Aim High and Wide – More for Your Webinars

Popularity of Webinars Demands Further Review

A majority of publishers seems to be putting on some form of webinar or audio conference these days. The SIPA online forums have recently seen a few questions on Webinars. An interesting one involved whether it was worth it for a publisher to do “free” webinars, the reason being that the regulatory agency he covers lets their people only speak at webinars that are free (unless it’s at their own live events—where they happen to charge).

Then the American Society of Business Publication Editors just added a webinar ethics section to its Guide to Preferred Editorial Practices. “Under what circumstances should B2B editors avoid being involved in webinar presentations?” they ask. “This is a question staffs are wrestling with as more marketing teams cultivate webinar programs as a revenue source.”

We’ve discussed Webinars from time to time in this space and also the Hotline newsletter. Here are 10 helpful hints for putting on successful webinars. The first five are from Larry Sterne of the Educational Research Newsletter and the second five from Leslie Davidson of Davidson Direct.

1. Urge your speakers to aim high. We never get complaints that information is above the audience’s heads. We do get complaints when information is too basic or vague. We also urge speakers not to include too many slides. Attendees hate feeling that a presenter rushed to finish a presentation. We also encourage speakers to consider standing up when they are giving their presentation as if they were addressing a live audience.

2. Provide access information to your registrants several times. Be sure to check carefully for any bounces on emails and check and double-check all links in your access email. There is nothing worse than sending registrants the wrong access info.

3. Be sure to have a good system in place to handle those last-minute calls from people who don’t look at any of your information until the last minute.

4. Registrants love handouts. We provide a pdf version of the PowerPoint and all handouts in advance.

5. This last one goes without saying, but know your audience! Our audience likes short pauses so that they can have group discussions, so we now incorporate them into all of our webinars. Survey your registrants to be sure you are giving them what they want.

6. Topic is king. Good speakers are fine, but it’s still the topic that wins the day. Survey your customers regularly to make sure you know what information they want/need.

7. Don’t worry if your early e-mails don’t generate much of a response; webinars are an impulse buy. Consider sending at least a couple of e-mails in the week just prior to the webinar, when people are most likely to make the decision to register. My experience has been that 30-50% of registrations come at that time.

8. To expand your reach outside your in-house list, have speakers market the session to their list of contacts. And consider partnering with associations that have members who are interested in the topic. Offer them a special member discount or a percentage of the registration fee to the association for every member who signs up.

9. You may want to try an audio-only event or series of events. Webinars can be more expensive to produce so you want to be sure that the additional expense is having positive impact on the number of registrants or the fee you’re charging. Webinars are great but I still have clients doing audio-only events (with PDF handouts e-mailed in advance) very profitably.

10. Don’t make a no-go decision about future webinars if your first event isn’t a success. Unless you’re losing a lot of money, which is hard to do given how inexpensive webinars are to produce, I recommend doing at least 3-6 events before you decide whether a regular program makes sense for your company.

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