A Beginner’s Guide to Webinars
As we emerge from our COVID-19 bubbles here in NZ, we might be ready to throw out the need for online calls and rushing to meet face to face once again. However, online tools like webinars are just as useful to our businesses outside of lockdown as they were during isolation.
Webinars offer a bunch of pros that stand out from physically attending normal seminars. For example,
- Webinars are location flexible. This means they have access to a wider range of people from all around the world who can attend, something they might not be able to do if it was only available in person. All you need is an internet connection!
- Webinars can build your brand through this open network of connections. They provide personal engagement for viewers to learn about your business through an exciting topic that interests them, and can talk to you in real-time. This establishes authority and trust that is hugely valuable for expanding your business.
- Webinars are open to all types of formats. All you need to do is (remember to) press record, and you can adapt it into a range of different mediums, from blog posts to podcasts. Through this resharing, even more and more people will become engaged with your brand!
If you need an overview of what to consider when building a webinar for your business, then keep reading!
What is a Webinar?
A webinar is an online seminar, offering an interactive, educational experience for your audience. Typically, a webinar consists of a host (or moderator), at least one speaker, and includes visuals with a slideshow and/or videos, but there are a lot of variants within the format. They also commonly end with a Q&A section for the audience to ask any questions they may have for your presenters.
Where Do I Start?
What Should it Be On?
The first step to starting your webinar is deciding what it will be on, and picking something that will suit a specific webinar format. It is really important to ensure that your idea will work best for whatever webinar-style you choose, whether it is a panel, a single presenter or a two-person discussion. You don’t want your webinar to be too long, most normally run between 30 minutes and an hour, as you don’t want your audience to get bored, but you don’t want your topic to be so niche that you don’t have enough to discuss. Decide if you want your webinar to be an interview, a how-to tutorial, a discussion/roundtable or a presentation, and then specify what particular kind of webinar will present this idea best.
Who is my Target?
Clarifying your target audience is the next most important step in planning your webinar. This will affect not only how you market your webinar but the webinar content itself, as you will want to orient that to your demographic specifically. Think about what their expectations and goals are. Will they want to learn more about your brand and what you have to offer, or are they coming to hear about a particular subject that aligns with both your business and audience? Ensure that you keep them in mind throughout the planning process and keep asking questions to check that your audience is both engaged and interested in the content.
Don’t forget to consider time zones when choosing the date, you want to ensure your webinar is as accessible as possible to your audience so that you make the most out of the format. For those that won’t be able to attend live due to time zones or otherwise, let them know how they can access the webinar at a later date, either through a different format or by signing up to have a video link emailed to them.
Planning the Webinar
How Do I Organise the Content?
When choosing your speakers, if you choose to have some, ensure that they are not only passionate and knowledgeable about your chosen topic, but that they are comfortable with public speaking and being on camera, as this could make or break your webinar.
When it comes to making the webinar visuals, a slideshow is a great choice as it is both simple and effective, and you can incorporate videos or other visual elements when necessary. A slideshow should be easy-to-read because having too many words could overwhelm viewers who are also trying to listen to the presentation, so if a font is too small or there is an overload of information they could easily lose interest. Remember, with webinars, some people watch on their phones, which makes visuals even harder to see, so make sure to keep the visuals clear and your audience will be more engaged with your content.
Writing a script is another way to make sure that your webinar runs smoothly. A strong script will ensure that your speakers clearly articulate all of their points and remain on topic, while managing time efficiently, allowing your team to feel comfortable that everything flows nicely and goes to plan. With a panel or discussion-based webinar, using scripted questions is a key way to move the things forward, and you can ask your speakers to have their main points written down, while your host can have a script for their introduction and conclusion to avoid any verbal stumbles.
How Do I Organise The Webinar Itself?
Choosing the right platform for your webinar may be one of the hardest parts of planning, as you have to figure out what works best for your team, meaning doing your own research is essential to see what will work best. Try asking peers who have hosted webinars to hear from first-hand experiences about what platforms work best for people in similar fields. Remember to keep in mind the needs of both your team and your audience. Make sure the platform is just as friendly and as easy for your audience to use as it is for you, and consider the expected number of attendees as well as the length of your webinar.
Here are some of the most popular options for running webinars:
How Do I Promote the Webinar?
Once you’ve done all the hard work in planning your webinar, you need people to come! Whether you promote through social media, emails or putting an announcement on your website, try to extend beyond your core audience and target people with interests in your specific topic. Using a hashtag across all channels of promotion can also be used as an interactive tool during the webinar during a Q&A, and will make it easy for people to learn more about the webinar. Reach out to your speakers and remind them to repost promotional materials and make their own followers aware of the seminar to cast as wide a net as possible.
With the date of your webinar approaching and everything slipping into place, it’s important to keep a few things in mind to make the event less daunting.
Technical difficulties are the biggest nightmare for every webinar-planner. If your audio, visual and internet quality is as polished as possible, this will ease your fears about what could go wrong on the technical side. Using a built-in webcam and/or microphone is normally standard and would work just fine, as you don’t have to buy external gear just for this. However, if you have an external microphone, even if it is just through a pair of headphones, this will help improve your audio quality … one of the most important aspects of your webinar. Managing your internet quality if you have a shaky connection is trickier, but double-checking that you don’t have lots of devices, tabs, or downloads running your internet will help ease the pressure.
Setting up where you will be physically during the webinar will also help make the process more seamless. Your background should be professional and tidy, and try to have a quiet house if other people are home so there are as few distractions as possible. However, with the webinar format, there is a more casual tone that means your audience will understand interruptions that happen naturally from kids to pets, and that they can’t be helped. So do your best to prepare and prevent any disruptions, but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to have a soundproof studio in your own home.
Going through a trial run for the webinar with your team will help everyone find their rhythm and smooth out any kinks with the technical side of running the presentation. From screen sharing to microphones and video, a run-through allows you to familiarise yourself with the technology and features of your chosen platform before your audience is front and centre. This also will give you the valuable opportunity to practice your script and get feedback from the rest of your team, and make any final adjustments before the actual event.
Don’t Forget the Basics!
Finally, on the day of your webinar, don’t forget to record! It happens to the best of us when we get caught up in the excitement and nerves of the big day, but recording allows you to leverage the webinar in the future. Show up on time, make sure your laptop is plugged in and welcome the interaction with your audience. Webinars are an amazing tool for recreating face to face contact online, so enjoy the experience and use feedback and the outcomes of your first try to make your future webinars succeed even further!
After reading this overview you should be feeling more confident about how to run a seminar easily and successfully. If you want a more detailed guide on running webinars, Webinar Ninja has a great rundown on the ins and outs of webinars that goes beyond the basics. Want to learn more about using tools like webinars and Zoom to boost your brand, download your free guide here.