Gathering online is a popular way to connect with a wider community that defies geography.
That’s true whether you’re chatting in Slack with coworkers, tuning in for a live stream, or attending an online event or webinar.
The pandemic accelerated the shift to online events. They’re still going strong and are more common now than ever.
One of these online events is especially relevant to brands and marketers – the webinar.
What is a webinar? How do you set one up and host it? What are some successful examples of webinars? It’s all in this guide.
A webinar is a seminar that occurs online. (Web + seminar = webinar.)
When you think of an in-person seminar or conference, you probably picture many speakers presenting industry news, innovations, and education in front of a live audience.
A webinar is pretty much the same, but it all plays out online, synchronously.
There are a lot of reasons to add webinars to your brand repertoire. When done well, they can help you reap all of these benefits:
Ultimately, a well-crafted, well-produced webinar can bring ideal buyers straight to your virtual doorstep.
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If you’re interested in hosting a webinar or adding a weekly or monthly webinar series to your content lineup, consider these best practices.
You can’t run a smooth webinar without software.
Thankfully, there are many good webinar platforms with the right features for your needs at almost every price point.
Generally, you’ll want to consider your budget, how many attendees you want to have the capacity for, recording options (for repurposing webinar content later), and interactive options (like live surveys and polls during presentations).
Here are a few webinar software options to start:
Choosing one major, overarching topic for your webinar is a good idea. This keeps your event focused and its value clear to attendees.
If your webinar is in a single-speaker format, try to choose a narrower topic than something too broad like “personal finance planning” or “search engine optimization.”
Those topics are vast and can’t be fully covered in an hour. Instead, choose a deeper topic like “financial planning for new parents” or “SEO and your site content.”
If you plan to have multiple speakers, presentations, or sessions within your event, consider choosing a broader main topic, with each session exploring facets of that topic.
Always consider the value of your topic for your target audience. What would interest them? What information would help them?
Topic research can help you answer these questions, such as polling your audience on social media, checking out what topics your competitors are addressing in their content, or even doing keyword research on a topic to see how many people are looking it up.
Whatever topic you choose, consider how to make it interactive and engaging. Ultimately, people who attend webinars want to learn but don’t want to feel like they’re sitting in a boring lecture.
Choosing the right presenter for your webinar will significantly impact its success.
The right presenter will be a credible authority on your topic and comfortable speaking in front of people. You can choose someone from within the company – or not.
For example, you could invite a guest presenter, such as an industry influencer or well-known expert, to host and speak about the topic.
Sometimes inviting multiple expert speakers makes more sense for a webinar. Perhaps a team inside the company could present together, or different experts from various brands could gather virtually for a panel discussion.
There are multiple formats your webinar can take. Consider what would work best for presenting your topic, including the number of speakers you plan to have.
Here are some of the most common formats:
The visual format of webinars gives you a huge opportunity to get creative with presenting and displaying information to your viewers.
There are lots of moving parts involved when it comes to webinars. You’ll need to think about software and tech, budget, presenters, branding, slide decks, promotion efforts, and more.
There will likely be many different hands involved, so you’ll need to give everyone enough time to do their part, as well.
Organizers of small webinar events report needing 3-6 weeks to promote the event. Large webinar organizers report needing more than six weeks.
Keep in mind these different timelines, especially as you plan and set a date for the webinar. Give yourself and your team enough padding to get it done right.
Nobody will know about your webinar without some promotion behind it. You’ll need to spread the word through social media and your website. You can also email your subscriber list announcing the event and inviting them to register.
In all of these promotions, tell your audience about the value they’ll receive from attending your webinar and how it will help them with a particular question or problem.
According to a Markletic survey, most virtual event attendees report bad connections and bad audio as the biggest annoyances (followed closely by bad cameras and messy backgrounds).
Annoyances like these make it less likely that your attendees will stick around or get any value from your webinar.
The best way to plan for equipment failures and flubs? Practice.
Days before your webinar, do a practice run-through with everyone involved. Test equipment. Test audio. Test connections. Check backgrounds.
This is also a good chance to practice presentations and work out any kinks. You’ll ensure your speakers are prepared, all the slides are error-free, and everyone will know what to do when the webinar goes live.
The following brands have used webinars successfully to build brand awareness, nurture their audiences, increase conversions, or attract new customers.
Notion, a SaaS company, hosts weekly webinars centered around their product – a workspace/docs/spreadsheet/page-builder hybrid for teams, businesses, and individuals.
Each webinar explores Notion’s capabilities and updates from its developers. Many of them share tutorials or demos on using Notion for different use cases.
Additionally, all of Notion’s past webinars are available on-demand after the live presentation with a simple sign-up. All of them can be found on a dedicated page on their website.
ELB learning creates tools to facilitate online learning for people who design courses and instructional materials.
Their webinars focus on career and skills development for learning designers and are hosted by experts on their team.
U.S. Bank has an entire library of webinars under the umbrella of personal finance management.
Webinar topics include “Protect yourself or your loved ones from elder fraud,” “Insider tips for student debt,” and “Should you buy now, pay later?”
Reed Words, a U.K. copywriting agency, ran weekly webinars exploring topics to help brands find their voice and express it well.
A panel of four experts from their team discussed building a brand voice in this session, followed by an audience Q&A.
Sephora, the reigning makeup chain in malls everywhere, hosts regular live webinars with influencers and brand ambassadors whose products are sold in-store.
For example, the regional director of the NARS makeup brand recently guest-hosted a webinar that showed customers how to apply NARS products to achieve different makeup looks.
These events aren’t free – instead, Sephora customers spend their loyalty points (earned by making purchases) to register for webinars. However, attendees also get free gifts mailed to them, such as deluxe samples and automatic giveaway entries.
This way, Sephora’s webinars feel like exclusive events, and registration fills up soon after the events are posted.
Technology has improved to a degree where online webinars and virtual events can be just as engaging and worthwhile as attending them in person.
If you plan it right, create it with care, and promote it effectively, your webinar could be your best investment in content this year.
And, once you get the knack for producing and hosting webinars, you can create them regularly to engage with customers, increase conversions, and build your brand authority and visibility online.
Finally, don’t forget to record your live webinar so you can repurpose that content later. Webinar replays are just as valuable for nurturing leads. You can get even more mileage out of that content if you strategize right.
By now, you should have enough basics to create and host your first webinar. Don’t panic. Enlist your team to help you, and plan, plan, plan. You’ve got this.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.