This post was originally published in 2014. We updated it with current best practices, tools, a script and extras.
Digital marketing is a holistic, integrated program that contains many moving parts and tactics. It can include tactics like blogging, social media advertising, SEO, video, email, apps, and long form content.
Webinars or webcasts can be one of the most powerful and high-value components of your digital marketing program.
Webinars give you an intimate way to connect with your audience. Ebooks and other downloads are good top of the funnel lead generation tactics, but they don't offer a deep connection with the recipient. A real-time presentation, however, lets you deliver content with a human face or voice. You can take questions and comments from the audience. Your audience gets to know you better, trusts your company a little more.
Convenience is another major benefit of webinars. An in-person presentation means your attendees have to travel to a specific location. A webinar, however, allows attendees to engage from anywhere in the world via computers and tablets. The barrier to attend is much lower than in-person presentations since no travel is required.
To some, planning and executing a webinar can seem daunting. Not only do you need to worry about the actual presentation, but the technology can also be intimidating. Let's take a step-by-step look at to host a webinar that will generate high-quality leads for your business.
1. Choose a compelling and specific topic.
The first step (and this goes for any presentation) is to choose the right topic for your audience. Keep in mind that this is not a sales presentation (unless it's supposed to be) so you want to choose a topic that is solution-oriented. Analyze your buyer personas [Get the Marketer's Guide to Creating Buyer Personas] and your keyword research and look for problems and issues that your prospects and customers/clients are challenged with.
These are things that you can use to create an expert presentation that helps them.
- "How to Increase the Value of Your Home With 5 Simple Hacks (presented by a realtor)
- "The Financial Steps to Sending Your Child to College" (presented by a bank or financial services firm)
- "How to Avoid the Most Common Business-killing Small Business Legal Issues" (presented by a law firm)
You get the idea. Take a problem that is common to your buyer personas, and teach them how to deal with it. Notice that these topics are very specific. In my experience, the more specific the topic is the more popular it is. An in-person presentation can be a little more general and "inspirational" but webinars work better with a specific focus. Even though it is live, you still have less presence and engagement than a live presentation so it's good to be as specific and clear as possible.
You can also repurpose older content and turn it into a webinar. Have a really popular blog post that got lots of traffic and comments? Turn it into a webinar. Have an ebook that gets tons of downloads? Make it a webinar.
2. Decide who will present.
Along with the topic, you need to decide who will present the webinar (this may actually be your first step). You'll want the webinar presented by an expert in your company. Maybe that's you. Maybe it's the CEO. Maybe it's a product specialist.
Your presenter should not only be knowledgable, but also an engaging speaker. Think back to the last boring in-person presentation you attended. That will be 3 times more boring via webinar. Make sure the speaker is lively and engaging to listen to.
3. Build your slide deck.
Once you've chosen your topic and presenter, you need to put together a beautiful slide deck to present with. A lot of people simply use the Death by PowerPoint method of presenting and bore their audience to sleep with bland slides but you're better than that.
Remember that webinars are a little less engaging than in-person presentations so you need to work extra hard to hold the attention of your attendees. Use bold images, simple headlines, and interesting photos to anchor your presentation.
Your slide deck should not simply be the script you read from. It should represent and general outline of your presentation. The actual presentation should be more of a conversation with the audience. When I present a webinar (or an in-person presentation) I don't script out anything. I create my slides as anchor points to give structure to my presentation and I then teach the concepts in my own words. If you know your material (as you should), I believe this method leads to better presentations.
4. Set up and schedule your webinar.
Now comes the technology part. I recommend GoToWebinar or Zoom as your platform. If you want to use something else that's totally fine. We've used GoToWebinar for years, and it's very reliable. More recently, SpinWeb has switched all of our internal and client virtual meetings, as well as webcasts, to Zoom and we love it.
You'll need to schedule your webinar about 30 days in advance to give you time to promote it. I tend to go with Wednesday's at noon Eastern time but you'll want to decide what day and time works best for your audience. Maybe you want to make your webinar a "lunch and learn" so you time it while people are sitting at their desks having a sandwich. Maybe your target market is families so you schedule your webinar for 8:30pm after kids are in bed, or even Sunday afternoons.
When setting up your webinar, I recommend adding a co-organizer to the webinar to act as a host/moderator. More on this later.
