How do you organise a successful webinar?
- Esther Riphagen
- Edited 14 December 2021
- 6 min
- Managing and growing
There are lots of ways to acquire customers, boost your mailing list, or curate a reputation as an expert. Physically, such as visiting customers and leads or meeting them at events. Or online, by organising a webinar. How do you go about creating a webinar and what rookie mistakes should you avoid? Caroline Carolus of WebinarGeek and Berend Broerse of Rechtsorde share their tips.
In the age of hybrid working the popularity of online like webinars is increasing rapidly. A webinar is an online seminar. In other words, it is an interactive live broadcast in which you share new products or information with interested customers. You can do so from the comfort of your own home. All you need is webinar software, a laptop with a camera and microphone, and a quiet room.
Caroline Carolus is a content creator at WebinarGeek and knows exactly what to keep in mind when organising a webinar.
2 months out: the setup
Good preparation is half the battle. If you want to host a webinar, make sure to start at least 2 months in advance.
Set the agenda
Decide which of your audience’s needs you will fulfil with the webinar and how. Determine the topic, target audience, agenda, and duration. It is best to write out a script.
Some key questions to ask are:
- What problem or need does the webinar address?
- What goal do you want to achieve and how?
- Is your webinar aimed at existing or potential customers?
- What does your target audience's daily schedule look like? How much time do they have for a webinar? What is the best time?
- Do you want to interview someone or are you going to present the webinar?
- Do you want participants to ask questions in the chat?
Live or recorded
Carolus prefers live webinars to pre-recorded ones. “Experiencing the webinar at the same time as your audience makes it easier to adapt and respond. When you are just starting out, you will learn most from live webinars, because you will see your audience respond in real time. The only situation in which I would really recommend a pre-recorded webinar is if the participants are in different time zones. Or if they want to view the webinar when you, the speaker, are unavailable. You could still log into the chat to answer questions live.” Decide whether you want the participants to be able to rewatch the webinar and make the necessary arrangements.
Alone or together
The great thing about a webinar is that you can reach an audience of a truly unlimited size. It does not matter whether your audience is 15, 1,000, or 15,000 people strong: your message remains the same. Still, it is helpful to consider working with a second speaker or someone who can provide tech support. There are several reasons why an extra person can come in handy:
“If you have an audience of more than 100 people, 2 presenters are a must: 1 speaker and 1 moderator. The moderator answers questions in the chat and passes on interesting or frequent questions to the speaker, so the latter can respond immediately”, Carolus explains.
Connection problems and poor video or audio are all too common, Carolus warns. “Moderators will mainly keep an eye on the audience, but you can also ask a moderator with technical knowledge to assist you and help navigate connection problems, for example. Simple solutions like having participants reboot their computer or restart their browser often work. If you have someone helping you out and providing technical support during the webinar, you can continue full steam ahead.”
1 month out: technology
Webinars stand or fall on good technology. Arrange all the equipment you need at least 1 month in advance.
Material and software
The bare basics you will need are: webinar software, a laptop with a camera and microphone, and a quiet room. For a high-quality result, Carolus recommends using a separate camera and microphone: “Separate cameras are easier to position than integrated ones, creating better visuals. A separate microphone allows for more freedom of movement. This also lets the speaker stand up, which will usually make them appear more confident and interactive. Standalone microphones usually have better sound quality, too.”
“Webinar software has more features than apps like Facetime and WhatsApp. Paid webinar software from Zoom, Webinargeek, Webex, Livestorm, and Demio, for instance, also lets you show presentations or share polls. If you want to test the software first, sign up for a free trial period.”
2 weeks out: promoting
Once your webinar registration page goes live, it is time to start promoting your webinar. The earlier you get started, the better.
Carolus recommends promoting a webinar no later than 2 weeks in advance. “Share the registration link via social media or add it to your newsletter. Your presentation does not have to be finalised yet, you can always add to the agenda.”
If a participant signs up, send them a confirmation email, a reminder, and an email with a link to the webinar on the day itself.
Let participants know how long the webinar will last. Carolus: “The average webinar lasts anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Now that more people are working from home, longer 2-to-4-hour webinars have also emerged, as well as full-day webinars. People seem to like them, so there are no golden rules.”
Part of the promotion may be that you call on participants to submit questions in advance. During the webinar, you answer them. This ensures that participants feel involved in the webinar content beforehand.
1 week out: final preparations
Start preparing your recording room a few days in advance. Make sure that your visuals, branding elements, and logo are in focus.
Create a product offer, poll or referral to your own website ahead of time if this fits with your marketing plan.
1 hour out: testing
Start testing 1 hour before your webinar goes live. Open the presentation or video that you want to share during the webinar. Check the picture quality, sound, and camera. Make sure you have plenty of time to solve technical problems and mistakes. When you have everything up and running, check whether your setup looks good on camera. If you have a blue background, wearing a blue T-shirt is probably a bad idea. Running final tests 1 hour before you go live gives you plenty of time to make changes.
The webinar itself
Carolus shares a quick run-through of an ideal webinar:
- Open your webinar 5 minutes before the scheduled start time. Having participants sign in before the webinar starts lets them check their settings.
- Before you get started, check whether people can see and hear you properly.
- In your introduction, explain who you are, what the webinar is about, and what your participants will be learning.
- Tell your story.
- Conclude with a Q&A.
Carolus recommends always answering questions at the end, rather than during the webinar. “It is important to stay focused and avoid running out of time. If participants keep interrupting you with questions, you could lose your train of thought or forget important things.”
After the webinar: aftercare
Send your participants a message 1 hour after the end of the webinar. You could share a replay link, an announcement of a future webinar, more information about your services, or a request for feedback. If you offer consultations, you can include a contact form in your mail. Always offer participants the opportunity to ask questions even after the webinar has ended. This will increase your chances of getting new customers.
Berend Broerse is general manager at Rechtsorde and can still remember his first webinar. “I was very uncomfortable speaking to an invisible audience through my laptop camera.” Things have improved since, partly because Broerse has learned from some rookie mistakes.
Are you new to the world of webinars? Broerse has the following tips:
Keep your introduction short
“When I just got started, my introductions would take 20 minutes. I could see the audience lose interest. Participants are there to watch your product demo, not your introduction. Get to the point as quickly as possible. I cut my introduction from 20 to 5 minutes. I would recommend writing out your full introduction, before cutting it in half and then doing the same thing again. A 2-to-3 minute introduction works best.”
Avoid moving too much
Broerse is used to walking back and forth on a stage during presentations. So he did the same during his first webinar: “This made it very hard to follow for participants. Now, I just sit in front of the camera and stay there.”
Create an 'autocue'
Open your script on your laptop and put it next to your webcam, so you can read what you want to say. “The first time, I printed out my script on paper”, Broerse recalls, “so I kept looking down instead of looking into the camera. With an autocue, you can play to the strengths of an online seminar: all you have to do is read the script from your monitor. Participants will feel like you are talking straight to them.”
Do not get distracted
During his very first webinar, Broerse almost panicked. “My team was going to use Slack to communicate with me behind the scenes. It was terrible. The moderator warned me first: his laptop was not working and he could not do a thing. The messages kept pouring in and I could not concentrate on the participants. Nowadays, I put my phone away and turn of all notifications.”
Ask for feedback
After your webinar, ask what participants thought of it. An easy way to do this is by sending a brief survey 10 minutes after the end of your webinar. Ask participants what went well, where there is room for improvement, whether they have any comments or pointers, and whether they would like to receive updates after the webinar. You can use your participants' feedback to keep improving your next webinars.