This is part three of our "How to Webinar" series, and was originally published in 2011. It's high time we update and expand the content here. Our last post was A Step-by-Step Guide to Promote Your Next Webinar, and before that How to Host a Webinar that Will Generate Leads for Your Business, and I recommend you read those first if you want more details on creating a successful webinar.
If you're reading this article, chances are you already know what a webinar is and why it's a valuable part of your content strategy. But let's set the scene for those who want a basic introduction.
A great content marketing strategy consists of multiple channels of content that fit together in a logical progression. Each component offers something of value to your constituents and motivates them to remain attached to your brand. Ideally, it also encourages them to seek out more content and then eventually become a customer (or member, donor, client). A content marketing strategy can include blogs, podcasts, ebooks, white papers, videos, and infographics. Additionally, one of the most powerful types of long-form content is the webinar.
A webinar allows you to give a presentation to tens, hundreds, even thousands of people at once at an extremely low cost. It is a vehicle to educate, teach, and provide value to your audience, which in turn builds trust in your expertise and can motivate them to engage further with your company.
In our step-by-step guide, we mentioned that you should record your webinars so you have the option to post them later, or repurpose however you like in the future.
This presents a few technical challenges. If you record a webinar, you want the quality to be good so that those who are watching after the fact are engaged and get value from the presentation. You don't want poor sound quality or a fumbling introduction to stop the viewer in his tracks. The following are technical tips and best practices for how to record a webinar.
Many of these tips are good for the live webinar experience, as well, so go ahead and read it even if you don't plan to record and post the video after the event.
1. Choose a good webinar platform with all the features you need.
Of course, one of these features should be the ability to record your webinar. Some even let you live stream to social media channels. At SpinWeb, we were a longtime customer of GoToWebinar, which has consistently proven to be a good webinar platform, especially for Mac users. But times have changed.
I used to say it was the best platform, but now there are many other good options on the market. My current recommendation and favorite webinar platform is Zoom. It is significantly less expensive than GoToWebinar and it has a robust feature set. It's also super easy to use.
You can read more about how we switched all of our virtual meetings and webcasts/webinars to Zoom here in the post 4 Field-Tested Virtual Meeting Platforms to Replace GoToMeeting.
When choosing your webinar platform, ask these questions about the features:
- how many attendees are allowed?
- can panelists and moderators interact with attendees?
- how easy is it to record?
- is there a live-streaming option to Facebook or YouTube?
- is it easy to record?
- is it easy to manage panelists and attendees before and during the event?
2. Plan, prepare and practice.
The importance of planning and preparation cannot be overstated. Read our previous How to Host a Webinar That Will Generate Leads for Your Business to thoroughly plan the details of your webinar. When you as a host or presenter are thoroughly prepared—the topic, the content, the presentation deck, etc—then your end-product (the presentation and final video recording) will be reflect it. Spend a good deal of time preparing the script and practice. This will not be the last time your read the word "practice" in this blog post.
Click the button below to get a free webinar script/agenda. It's a Google Doc template based on how we run webinars—edit it and try it on your next presentation.
3. Ensure good quality audio.
While a typical webinar uses visual elements like screen sharing a slide deck, the audio is actually more important. Poor audio quality hurts the presentation in a variety of ways.
- Bad audio is distracting and makes people leave the webinar.
- Meaning and context is lost if the audience struggles to hear the speaker.
- The final transcript of the webinar is full of errors and possibly indecipherable.
Here are a few tips to make sure your audio quality is the best:
- Try to eliminate as much background noise as you can.
- Ask presenters and participants to use a good headset and microphone (we like simple earbuds that have a built-in mic).
- Use an external microphone (laptop or desktop microphones are not ideal and can cause feedback and extra audio issues).
- Test the audio before the day of the event to help solve issues in advance.
- For hosts and presenters, be aware of sounds like loud typing or shuffling papers, during the presentation.
- Use the mute button! Hosts should mute themselves and others who are not actively speaking. Be alert and unmute quickly when necessary.
