Tag Archives: how to plan a webinar
In 2011, 1:00 p.m. (ET) was the most popular webinar timeslot – by a handy margin – according to our 2011 Webinar Timing Report. Logical, right? US-based event organizers get bi-coastal coverage with midday events, so of course 1:00 is a top slot.
Except…while it’s purely anecdotal at this point, there just might be a shift happening. Over the past few weeks we’ve had an inordinate number of early morning webinar requests. Think 8:00 a.m. ET early. Are clients trying to consolidate US and European audiences? Are organizers thinking that a webinar participant with fresh eyes and a cup of coffee is preferable to a participant with a cold sandwich and overflowing inbox? Or are the days just so packed that earlier isn’t so much the better as the only option?
If you’ve moved to an early webinar timeslot, why? And how has it worked for you and your audience?
One’s not over and one’s not yet started, but it seems to me that convention buzz has drowned out any other news. Maybe it’s that I live in the DC metropolitan area. Maybe it’s that my husband is a political news junkie. But just maybe the organizers of this year’s conventions had a few tricks up their sleeves that could be applied to your next webinar.
1. Events may be outside your control, but communications aren’t.
Significant storms are forecast to rain out the President’s outdoor acceptance speech at next week’s Democratic convention. Republicans were forced to rework speakers and schedules due to Hurricane Isaac. Clear and confident communications kept both in control of the media cycle.
If you’re well-prepared for your webinar and something outside your control happens, you’ll be equally prepared to impress attendees with confident communications.
2. People love a little mystery.
To be announced. Those three little words sparked a “who could it be?!?” furor the likes of which I haven’t seen since childhood guessing games involving Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum. Can you intrigue your webinar attendees?
3. Social IS. Embrace it.
There’s an app. A lot of them, actually. And hashtags. And fan pages. And… And the point is, if it’s remotely relevant, it’s social. Is your webinar?
Want to break the rules and talk politics? Make a comment.
Not an accusation of mediocrity, but a serious question. If your webinar production was graded on consistency, would it pass or fail?
Content is king, so of course it makes sense to focus on it – topical relevance, timeliness, presenter expertise, effective delivery – in the webinar planning process. Dedicating time and attention to consistency, however, is an important part of getting your content seen and heard.
From promotional efforts (email, SEO/SEM, social, etc.) to and through the event site (landing and registration pages, confirmation/reminder/follow-up emails, surveys, etc.) are you giving participants a consistent experience? Does your event have a strong, participant-focused message? A clear visual identity? A call to action that actually compels action? And is that reinforced throughout your participant experience?
There are a lot of very good trainers out there. They command the room, and the attention of everyone in it. They deliver course content with practical, tactical examples and ideas, and with zeal. They read the room and pace accordingly. They interact with trainees. They remember they’re human and so are their trainees.
But they don’t always cut it when they try to take their shows online. So where do trainers go wrong when they go virtual? Here are three mistakes we see that are easily fixed and highly impactful.
The medium has changed – should your materials? Quite possibly. If your trainees aren’t watching you, think about giving your slides a second look. Are they visually stimulating – in a relevant way, of course? When there’s nothing but the book, the cover may matter more. If you typically use “in-room” tactics during your live sessions, can you adapt them to a webinar? With a little prior planning, anything from simple hand-raising to small group breakouts is possible to get and keep trainees engaged.
As a trainee, I’m alone in my office. I do have a phone and a mobile and IM and email and text messages and… I don’t have the ability to ask the colleague next to me to repeat your last point. I can’t glance around the room to see whether my lack of understanding is unique, or whether others in the room are unclear. And since I can’t easily catch your eye with a raised hand, I may be intimidated to speak up.
Your virtual attendees are more than their avatars, so make it a point to interact with them on a basic, human level. Encourage questions early and often. Allow trainees to ask those questions in different ways; brave souls may prefer verbal, while the timid may feel more comfortable sending a chat. Weave in several Q&A breaks throughout, and think about whether there are trainees you know and can “call on” to spark discussions during those breaks.
It’s a totally different experience, let’s be honest. You get no visual cues – no nods of agreement, no smiles of recognition, no perplexed looks. You can’t see trainees scribbling furiously when they’re finding your content particularly worthy, and you can’t see surreptitious glances at cell phones when you’re off track. You’re staring at a presenter software dashboard and a phone. So how do you stay tuned in?
Bringing a colleague into your office during the session can provide a sounding (or “seeing”) board, for starters. Then take advantage of your webinar software platform to “take the pulse” of your audience. Throw a slide on your whiteboard and ask trainees to interact with it; placing a check next to a frequently encountered challenge, for instance. Focus the next segment of your session accordingly. Launch a simple poll and then show and speak to the results. By staying attuned to your trainees, you keep them tuned in to your content.
