According to a study from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, two-thirds of B2B marketers cite webinars and online events as the most effective method for generating leads and marketing to prospects and customers. Those in-person events can be very expensive, though. For a better balance between cost and results, webinars are your best bet.
But in order to get all the benefits of a webinar, first you have to produce it. And for many marketers, producing and hosting a live webinar looks like a daunting task.
However, it doesn’t have to be hard. There are a few simple steps you can take to make your event successful. First, pick a topic; find the right speakers; then set a date and time. Next, create a production schedule. (Get all the details on these beginning steps.)
Webinars aren’t overly complicated to produce, but having an organized, well-thought out production plan is absolutely essential to creating a flawless event. Here are 10 steps to help you get it done.
1. Review the schedule
You should go over the production schedule with your team every week to make sure your webinar planning is on track. Remember, your emails and other promotional campaigns included a specific date and time that you cannot miss. Make sure you have a Plan B in case a speaker gets sick or a producer has a family emergency.
2. Create the event in your webinar platform
Next you’ll need to create the event in your webinar platform. The way you do this varies by the software you use, but no matter which one you use, give yourself plenty of time to create your event and check your work. Here are three popular platforms for webinar production and staging:
- Citrix Online GoToWebinar: This is a simple, cost-effective tool for hosting real-time online events. You can invite up to 1,000 attendees and engage them with high-definition video, screen sharing, interactive tools and more.
- ON24: Solutions include marketing webcasting with single-click access, a branded webinar registration and console, and viewing experiences that attendees can personalize.
- Cisco WebEx: The WebEx Event Center helps you market your products and services with real-time online events and webinars that include multimedia, private preparation rooms, chat, polling and many other features.
3. Review, approve, and load the presentation materials
This is another place to plan to spend as much time as it takes. Review the slides the speakers have prepared. If the presentation doesn’t meet your quality standards, give the presenters plenty of time to improve the slides or have your in-house team do it for them. When you do have a final version of the presentation, load it into the webinar platform. If you want speaker bios in the deck and the speaker didn’t provide one, make sure you run any bio slide you create by the speaker. People can be picky about those. If you want attendees to use social media during the event (and you do, trust me) then make sure the master slide footer has hashtags or any other social info attendees need to make it work.
4. Conduct a short rehearsal
Do not be tempted to skip this. Even if your speaker has delivered this talk a hundred times, there are other people and other moving parts. You don’t need to go through the whole show, but it’s critical to hold a short dry run with the moderator and speaker(s) to ensure all participants understand the basic structure of the event and can articulate the key points they’ll share. Make sure that everyone understands logistics such as date, time, phone number, and URL, as well as functional items such as passing and granting presenter rights, making introductions, segues, etc.
5. Hold a pre-webinar meeting with the speakers
Make sure that your webinar starts on time. The best way to do this is to make sure that the moderator and presenters dial in to the event at least 15 minutes prior to its official start. They should also log into the webinar system at this time such that everyone can review event logistics and get any last-minute questions answered.
Five minutes, and then one minute, prior to the start time, remind everyone that the event is about to start. Finally, ten seconds before the start, wish everyone good luck and start your countdown. At the end of the countdown, the webinar is live and the moderator should welcome all attendees.
6. Kick off the live webinar
The way you begin the webinar is critical to engaging attendees. The moderator should welcome the audience to the webinar and clearly state its title. There are usually housekeeping logistics to cover such as how the audience can ask questions and participate via social media. Make this as short as possible! The moderator should introduce the speakers and perhaps allow them to make brief introductions about themselves. Note: Nobody should be making any overt product pitches at this point. When that’s done, the moderator should hand the event over to the first speaker.
7. Let the speakers present
The speakers should have 30 to 45 minutes to present (in total, not each) during the webinar. This should make up the bulk of the event. Whether you have one or multiple speakers will determine exactly how the time will need to be managed. Regardless of the format, the speakers should be engaging and make sure that they are aware of the time so that they can make it through their entire presentation.
8. Use social engagement during the webinar
The major webinar technology platforms allow for engagement via features like Q&A and polls, but you should also make sure that you use Twitter and other social tools during the webinar. If you use Twitter, make sure you create an event-specific hashtag that attendees can use when tweeting about the webinar.
9. Field questions from the audience
During the webinar, attendees may send questions in via the webinar client software. It’s a best practice to save these questions until the end of the event and then have the moderator ask them of the speakers. Make sure that this time is built into your schedule, and that the moderator knows to save five to ten minutes at the end of the session for Q&A. It’s also good when you begin, in the housekeeping section, to tell your attendees the process for asking questions.
10. Have the moderator conclude the event
Make sure your moderator wraps up the event by thanking the speakers and asking the audience to stay engaged with you. For example, ask them to follow you on Twitter or sign up for your newsletter.
Once your webinar has finished, you can save the recorded version as a video and share it on your website and through social video channels as well. The great thing about the on-demand webinar format is that it has the energy and personalization of a live event but can also serve as persistent promotional content on your website and a rich mine for future presentations.
If you received a lot of questions during the live event that didn’t get answered during in the time allotted, you can use those questions to create a blog post or an article, which you can use to promote the on-demand webinar. Then you can also promote the blog post to registrants as well.
Check out this guide for even more information on hosting perfect online and in-person events.