Please indulge me as I take a short trip down memory lane.
To a time when there was no such thing as Spotify or ‘digital music’ and we all had to make do with crappy sound quality and chewed up tapes.
Ah yes, the good old days when you couldn’t just ‘skip tracks’.
Instead you lived in fear of pressing the rewind button and seeing your brand new ‘NOW’ album destroyed by the cogs in your personal walkman!
Thank heck those days are gone!
So why this brief jaunt back to the 80’s?
Well, the analogy of those old-school ‘NOW’ albums is one I’m going to apply to my recent ‘30 Day Webinar Challenge’ (more on that here btw).
I’m going to attempt to create the perfect ‘compilation’ of all the best bits I saw across the 42 webinars I attended.
And I’m going to structure it like any great double tape album too:
📼 Tape 2, Side 1 – The die hard stuff, i.e. how to keep your audience engaged (which many a NOW album failed at by the way!)
📼 Tape 2, Side 2 – Ending with a bang, i.e. the wrap-up and follow-up to close off the perfect webinar
So let’s get started…
Tape 1, Side 1 – Just Getting Warmed Up
The Build-Up to a Great Webinar
You don’t want to give away too much beforehand – otherwise, what’s the point of the webinar?
But you do want to make sure that your audience’s appetite is suitably whetted.
Well, quite simply, it will increase attendance on the day.
Your average webinar will get about a 50% drop-off rate between registration and attendance. Some of this you can’t do much about – people’s diaries change and conflicts arise.
But you can maximise your attendance rate by playing the old FOMO card.
In other words, create such an enticing build-up to the event that people will really want to attend.
- Ditching the templated emails you get with the likes of Zoom and other webinar software tools.
- Creating personalised, fun and engaging emails that give your customer a sneak peek into what to expect.
Now of course, you still need to do the usual confirmation and reminder emails – and so taking advantage of the pre-built ones you get in your webinar software tool will save you the hassle of creating these from scratch.
BUT… take the time to customise them with content that will actually grab the attention of your customer.
Yes, they’ve signed up, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to attend!
Nope, that needs extra work I’m afraid – although actually, you can have your own fun creating it too so it doesn’t need to be a chore.
Just take a look at what Turtl and Product-Led Summit did in their Build-Up emails here.
What did they have in common?
Natural but fun video content.
And don’t limit the activity to email either – create similar buzz on social media and community channels with snippets from your speakers too. Perhaps you’ve got a great guest speaker attending to share best practices – well, get a quick quote (either written or video) from them and use that in your build-up.
Don’t worry about giving too much away – it’s what all the great films do in their trailers and they still get people forking out for the main event!
Tape 1, Side 2 – Exploding onto the Scene
How to Kick Off an Awesome Webinar
First things first, log in early!
Not just to make sure everything is working ok, but also because you’ll have attendees joining early too (mostly those people who take their calendar reminders as a flag to do something NOW! 😉 ).
An events expert I know also shared a little secret with me about logging in early…
“It’s a great opportunity to have some light banter between the host and presenters!
It relaxes your presenters and it also lets those first attendees get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’.”
Then… as you have more attendees join, this is your chance to GET THEM ENGAGED!
Ask them where they’re dialling in from today.
If they don’t want to speak or you have the event in ‘mute-all’ mode, then get them to put it in the chat function.
Maybe even ask them what the weather’s like where they are right now.
This then gives you the opportunity to talk about these locations, say how nice they are or maybe that you’ve always wanted to go there on holiday, and of course, sympathise with how hot or cold it is there too.
All in the name of relaxing chit-chat… especially for the Brits who love talking about the weather!
Next, kicking off
You don’t want to leave it too late to start as your early birds will get bored hanging on. So once you have a critical mass, kick off.
Cover the basics and practicalities first.
- Who you are. For example, if you’re the host
- Your agenda
- Who the main speakers are – and why you’re excited to have them there!
- If you’ll be recording the session and when this will be made available (P.S. it’s a nice add-on here to say a word to people watching back the recording, even if it’s just a hi or something to make the playback a bit more personal and engaging)
- When you’ll run the questions and if that will be via the chat function only or open floor
Then, set the scene.
Depending on your topic and what your speakers will be covering, it’s a nice idea to situate the theme of your webinar in ‘today’s context’.
For example, is there a breaking news story that relates to your webinar topic?
Or a feature piece released earlier in the week that’s connected to what your speakers will be covering?
You could even show the news feature on screen to add that visual back-up to your point.
This all helps the audience ‘recognise’ the content from the start and it gets their attention when it’s brought back into the ‘here and now’.
And now you’ve got their attention, it’s time to kick off with your first poll!
Polls are a great way of including your audience in the webinar content without it being too overwhelming for the shier ones out there.
(More on tools like these here).
Tape 2, Side 1 – The Die Hard Stuff
Okay, if I carry on at this rate, I’m in danger of writing a book about bloody webinars!
So for this next section – Side 1 of Tape 2 – I’m going to summarise my top tips for running a great webinar and keeping your audience engaged.
Top Tips for Running a Great Webinar
- Make sure you’ve got the basics mastered.
Most important, pick a great topic! This cannot be underestimated. Do the research, find a topic that your customers are actually interested in, and put in the work to create great content around that topic. For the rest of the basics, check out this article.
- Keep the length to about 40 minutes.
30 minutes can speed by and stop you going deep on a topic; 1 hour is too long and you start to lose people’s concentration.
- Ideally have two speakers.
