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How to Plan and Execute a Webinar

Michael Reynolds

Posted by Michael Reynolds on 11/4/14 1:30 PM

Inbound 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.

One of the most powerful and high-value components of your Inbound Marketing program can often be webinars.

Webinars are extremely useful because they give you an intimate way to connect with your audience. Ebooks and other downloads are good, but they are asynchronous in their connection with the recipient. A real-time presentation, however, lets you deliver content with a real voice and with the opportunity to take questions and comments from the audience. It helps your audience get to know you better, which can strengthen trust.

webinar-presenter

Webinars are also convenient for everyone involved. 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 walk through the process of delivering a great webinar.

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 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.

Examples:

  • "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.

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.

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.

Set up and schedule your webinar

Now comes the technology part. I recommend GoToWebinar as your platform. If you want to use something else that's totally fine. I'm just used to GoToWebinar and I like the way it performs.

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.

Decide how registration takes place

By default, your webinar system will give you a landing page to allow people to register for your webinar. However, you may want to consider integrating it with your Inbound Marketing software if you're using something like HubSpot. We connect our webinars to our landing pages 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.

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.

Followup

After your webinar, your software will probably automatically send a followup email to thank attendees for coming. However, you may want to customize this process. Maybe you want to send out a survey asking for feedback. Maybe you made an offer during the webinar that you want to send out to attendees.

You may also want to analyze your attendees and see who was most engaged and who might be good to follow up with.

Technical logistics

Let's cover some technology tips. First, use a headset. It might be tempting to be lazy and just talk into your computer or on speaker phone but this sounds terrible and can also cause echo. You want to make sure your attendees enjoy crystal clear sound so they can focus on your content. I am not crazy about using fancy bluetooth headsets or even USB. 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.

Next, 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. It's up to you, but make sure your office looks good and you're well-dressed if you're using video.

Finally, 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.

Other considerations

Webinars are awesome tools for connecting with your audience and there are a few other things you may want to consider:

  • Keep it short - we do "micro-webinars" timed at around 30 minutes
  • Have a webinar creation process so you can keep the momentum going on a schedule
  • Decide if you want to record your webinars so you can post them later or if you want to keep them live-only so they encourage better attendance (our's are not recorded - only live)
  • Don't sell unless it's at the very end and you have earned the right to make a pitch because your content was so good
  • 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

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 can make a pitch at the end but don't spend half your presentation selling.

I encourage you to present regular webinars as part of your Inbound Marketing program. It's a great way to bring your prospects closer and help them get to know you.

Have questions about the specifics of webinar logistics? Ask away in the comments and we'll dig deeper.

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