Monday, August 7, 2023

How to run webinars

Why do you care about running webinars?

For sales and marketing people, the answer is obvious, to generate leads and do your job. For technical people, things are a little murkier, and as a result, technical people sometimes make avoidable mistakes when they give webinars.

In this blog post, I'll explain how and why a technical person should approach and run webinars. At the end, I'll link to a longer report where I go through the entire process from start to finish.

My experiences

I've run webinars in big companies and small companies and I've had my share of problems. I've faced visual and audio issues, planning issues, marketing issues and on and on. I've learned from what went wrong so I can advise you on what to do.  Here's my summary advice: make sure you understand the whole process end-to-end so you can step in to fix any shortcomings.

What value do you bring?

Why should anyone come to your webinar? 

The marketing department may have asked you to do a webinar, but frankly, they're not going to answer this question for you. If it isn't clear why anyone should attend your webinar, then you're not going to get a good audience. Webinars are not free to attend: they cost your attendees their time, which is extremely valuable. To justify spending someone's time, here are some questions you should ask:

  • who should attend?
  • what will they learn?
  • what will they take away?

Before you do anything, you need to be clear on these points.

Let's take an example of where engineers fall down: webinars for new minor releases. The marketing team wants a webinar on the new release with the goal of increasing leads. The problem is, the new release is a minor one, really only of interest to existing customers. Unfortunately, the engineering team will only commit resources to a release webinar, so that's what gets scheduled. This is a common siuation and the irreconcilable conflict of goals and resources and will lead to the webinar failing. In this case, the engineers and the marketing team need to discuss what's really needed, perhaps there are two webinars, one focused on the new functionality for existing customers and a new webinar on the product overall for prospects. It needs an honest discussion in the company.

I go into this in a lot more detail in my report.

Is the marketing in order?

In almost all cases, the goal of a webinar is to generate sales leads. Usual measures of success are leads generated or sales contributions. To be successful then, the marketing behind the webinar must be effective. This means:

  • a clear and unambiguous value proposition
  • a compelling summary
  • a clearly defined market demographic (e.g. the job titles and organizations you want to reach)
  • an effective recruitment campaign (registration page, social media outreach, email etc.)
  • a compelling call to action at the end of the webinar (e.g. register for more content)

If some or all of these steps are missing, the webinar will be a disappointment.

These steps are usually under the control of the marketing department, but I've done webinars where some or all of these steps were missing and the results were'n't good. Even if you're a completely technical person, you need to ensure that the marketing for your webinar is effective.

Does the webinar have a good story?

This means the webinar must tell a compelling story and have a consistent narrative with a begining, middle, and end. It should finish with a clear and unambiguous call to action.

A good test of whether you have a good story is the 30 second summary. Summarize your webinar in a 30 second pitch. Does it sound good? If not, try again.

Is the audio-visual setup good enough?

Some of this is obvious, but some of it isn't. Audio filtering can clean up some background noises, but not others, for example, you can't filter out echoes. Here's my checklist:

  • Good quality microphone plus a good pop filter - the pop filter is extremely important. 
  • Record your webinar in an acoustically quiet environment. This means few background noises and as much sound deadening material as possible. A bedroom is good place to record a webinar because all the soft furnishings help deaden noise.
  • Make sure your demos work end-to-end. If at all possible, pre-record them and play the recording out during the webinar (but be careful about the technology).

Duration and Q&A

Don't do more than 25 minutes and stick to your schedule. Don't overrun. Leave your audience wanting more, which means you can offer more material as a follow-up (and excuse for more interaction and selling).

Don't leave Q&A to chance. Have a set of canned questons and answers ready to go if your audience is slow to ask questions or the questions are ones you don't want to answer.

The complete guide

This is a small taster of what you have to do to make a webinar succesful. I've expanded a lot on my thoughts and written a comprehensive guide, covering everything from microphone selection to landing pages. You can get my guide by clicking on the link below.

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