because it combines live and automated webinars under one roof. Unlike many tools, it has an intuitive interface that can be learned by even the most technologically challenged.
That, coupled with responsive support and all the major webinar features like basic email marketing, automated presentations, live chat, etc. make it a solid choice. The only drawback is that the plans don’t support too many live attendees when compared to some of the others on this list.
WebinarJam is another solid webinar platform that’s especially focused on sales. It has tons of features such as live chat, inserting offers in your presentation, email marketing, and more. The knowledge base is a little sparse and I’ve seen a lag in some of the presentations I’ve held but it’s not a deal-breaker.
It’s much cheaper than many of the other tools on the list and allows you to host much larger events. The only caveat is that after your $1 trial, you’ll have to sign up for a yearly plan. If you can swing the expense, it’s well worth it.
Webinars are powerful tools to grow your brand, mailing list, and revenue. They can be used in many ways – which we’ve gone through in this article.
Whatever route you choose, it’s important to tweak and test the many factors involved to make the most out of them. Let me know what you think about webinars in the comments and don’t forget to share.