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What Is A Webinar?

May 23, 2017

If you work in marketing and sales, talking directly to customers is the best way to meet your revenue goals. How can technology help?

You can speak to audiences directly over social media, but none of the major platforms lend themselves to nuance or complexity. It’s hard to get out everything you want to say in 140 characters or 60 seconds of video. Maybe you’ve reached the point where social media can’t communicate a part of your message.

But there’s a solution. You can speak directly to your future customers with webinars. Webinars are group video and audio conferences that any business can produce. Effective webinars have many scales and styles—from formal presentations like you would give in person, to live audio conferencing accompanied by screen sharing.

You can use webinars for any virtual gathering, like teaching employees to use Microsoft Excel or presenting a new product to longtime customers. Anyone can call into a webinar and watch a presentation. Any office with a broadband connection can function as a call-in TV or radio studio.

Webinars are a cheap, effective way to deliver your message to the people who need to hear it. A likable webinar host can develop relationships with their audience. Engaging webinars can build significant audience engagement. They can also be a revenue source.

We’re going to tell you what you need to put on a webinar and give you some tips that will help make it successful.

Webinars Are Events

We have a bunch of useful tips for producing a great webinar. But the most important piece of advice we’re going to offer you is also the simplest: think of your webinar like any other marketing or sales event.

You’ve probably put together dozens of presentations for conferences, sales meetings, or trade shows. Preparing for a webinar requires exactly the same skills and components. The only logistical difference between a webinar and an in-person event is your location: you’ll be in your office instead of the convention center.

Webinar Production Basics

Here’s what you need to put on a webinar:

  • Software: This may be the most important element. The software is what will deliver your presentation to your audience, so be sure that whatever platform you choose has your full confidence. Make sure that you trust whatever features you’ll rely on for your presentation. You can use one of many free or cheap services but remember: you get what you pay for. The success of your webinar is worth a slightly more expensive tool. We suggest software that allows people to phone in or connect virtually. A phone-only call-in number is the lowest barrier to entry—even if someone calling in can’t see your presentation, they can at least hear it.
  • A camera and a microphone: Your computer’s built-in camera and microphone should work when you start producing webinars. If your webinars are successful, and you start to produce more of them, invest in professional audio and video equipment. This video guide, this desktop microphone guide, and this collar microphone guide will help you select the best gear for your needs.
  • A studio: This sounds intimidating and brings to mind newscasts and studio lots. A webinar studio isn’t as demanding. All you need for your webinar studio is a quiet, clean, echo-free room that nobody will wander into while you’re presenting.
  • Visual aids: Webinars work best with a visual component. This guide from the teaching website Boundless lays out some best practices for visual aids in any kind of presentation.
  • A stable internet connection: If you’ve ever used FaceTime or Skype, you’ve probably had connectivity problems. Nothing is more distracting or disruptive to a video conversation than garbled audio and a blocky visual feed. Imagine the same effect during a painstakingly promoted webinar. Make sure your studio’s internet connection can handle the bandwidth laid out in your software’s specs. Use a speed test over the course of several days to determine when your network has the most bandwidth, and on the day of your webinar make sure that your colleagues aren’t doing any bandwidth-heavy work.
  • Trials and testing: Ask a colleague to watch or listen to a practice webinar before your presentation date. Get feedback about the audio and video quality, your voice, and your on-camera presence.

Taking the time and effort to address these pitfalls before your presentation will help you avoid embarrassment later.

Qualities Of A Successful Webinar

Even if you have all of the above elements in place, you still need a solid plan to produce a good webinar. As you know from other events, advance planning and dedicated practice are essential to day-of success. We believe the following elements should be accounted for in any webinar plan or proposal.

  • Content: This the most important part of a good webinar. Make sure that your presentation is interesting, engaging, and useful to the audience. Good content does not guarantee a successful webinar, but a successful webinar cannot happen without it.
  • Engaging presenters: We’ve all sat through bad presentations. Some move too quickly. Others are too long. Many try too hard to be funny. You know who’s the best presenter in your office. Recruit them to lead the webinar. If you’re including them on the webinar team, have them present to the team beforehand. Incorporate the team’s feedback in the final presentation, and have the presenter practice enough to ensure a smooth, professional performance on the day of the event.
  • Professionalism and competence: Make sure your presenter is fresh and well-rested. Make sure they know the content front-to-back or have someone at hand who can jump in to answer the tough questions. Be certain that your audience won’t be distracted by disruptions like a stray colleague or loud noises.
  • Stick to the schedule: Your audience is going to take time out of their day to spend time with you. They will choose the webinar over a task they could complete in their office. End the presentation when you say you will.

What Webinars Will Do For You

Webinars are just one outreach tool. They’re effective for some companies and unhelpful for others. You might already have an idea of where your organization falls on that spectrum.

The impact of your webinars could also change over time. You might build an audience and see it lose interest, or find that the time, effort, and resources your organization puts into producing a webinar doesn’t pay off.

We encourage you to try out webinars. They can be helpful and useful in the right context. But be sure that you’re using a webinar to accomplish precise, achievable goals.

Webinars won’t turn your business into a blue-chip powerhouse on their own. But they can help you get part of the way there.