Webinars and how not to do them

Microphone Child Screaming in Studio

Recently I attended a webinar by LinkedIn titled: Mastering LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities. As the buyer’s journey becomes increasingly saturated with cultivated content to keep you engaged, the use of webinars is a core component of a marketer’s arsenal. But, as technology improves and trends change, what is a webinar at this point?

Let’s start with the basics….

The purpose of a webinar is:

  • To build trust
  • To reengage with customers
  • To act as a lead generation tool
  • To collect data signups
  • To give value to prospects

Now, here is where a lot of people go wrong, and it is probably the easiest mistake to correct. A webinar is meant to grab those who already have displayed some form of interest in the product or service and build a foundation of trust. Many marketers use webinars as a selling tool, which one can argue it is as it can drive new leads, but it shouldn’t directly try and sell the product to you.

A good webinar makes the attendee feel like they have gained valuable information free of charge and thus are bestowed a sense of trust.

The key here is to make sure you provide information that meets their expectations.

When I received the invitation to join the LinkedIn webinar, I jumped at the opportunity as it couldn’t have come at a better time since I was just about to start working on a LinkedIn ad campaign for one of our clients. While I know my way around the platform pretty well, their title managed to grab me; ‘Mastering LinkedIn’s Targeting Capabilities’. I eagerly signed up expecting to learn the finer details of LinkedIn advertising and come out the other side as a true master of targeting.

Unfortunately, going in with the high expectations that come with anything delivered by one of the top social players meant I was let down.

So, I decided to write a guide on how to run a successful webinar with LinkedIn’s webinar as a ‘how not to’ example. Without further ado, here are the five steps to delivering a successful webinar…

  1. Audio quality

Audio quality is usually less of an issue these days as there is broader access to high bandwidth internet and a range of affordable options for recording equipment. As the technological baseline is higher, poor audio quality becomes much more noticeable as there really is no excuse for it.

Sadly, the webinar I attended didn’t even get this first point right.

Rather than feeling like a live webinar delivered by a key player in the industry, it sounded like a conference call from the early 2000s. This isn’t acceptable as some light Googling will show you how easy it is to DIY a decent recording setup.

  1. Visual content

We have all sat through our fair share of presentations where someone reads from a seemingly endless selection of PowerPoint slides. Remember how boring that was, a webinar isn’t just another tool to help you deliver the same dull presentation to the masses.

Your visual content needs to reflect and emphasise the key points that you intend to make and not become the script itself. Make use of data and imagery to back up your points but make it aesthetically pleasing and easy to look at.

If possible, include yourself! We like to see a face connected to the voice we are listening to, and it can really help to increase engagement. People find it harder to ignore someone when they can see them, whereas a distant voice can easily become background noise.

Remember, your audience isn’t stuck in a lecture theatre with you, they are in their homes, offices or cafes with the world wide web at their fingertips. Distractions are everywhere, so you’d better make sure you don’t give them a reason to open a new tab in their browser.

  1. Content format

Now let’s talk about what you should be talking about. The aim of a webinar should be to deliver valuable content to your audience which will make them feel like their time was well spent. This is not a sales pitch to the masses, it’s a way of building trust with potential and returning buyers.

Your content needs to reflect this by covering something of actual value to your audience. But how do you know what is of true value? How can you create content that will result in action if you don’t understand your target customer’s thought process?

We’ve explored this topic in depth in our downloadable ebook, which you can access here.

B2B customer persona ebook

Picking the right format for your webinar can also be crucial to your success. Is it going to be hosted by a single presenter, will it be an interview, Q&A style between two speakers or perhaps a whole panel of guest speakers? What fits your webinar is dependent on what you are trying to achieve and, frankly speaking, the quality of the speakers you have available to you.

At this point, you may have realised that a webinar can be very similar in format to a podcast or radio show, and you’re not wrong. Essentially, it is just like any live stream, however, it is much more focused on one particular topic of interest.

  1. Preparation

Just like any presentation, a webinar isn’t something you should be running into headfirst; you need to come prepared. Write a script or at the very least list your talking points. This helps you stay on track and keeps you from going off on unnecessary tangents that could make people drop off.

There must be a clear and concise goal with every piece of content and information you are broadcasting. Your script will help you with this.

Your setup also needs to be prepared. No matter how good technology gets, you can’t just trust it to work, so test it. Get everything set up and do a test run of all your equipment to make sure it’s all in working order before you go live, this will help you avoid delays and time wasting by trying to fix something mid-broadcast.

Something else which often seems to get overlooked is the space you are in.

Yes, your webinar is taking place online but the space around you can influence it as well. You don’t want people walking into your studio space mid-broadcast. Going back to the LinkedIn webinar, they had a fire alarm go off during the last fifteen minutes of their broadcast. This turned out to be a routine office fire drill which they would’ve been aware of and could’ve easily been avoided had they planned accordingly.

  1. Messaging

Even though the webinar is a marketing tool, the webinar itself needs to be successfully marketed as well. You are effectively marketing your marketing, because how else is anyone going to know that it’s happening.

Marketers love a good clickbait title and there is nothing wrong with that. Because guess what, they can work, so why would we stop using them? The key is to make sure that the content on the other side of that link reflects the expectation given by the title. Otherwise, we end up feeling cheated and, as a result, we become less trusting of its source.

The LinkedIn webinar I attended was titled ‘Mastering LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities’, I was drawn to this and chose to attend as I already have knowledge in the area but felt that a webinar from the source itself would be able to give me additional insights into the finer details of the system. In the end, it turned out to be a basic beginners guide and didn’t help anyone become a ‘master’ of the subject.

As a result, I felt like the only thing LinkedIn was interested in was my personal and company information (which is a whole other topic). In return for my information, I expected to get valuable insights. Had the messaging around the webinar sold it as a beginner’s guide or how to get started tutorial then there wouldn’t have been a problem. This highlights the importance of selling your webinar correctly and how just 4 words in a title can set the expectation of your audience.

Let’s do a quick recap

Webinars can be as complex or simple as you want them to be, but no matter the level they need to get these five basic points right.

  1. Audio quality needs to be on point – poor audio is unacceptable.
  2. Visual content needs to be engaging and complement what you are talking about.
  3. You need to be clear and concise about what you are trying to get across, everything you say should link back to the original topic of the webinar.
  4. Preparation is a must, and dry runs should be done no matter how ‘dry’ they are.
  5. Finally, don’t miss-sell your webinar. Your messaging needs to set the right level of expectation for what you are intending to deliver.

Keep these things in mind and you should be good to go, the possibilities are endless!