We “do” webinars and webcasts, so of course we’re always full of ideas for doing them better. But making your webinar the best it can be isn’t just about technology; it’s content, delivery and a host of intangibles. So if this summer finds you with a little spare time, here are five reads we think are worth a glance before your next event.
Internal Meeting Facilitators: At some point everyone runs out of ideas for keeping things fresh and engaging. Second City (yes, that one!) says don’t take it so seriously.
Any Organizer: Seth Godin’s take on well-run meetings. Just think of AT&T Connect Event Services as your personal webinar fairie…
When we bring a new client on board, this is a frequent question. Nearly everyone’s used some sort of web conferencing software – paid or free, personal or enterprise – before. They know how to start a meeting, share a PowerPoint, trade presenting rights. In short, they know how to run a meeting – a lot like they would in a conference room. And maybe that’s all they need – for a web meeting. For getting the team together. For a brainstorming session. For a sales demonstration.
But what happens when the meeting is a company-wide Town Hall? A mandatory compliance training? A press briefing? Who manages the invitations? The registrants? The speakers? Who makes certain that everyone gets logged in properly? That the materials are loaded and ready? Who welcomes speakers and guests? Gets them acclimated to the software interface? Manages transitions in the presentation? Ensures questions are captured and addressed? Enter the webinar moderator.
When your webinar is high-profile – whether due to size, audience, objective or any combination of factors – the devil is in the details. Your event needs a plan and a project manager to ensure its success. With staff spread thin and pulled in competing directions, the webinar moderator becomes a specialized member of your team; one with the expertise to quickly and efficiently put together and execute a project plan, the experience to ensure its success, and the professionalism to facilitate your event flawlessly.
Sweltering through day four of a DC-area power outage in July, it occurs to me that a few power-less preparedness tips we rely on may come in handy for webinar organizers. So keep your cool when a storm hits by making contingency plans.
Thinking “now what?” after the storm has knocked out power and your newly filled fridge has ground to a halt is…not ideal. Around here, we clean out coolers, make extra ice and fill generator gas tanks when inclement weather is forecast.
What can you do on the webinar front? Answer the question “what could go wrong?” before your webinar. You’ve done the 101 stuff, of course; your presenters have hard copies of their materials, and you have soft copies you can run, just in case. Your presenters have alternate lines (even cell phones, in a real pinch) just in case they lose phone connections. You have back-door (cell, IM) ways to reach them in an emergency.
But are you ready for that emergency? Let’s say your keynote speaker goes missing in action. What are the decision-making criteria? When must the final decision be made? Having an “emergency preparedness” plan in place makes for better, faster decision-making and relieves a little of the stress.
Thinking “who should I call?” after the mercury hits the triple digits is…not ideal. Around here we figure out who we will turn to before the kids and the dogs start panting. To use the same example, again, your keynote speaker goes missing in action. Who’s going to work the tracking down angle? Who’s going to evaluate the options? If it comes down to it, who’s going to make the go/no-go call? Who’s going to communicate with webinar registrants?
Things happen. Over many years I’ve personally been involved with the missing speaker scenario on more than one occasion, in fact. Whether the call is reverting to a backup presenter, reordering the agenda or postponing the webinar, what your webinar attendees will make note of is how you weather the storm. So keep your cool knowing your plan and people are in place – just in case.
And if you’ve got any ideas for saving your sanity – not just your groceries – in a blackout, share them in the comments!
In 2011, marketers ruled the day when it came to webinar promotion. They invested in advertising, email and social media efforts more frequently than their training counterparts. They tracked sources, evaluated the most successful channels and adapted efforts accordingly. They were rewarded with double the “bodies in the seats” compared to their training counterparts.
Trainers, on the other hand, trounced marketers when it came to converting registrants to attendees. They consistently created attendee-focused content and allowed it speak for itself. They were rewarded with a 33% higher conversion rate (registrants to attendees) than their marketing counterparts.
Make your next webinar a knockout by stealing an idea from your opponent.
• Promote effectively
• Ask WIIFM?
You’re presenting because you’re an expert, of course. But if you’re not an expert in the specific webinar software you’re presenting with, your audience may never know. Yes, every webinar software platform enables you to deliver content online. Every webinar software platform does that a little bit differently, though, and there are more and different features from one to the next. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
Does the platform you’re using require inserting or sharing content? Optimizing or encoding content? Will your webinar console look different based on the configuration choices you make? Webinar training will help you make the best pre-event decisions, most quickly and efficiently.
How does your platform handle transitions between presenters? Slides? Types of content? How do you manage its chat function? Polls? Surveys? Verbal questions? Webinar training will help you navigate within your platform quickly and confidently.
Clear content, timely delivery and smooth navigation through the webinar software will go unnoticed by audiences. Content that’s not optimized for the platform, delays and fumbled transitions will not. Investing an hour in training on your platform will ensure your audience sees your expertise, not your webinar software.