4. Take questions throughout the webinar.
I like making space throughout the presentation for audience questions for a few reasons:
- Makes the live experience more engaging for the audience.
- Gives you real-time feedback about what the audience is most interested in learning.
- Feels more like a conversation, and less like a lecture
- Makes final recording more interesting (and you can edit out anything too distracting)
I know that some presenters like to save all questions until the end but I find that it's much more interesting to take them throughout the presentation. Answering questions as they come in helps the audience feel engaged and gives you feedback on what they are finding most important. It also adds a sense of realism to the presentation since other people listening can see the interest level of other attendees, which may motivate them to jump in with their own questions.
5. Choose an engaging and capable moderator (or host).
This may not seem like a "technical tip" for getting a great recording out of your webinar, but trust me it is vital to the end result. You have three different kinds of roles in a webinar—the participants, the panelists (presenters) and the host.
The host has the highest level of control over the webinar—she starts and stops the webinar, sets the tone, controls the video and audio, and has the ability to mute and kick people out of the session. The host gathers questions from the audience and serves them up to the panelists. The host does a lot of the work creating a pleasant environment for the webinar, so that the panelists can concentrate on their presentation and answering audience questions.
The person you choose as the host should be competent in the subject matter, as well as the technical aspects of running the webinar. If the host doesn't understand the subject matter, they won't be able to seamlessly ask questions and moderate the event in an intelligent way.
6. Understand the control panel and practice in advance.
Every platform has a unique control panel and options available for running the webinar. The host and panelists should familiarize themselves with the controls in advance.
Here are some of the controls available for most platforms:
- Mute/unmute: this allows you to mute your microphone (the host can mute/unmute others, as well)
- Audio controls: change microphone and speaker, use computer audio or telephone audio, access other audio options in the settings
- Start/stop video: Start or stop your own video
- Participants: a window that shows panelists and attendees in your webinar, lets you manage things like mute, stop video, promote to co-host or panelist, demoting panelists to attendees (Panelists and Attendees have different levels of interaction, depending on the platform you're using)
- Q&A: opens a window for participants to leave a question and for hosts or others to answer
- Polling: create and launch a poll for attendees to vote in real-time
- Share screen: a very important button, when you're ready to share your computer screen/presentation deck
- Screen share controls: host can select who can share screens in the webinar
- Chat: a separate window designated for chatting. You can either chat with all attendees, just the panelists, or an individual. Check your options!
- Closed caption: see what kind of closed caption options your platform offers to make your webinar more accessible
- Record and live stream: we'll spend the next point just on these features.
- End meeting: this ends the webinar for all particpants. If you want to continue, you can give another participant host controls before leaving the webinar.
7. Practice with the record and live streaming options.
In the olden days, you would record a webinar on your computer, maybe to the cloud, and you're done. Now, there are so many options for live streaming on various channels, in addition to recording.
With Zoom, we have several options for recording (at time of publication): Live on Facebook, Live on Facebook Workplace, Live on YouTube, Custom Live Stream Service, Invite, Record on this Computer, Record on the Cloud. Let's look at each one.
With GoToWebinar, the options seem to be limited to recording and uploading the file to the video channel of your choice, but no live-stream options (at time of publication). GoToWebinar launched an open beta for their own webinar content channel called GoToStage. It looks like they want to keep control of content and offer a platform similar to YouTube where people can create their own personal channels dedicated to webinars. Hm, it will be interesting to see what happens here.
So, depending on your platform, it's time to dive into your options for live streaming and recording, and decide what works best for you and your audience.
Perhaps you want to experiment with a Facebook Live stream of your webinar? Conduct a test and figure out all the details of running a smooth live stream.
Pros of doing a live stream: One advantage of live streaming on Facebook or YouTube is that your webinar reaches even more people. Viewers on the social media channels can comment live and interact with a familiar interface. Everyone knows how to join a Facebook Live or YouTube streaming, leave a comment, or give a thumbs up. The familiar aspects of the social media platform encourage more participation. Once the stream is over, it's really easy to share the video and it can then take on a life of it's own. In Zoom, you can also choose who sees the live feed, whether it's Public, Friends, Friends of Friends, or Only Me.
