Plan the Perfect Webinar

Webinars are dynamite lead generation machines. People who sign up and show up are motivated to solve a problem or fill a need, and they already trust you to some degree. You want to make sure that the webinar you produce meets their expectations – while maximizing your opportunities for conversion.

Producing a webinar provides its own set of unique challenges, but with strategic planning, a project approach, and attentive execution, you’ll find yourself creating thoroughly professional webinars.

1. The topic

Ideas for a webinar can come from anyplace, including your own prospects and customers. When deciding whether the topic is the right one, consider your audience and what they need to know. Ask some of your good customers. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, and sit in one a few of their events. Look at trade show agendas to see which topics are are hot. Then ask these questions:

  • Would this webinar satisfy a business goal?
  • Can you attract enough people, and generate enough value, to justify the time and expense?
  • Do people care about the problem enough to spend their time listening to a webinar about it?
  • Do you have a speaker who can address the topic with originality, expertise, and credibility?
  • Can you deliver an engaging presentation (allowing time for a Q&A) in 60 minutes or less?
  • Can you get the buy-in and internal support you need?

If you can answer all these questions with a firm “yes,” start recruiting your speaker(s) and a support team.

2. The people

You’ll need a team to execute the webinar:

  • The organizer is usually an employee of your company. This person organizes the logistics and coordinates all the details, including setting up registration, managing the event, and communicating with participants. TechSoup estimates that the organizer’s time commitment is roughly 10 to 20 hours per webinar.
  • The speaker may or may not be an employee. You could use a practice leader from your sales or marketing department, or you could hire an analyst, consultant or industry leader. This person should be an expert on the topic and a good speaker. If you pick someone very well known and respected, that person’s reputation and social network could help draw attendees. Make sure the presenter knows what your business and execution goals are for the webinar, including how you want the Q&A to be run and whether you want audience involvement earlier (e.g., in a poll). TechSoup’s estimate of prep and presentation time: four to six hours per hour of webinar.
  • An assistant is nice to have, although many organizers run webinars by themselves or with live support from their webinar service provider. Consider having an assistant if you’re working with new webinar software, if you sometimes experience technical glitches, if you plan to encourage ongoing questions and audience interactivity, if the audience will be large, or if the organizer is going to be an active participant.

 3. The story

  • Decide what story your presentation will tell. Make an outline or use a diagram  to clarify for yourself the one main idea, key supporting points, and validation or proof points. Bear in mind that people don’t watch webinars to buy something, but to learn something. Fulfill that expectation.
  • Know your audience. A very general webinar will draw a more top-of-funnel audience. The tighter the focus of your webinar, the likelier attendees are to be  looking for a solution to a specific problem and a bit further along the buyer’s journey.
  • Keep slides simple. Don’t overwhelm slides with too much text; make sure you’ve left plenty of white space.
  • Make slide titles do their job. Pay close attention to slide titles. If later you post your slide deck without narration, the titles will help the reader through the presentation.
  • Add speaker notes to your slides. They help keep you on track and ensure that you cover all the points you want to make. Be sure to print out your webinar slides  with speaker notes, so you’re covered if the technology fails. You can also make notes on it during your presentation and the Q&A session.
  • Get short biographies from your speakers well ahead of the webinar. When you do the introduction, have a concise and powerful message about your speaker; this makes you both look more professional.
  • Consider crafting a script the presenter can read for certain portions of the presentation – e.g. a company overview, biographies of speakers, etc. Make sure the slide number is clearly indicated so the presenter doesn’t get confused about when to sue the script. Make sure the presenter has a chance to practice this several times in a quiet room where they can speak out loud; this will make it sound conversational instead of rote.
  • Put contact information on the closing slide. When you speak to this slide, be sure to cover next steps for the audience to take, thank the presenters for their time, and thank the attendees as well.
  • Make sure the contact information includes varied methods, such as an email address, URL, phone number, or other ways people can take the initiative to get in touch.

4. The visuals

Webinars are not just glorified teleconferences – the ability to share visual content can tremendously enhance your message. But weak visuals will literally cause your audience to avert their eyes; once that happens, it will be difficult to regain their attention.

  • Create images that are easy to read and engaging to look at. Whenever possible, make your point with pictures, not words.
  • Avoid the trap of designing your images for a large projection screen. Your audience may be watching the presentation in a window on a small screen – even a tablet or a smartphone.
  • That also means a presentation that works very well in a conference room or auditorium needs to be revised for the webinar format. Slides look very different in a 5-inch window than they do on a 15-foot projection screen.
  • Make sure your visuals complement the material rather than repeating it.
  • Keep the slide template simple so the audience focuses on the content.
  • Use a single template even if there are multiple speakers.
  • Use common fonts so you can have confidence that they display correctly.
  • Use the footer to remind people about hashtags and who the sponsor of the event is.

Establish clear and unique takeaways for your webinar content – simply putting your own brand on information available anywhere on the web will waste your viewers’ time. Create a call to action that helps the audience realize value from your advice in the short term. Instant gratification builds loyalty, helps your brand identity, and encourages your audience to come back for more.

You know that Act-On can help you manage all the communications elements around your webinar, don’t you? No? Well, then – visit the Act-On Center of Excellence to learn more about how Act-On can help make both your online and off-line events more successful.

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