Great webinars can be a little like independent movies – they leave you feeling superb, inspired, and ready to take on the world. Dreadful webinars, however, are more like Michael Bay movies – after two hours, you begin to wonder how somebody could have possibly been paid to make something so unapologetically terrible.
I’m in no way an expert, but with two successful webinars behind me, here are my findings.
Should You Even create a Webinar?
Some projects are better suited to the webinar format than others. For example, the following would be a good fit for a webinar:
A detailed examination of a niche topic from a fresh angle.
A panel discussion of a timely, news-based issue in your industry
A thorough, example-driven "how-to" tutorial.
An adaptation of a presentation from a conference speaking engagement
An interview with an industry thought leader
On the other hand, the following probably wouldn’t make for a particularly compelling webinar:
A minor product release or update
A news-based webinar with little or no new information/opinion
A broad, “content thin” webinar on a general topic
A webinar focusing on a tired idea or concept (e.g. “content is king”)
A straight-up sales deck/product pitch
How to Do a Webinar: Content and Planning Considerations
1. Settle on a Specific Idea
Resist the temptation to host the most epic webinar imaginable about a general topic. Instead, choose a highly specific content idea that you can go into in great detail. This will make it easier to focus on the topic and minimize the chance of going off on tangents. Choosing a topic for a supply chain presentation isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds, and sometimes, things don’t go the way you think they will.
2. Choose the Right Speakers
Webinars need to be hosted by skilled, knowledgeable experts in their field. Otherwise, how can you expect them to speak authoritatively about your chosen subject? When selecting potential presenters for your webinar, ensure that whomever you choose knows the topic inside and out, and is comfortable talking on-camera. Subject matter expertise is especially important for fielding unexpected questions, which will almost certainly happen before long.
3. Pick the Right Webinar Format
Before you start creating your slide deck (and I know how eager you are to get started), you need to decide on the right format for your chosen topic. Is your webinar going to be hosted by a single presenter? Will it be an interview Q&A-style webinar with two speakers? A panel discussion with numerous guests and a moderator? The complexity of your chosen subject, and the availability of suitably qualified speakers, should inform your choice of format.
4. Think About SEO and Promotion
Just because you’ve chosen a webinar with great content and knowledgeable speakers doesn’t mean people will be able to find it effortlessly. Once you’ve settled on an idea, think about whether your topic has solid search potential. Also, consider the content promotion and how you’ll publicize your webinar. Are you going to email existing customers with a link to the invite? Promote it through social media channels? What about co-marketing opportunities with trusted partners – what are they doing to promote it? These are all questions you need to ask before you start actually producing your webinar.
5. Create a Kick-Ass Slide Deck
Ever sat through a meeting in which somebody simply reads from a series of dull PowerPoint slides? Remember how boring it was? Don’t make the same mistake with your webinar slide deck. Your deck should strengthen and emphasize the points you intend to make in your script (more on this next) – it should NOT be the script itself. Back up your points with as much data and evidence as possible, and make it entertaining. Remember, your audience will either be looking at you or your slides, so don’t bore them with a dry, bland slide deck.
6. Run a Test Webinar
Whatever you do, don’t assume that everything will go smoothly during the live webinar without testing your equipment first. Do at least one run-through several days before the live event to make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing and that all your gear is functioning correctly.
7. Be Early
Ever bothered to stick around for a webinar that started late? Me neither. Make sure you’re prepared and ready to go at least 15 minutes before the webinar is scheduled to begin, or even earlier if you can. This will help get things going promptly and can help you feel more relaxed when it’s time to begin.
8. Accept That Things WILL Go Wrong
No matter how much you prepare, things can – and WILL – go wrong. Come to terms with this, and don’t stress out too much.
Knock on wood, so far the only hiccups I had were with sharing slides from the panelist side but this was solved on the 2nd webinar.
That said it is very possible that a panelist could have a power outage, a faulty internet connection, problems with the mic, the camera, or simply in a very noisy area.
It’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality when producing a webinar, but there are a few things you can do every single time to ensure things go as smoothly as possible:
ALWAYS do a dry run. No matter what. Even if your speakers don’t want to. Just do it. If done right it should not take longer than 20 minutes.
Use poll questions to engage your audience.
Start promoting at least 10 days in advance.
Put presenter bios on your registration page. It adds credibility. Headshots are nice too.