Cons of doing a live stream: You have very little control of the video once you are live streaming. If you want to ensure a really good, edited recording to embed on your website after the webinar, then the live stream may not be the best option. You may not want to make the video available to the public, say if you are charging for the webinar or if you're concerned with lead generation.
8. Consider using Video!
Webinars have not always relied on video as a major component. Rather, you might see a photo of the presenters and a slide deck, with disembodied voices speaking over the slides.
Video is becoming a more accepted webinar feature. There seems to be a trend in turning on those webcams and letting go of our camera-shyness. At SpinWeb, we now always use our webcams during virtual meetings. It helps us all connect a little better in the virtual world when we see a human face.
This is critical if you want to connect in a more authentic way to your audience and to your prospective customers and clients. Sure, it may feel awkward and you may feel like you have more of a face for radio, but don't let that stop you from using video.
This is a great article for helping you decide for or against using video for webinar, and I'll summarize just a few of the technical tips for getting started:
- Set up your webcam and practice: make sure the angle is right and the quality is good. Mac laptop webcams are great, but be sure that it isn't viewing you from a low or unflattering angle. A good external webcam can be positioned in the best place possible.
- Lighting and optics: Make sure the room, the lighting, and your physical appearance is camera-ready. Don't let appearances or vanity get in the way of being on camera, though. Times have changed and most people don't expect Hollywood-level video. Keep it casual, confident and professional, and you will connect with your audience.
- Don't use webcam the whole time: it can be very strange to talk into a webcam for a long time and you'll also want to switch to your slide deck. Your platform may even have an option for both—a webcam video of you up in the corner, while you screen share is showing the slide deck as the main focus. I've been on webinars like this and it's perfect for things like online classes, especially when the presenter is engaging and comfortable with the video.
- Experiment: Try using your webcam, as the host and encourage guests/panelists to use a webcam) at strategic times, like the introduction of the webinar, and the introduction of the panelist. If you have question and answer time or you break into the presentation for a poll or other interactive element, switch back to webcam and show off your smile!
- Decide based on your audience and content: Is it helpful for your audience to see your face? Are you doing an internal webinar where your CEO is addressing the team? Or, it is it an educational or lead generation webinar where the slides should be the main focus? Your audience may or may not find value in seeing a video of you as a presenter, so judge accordingly.
9. Edit the video.
You can spend a lot of time on this step, but it's probably not necessary. You may not even need to edit the video at all. Here are a few post-production tips:
- Use a basic video editor like iMovie or the video editor on YouTube.
- Trim the beginning and end of the video if there are long silences.
- Create a video thumbnail to grab attention.
- There may be times when you need to re-record audio, for example an intro or outro that needs tightening up.
- Consider adding intro music, annotations, closed captioning, graphic elements or calls-to-action to enhance the video.
10. Hosting options and how to share the recorded webinar.
The webinar is over, you've got a clean video file, and now it's time to upload it. Where are you hosting the video? It doesn't have to be in just one place. You might choose to upload it to several channels: YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, and Facebook. Or, you might want to just put it in one spot and share or embed from that channel. It all depends on your goals for the webinar.
- Do you care mostly about reaching the maximum number of people? (multiple channels)
- Are you optimizing video for SEO? (YouTube)
- Are you charging money for the webinar, or concerned with Lead Capture? (Wistia)
If you've been following us for awhile, or you're a client, you probably know that we love Wistia for hosting videos. You have options for gating the video in a really seamless way, which is great for lead capture. You can add a CTA to the video to boost conversions. You can lock down the video so that it can only be viewed from your website.
Whatever hosting route you decide, whether you embed the video to a landing page on your website, or share away on social media, make sure to promote the recording to your participants and to new audiences. A good practice is to email everyone who registered for the webinar, letting them the video recording is available.
If you are interested in adding more strength and value to your content marketing strategy, consider a webinar series. We've seen first-hand, with our own company and with our clients, how it can be a scalable, effective, and satisfying way to meet new customers.