Webinars Done Right

It seems every organization has webinars, as they have become an important way to communicate broadly and inexpensively. Over the past several years we have listened in on hundreds of them, having seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What separates a great webinar from a lousy one? Here are some of our observations.

  • Be comfortable with the tools. We’ve been on webinars where the host has no idea how to use the tools/technologies and is learning on the fly. Makes a bad impression. Invest time to become knowledgeable.
  • Start on time; end on time. Sounds basic, right? You’d be amazed how often this doesn’t happen.
  • Minimize the preamble. We have been on webinars where the intros and logistics took almost 10 minutes. When done right, logistics/intros can take 1-2 minutes—leaving 58 for the webinar, which is what participants want.
  • Make it interactive. The beauty of a webinar is the ability to hear from participants, engage them, involve them. The best webinars use the medium to conduct polls, allow participants to email or text questions, and have Q&A throughout, not just 2 minutes at the end.
  • Break up the content. The best webinars are in sections with breaks for Q&A. The worst are when a presenter speaks uninterrupted (and barely breathes) for 60 minutes.
  • Give participants something to look at. We’ve been on webinars where speakers just talk, with no slides (too little—on a 1-hour call people want something to look at) or where a presenter races through 100 slides (too much, overwhelming). People want something to look at—key points, frameworks, images—but don’t want to feel challenged keeping up.
  • Be prepared. We’ve heard moderators mispronounce the speaker’s name, fumble with the slides, and not understand the content. But the worst mistake is not having questions prepared for Q&A. We’ve heard moderators ask, “Anyone have questions?” Then, upon getting no response, just end the webinar early. The best moderators ask the first question, engage with the speaker(s) in an interview/conversation, and have questions ready if no one asks any.
  • Minimize demos/sales. Often webinars are sponsored and the sponsor may get a few minutes to provide an overview or demo. Everyone understands this. But if the demo becomes 30 minutes or the “general information” becomes a hard sale, it turns people off (and they may not come to a future webinar). Be cautious how sponsors participate.
  • Summarize. We’ve been on webinars that end abruptly as the moderator says, “Thanks for participating. The webinar is now over.” The best webinars allow 2-3 minutes at the end for the presenter to summarize the main ideas.
  • View a webinar as content. A good webinar has valuable content, yet that content is delivered only to those who joined. While some organizations make replays available, do you think many people will listen to a webinar they missed? A short summary that captures the key points can be a great complement that extends a webinar’s reach, repurposes the content, and adds value to a sponsor who can use the summary like a white paper. (This is a not-so-subtle plug for BullsEye’s services.) Here’s an example of a sponsored summary of a recent Harvard Business Revenue webinar.

Executing a great webinar isn’t hard. It takes a bit of planning to execute it well and a bit of foresight to broadly leverage the content created.