5. Integrate webinar registration with your CRM/marketing automation platform.
By default, your webinar system will give you a landing page to allow people to register for your webinar. We recommend taking it a step further by integrating it with your marketing automation software, if you're using something like HubSpot, Marketo or Pardot. We connect our webinars to a landing page in HubSpot so that attendees can register directly on our website via landing pages. This gives us more control over the look and feel of the registration page.
Another advantage is that attendees get added to our database as leads automatically. This allows us to automate certain processes (like followups) and build timelines on our contacts.
6. Promote your webinar.
As I said before, give yourself at least a month to promote your webinar on various channels. Here is a full-length post on how to promote your webinar if you want to dig into it, but the basics are:
- Webinar registration landing page is the hub, all promotion links to the registration page
- CTA on related content, blog posts, web pages on your site
- Targeted emails to segemented lists in your database
- Targeted social media ads
- Reach out to your contacts and clients who could benefit, and ask them to share as well
7. Presenting your webinar.
When presenting your webinar, I recommend two people on the presenting side: the presenter and the host. The host opens up the webinar, welcomes everyone, and makes any announcements that go with the presentation. The host then introduces the presenter and turns the time over to him/her. The presenter then delivers the webinar. At the end (or even during the webinar) the host then monitors questions and brings them up to the presenters so he/she can answer them. Then the host thanks everyone and closes out the webinar.
I like having a host when I present because it adds another voice and human element to the presentation and it also allows me (as the presenter) to focus 100% on my presentation rather than worrying about looking at questions.
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.
8. Follow up with your attendees.
After your webinar, your software will probably automatically send a follow-up email to thank attendees for coming. However, you may want to customize this process. You may want to:
- send out a survey asking for feedback
- send a link to the recording if they missed it
- send an ebook or content offer that was mentioned in the webinar
You may also want to analyze your attendees and see who was most engaged and who might be good to follow up with.
What are the technical logistics to hosting a webinar?
Let's cover some technology tips.
- Use a headset. Speaking directly into your computer or on speaker phone sounds terrible and can cause echo/feedback. Your attendees will enjoy the webinar much more if the audio quality is crystal clear and they can focus on your content. You don't need fancy bluetooth headsets or even USB (I don't recommend them, in fact). I use good old fashioned earbuds because it's simple, sounds great, and I don't have to worry about the battery dying or the connection glitching.
- Phone vs VoIP: if your internet connection is fast and reliable, you can use the VoIP option (which is what I do). However, if you're in a hotel or a location with sketchy internet, don't risk it. Just call in using your phone and plug your earbuds/headset into your phone.
- Video or Audio Only: Decide if you're going to use video or not. I don't use video because I don't think seeing my face will bring any more value to my attendees. I just present by sharing my screen and using slides. However, if there is a visual component to your presentation (such as showing a product or object) then you may want to use video. You may event want to just do a short introduction with video, to show people your face, say hello, and then switch to screen-share mode. It's up to you, but make sure your office looks good and you're well-dressed if you're using video.
- Taking questions: Decide how you're going to take questions. Are you going to encourage people to type questions in the chat window or will you allow them to verbally ask questions? Most webinar platforms will allow attendees to "raise their hand" so you can unmute them and allow them to ask questions by speaking. This sometimes works well but use it with caution. If you get attendees with long-winded questions or bad audio equipment it can bog down your webinar. For this reason I only allow questions via chat window.
Also, make sure your host follows these same technical guidelines.
A few more tips for making a webinar high-value for your attendees:
Webinars are awesome tools for connecting with your audience. Here are a few final things to consider when hosting, planning, and executing a webinar for your business:
- Keep it short: In the past, we've found success with "micro-webinars" timed at around 30 minutes.
- Record it: You should record your webinars so you have the option to post them later, or repurpose however you like in the future.
- Don't sell: If you do, wait until the very end when you've earned the right to make a quick pitch (because your content was so good).
- Take questions as you go: I recommend taking questions during the webinar rather than waiting until the end because it creates a more engaged atmosphere but it's totally up to you,
- Create a process: Don't stop with your first webinar! Create a webinar creation process so you can keep the momentum going on a schedule and keep nurturing/generating more leads.
Remember that a webinar is not a sales pitch. It's an educational presentation designed to solve a problem for your audience. If your content is good and you really help people, you're in a position to cultivate high quality leads for your business and develop deeper relationships with your customers.
Have questions about the specifics of webinar logistics? Ask away in the comments and we'll dig deeper.