1 speaker, your audience will tire of the same voice; 3 speakers, your audience has to do too much cognitive switching to attune to the different styles.
- Make sure your host is at least somewhat knowledgeable about the topic.
One webinar I attended during my 30 Day Challenge didn’t follow this and it made for a few very awkward situations between the host and the speaker. For example, the speaker attempted to share a ‘marketing funnel’ on their screen. The host interjected two or three times to say there was no ‘funnel’ there – they were expecting a literal funnel diagram rather than the marketing concept that the speaker was about to talk through. Awks!
- Show your face.
It’s much more personal and will help to keep your audience engaged more. That said, find a webinar software tool that balances your face and your slides well without too many other distractions. Personally, I have found platforms like ON24 too much; whereas WebinarNinja seemed like a great balance and very clear for the audience to view (more on that here btw).
Keeping Your Audience Engaged
Now for the fun stuff!
- Invite along a goat.
If you’re feeling a bit cheeky and know your audience would appreciate a bit of light relief, then have a goat bomb your webinar! Yes, honestly! Just check out this site for more information – https://www.cronkshawfoldfarm.co.uk/goatsonzoom
- Step away from the slides.
If you can, and you’ve rehearsed it well too, then get away from slides. Try out media like whiteboarding instead. You’ll find a great example of this from Mike Killen in my article here. Below is a short video example as a reminder.
And if you aren’t comfortable with whiteboarding, then make sure your slides are clean, simple and uncluttered, and break the sequence up with a video snippet or two as well.
- Use more polls.
We’ve opened the webinar with a poll – well, don’t stop there! Throw one in in the middle to make sure everyone’s still awake, and then again at the end to bring back any drifters.
A great way to incorporate 2 or 3 polls is to take a ‘sentiment check’ at the beginning of your webinar, then cover the content, and then check again how people are feeling about the same topic. Hopefully they’ll be feeling much more positive and inspired after your great whiteboarding session!
- Try something different.
This will very much depend on your audience and how far you can push it with the ‘interactivity’, but consider break-out rooms for virtual networking (even time-limited for a ‘speed’ version), short meditation or exercise sessions to get everyone focused and ready to go, a quiz if it fits with your main topic, or simply an interactive screen board where your audience can write ideas and share their thoughts.
The possibilities are endless if you let your imagination run a little bit wild!
- Spark a debate.
If you’ve followed the advice above and brought on two speakers for your webinar, then a great way to segue-way between the content itself and a final Q&A to close is with a bit of debate.
One way to do this is to have a pre-prepared question that you know will split your speakers (although obviously avoid anything too risky and of course no politics or religion!). Pose the question, spark a bit of healthy debate, and then open up the same question to the floor for further input.
Tape 2, Side 2 – Ending with a Bang!
The Wrap-up and Follow-up to Close off the Perfect Webinar
So you’ve made it to the final Q&A and can almost breathe a sigh of relief.
But hold it right there! You’re not finished just yet!
Remember the ‘Serial-Position Effect’ in psychology where people tend to remember the first and last things in a series of items?
This is what you’ve got to remember when closing off a webinar and here are a few things you can do to ensure it goes off with a bang.
- Of course, thank your speakers and attendees for their time.
- Reiterate any logistics points about recordings, blah, blah, blah.
- Ask the audience to do something. Yes, this is your Call-to-Action! And be really specific and focused about what the ask is. Even rally up some momentum by getting everyone to do it there and then – be it sharing something on Twitter, signing up to the next webinar, or replying to an email with ‘Yes’ to be eligible for a special discount or offer. If you do offer a discount or something, then remember to mention this at the start of the webinar, saying that people who stay all the way to the end will be in for a special treat!
- Close with a funny slide or picture. The last thing you show will be what people remember and you’ll want them to go away with a warm and fuzzy feeling associated with your brand. You don’t have to come up with your own content, there’s plenty of stuff out there if you just Google it. For example, if you’re running a webinar on a marketing topic, then close with one of the Marketoonist cartoons. Or if your topic is on something more general, find a Dilbert cartoon that’s relevant.
Finally, your follow-up.
Now again, you might be thinking… send recording, add to email nurture sequence, pass on to sales for follow-up, job done.
NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! DON’T DO IT!
You know yourself how annoyed you get with lazy event follow-ups or with sales people chasing you afterwards to book in demos and the like, so why do it?
- Send something interesting and useful. A resource connected to the webinar topic, a workbook that will help your customer put what they’ve learned into action, even the speakers’ email addresses for further Q&A – these are all more helpful and interesting than a boring thank you and why not sign up to our bland, monthly newsletter.
- Try something funky with your recording. I cover this towards the end of my article here. I’ve not actually seen it done, but surely it’s got to be more interesting for those wanting to watch back after the live event? You could even cut the length down to a 5 minute fly-through of the main points, or turn this into a short blog article with the key takeaways and learnings.
Interesting aside here – a LinkedIn poll I ran on webinar recordings turned up some interesting stats. Personally, I was surprised at how many people actually listen back to the recordings. Not so surprised though that the majority multi-task!
Key takeaway? Make your recording more interesting!
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking to yourself…
Heck, webinars seem like an awful lot of work.
Well yes, they are!
And so they should be if you’re looking to take up people’s valuable time and possibly ask them to do something at the end too.
But the point with all of the above is to have fun.
Have fun putting together the content, writing the pre and post webinar emails or social media posts, and then have fun engaging on the day.
Have fun, and your audience will too.
Thanks for reading!