A webinar is a powerful tool for business owners. However, starting your research on a sales page for a webinar platform is a sure-fire way to end up shelling out money for more features than you need. Not to mention, it is both time-consuming and confusing to review options and decide which one is the best fit.
Before you dive in and start exploring webinar platforms, it is essential that you understand a few webinar basics. This article will give you an overview of webinar technology, compare promotional versus paid webinars and review essential elements needed to conduct a successful webinar.
Be sure to grab my free webinar checklist! It contains questions to answer before beginning your webinar planning and a list of features to help you determine which platform will best meet your needs.
What is a webinar?
A webinar is synonymous with the term, web-based seminar. Traditionally, seminars and presentations were given to a live audience, however the internet created the opportunity for speakers and audiences to be in different locations. A webinar uses a technology platform that allows audience members to join and view the presentation and speaker from a different location.
Webinars have gained popularity and the technology used to connect the speaker and audience now have an incredible array of features. These include a host of tools for audience engagement such as conducting polls and administering quizzes, to full-featured sales tools that allow for special product offers to be purchased during the webinar event. It can be dizzying to review the options for webinar technology. Making sense of these features and how to use them is no simple task.
To better understand the features and select a platform suited to your needs, it is important to first explore the two main types of webinars, promotional and paid.
Types of Webinars
A promotional webinar is a marketing tactic that attracts an audience with information from a knowledgeable expert. These are usually offered free and may be marketed as a masterclass, workshop or mini training.
A hallmark of a promotional webinar is a sales pitch at some point during the webinar. The presenter will offer paid products or services related to the webinar content. Often there is a special bonus offered only to webinar participants and is often time-sensitive.
An essential element of a high quality, promotional webinar is providing attendees with high value information. Attendees’ time is valuable and if they don’t feel that your webinar provided a great deal of value, it is unlikely they will decide to purchase paid products or services from you. While the “sales pitch” element can feel intimidating, making it clear for those that want to work with you further or purchase a resource with more detailed information, is a must for a promotional webinar.
A paid webinar differs greatly from a promotional webinar. The purpose of the webinar is to deliver information or training on a topic. You might be familiar with educational webinars offered by professional organizations. Typically, you must be a paid member or pay a registration fee to attend the webinar.
A paid webinar requires that you consider how you will collect payment in advance of the webinar and provide access only to paid attendees. Typically for paid webinars, attendees expect to be provided with access to a recorded version of the webinar after the event.
Whether your webinar is paid or promotional, you need a way for to people to register or sign-up for your event.
For a promotional webinar, because payment isn’t typically involved, this can be as simple as a landing page or a dedicated page on your website. After providing required details including email address, the registered attendee should receive a confirmation email.
Most email service providers such as Mailchimp and MailerLite allow you to create free landing pages. The landing page has a specific URL and can be linked from blog or social media posts/profiles. If you opt for a paid webinar platform such as Zoom Webinars or WebinarJam, tools to support registration are provided as part of the fee paid.
For paid webinars, tools such as Eventbrite allow you to setup a paid event. It is also common to use a shopping cart tool such as WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads to set up and sell registration to a webinar. For connecting various applications such as a payment gateway and email service provider, Zapier is a popular and powerful tool. If you plan to offer paid webinars, it is essential to carefully plan out how you will collect payment and provide access to paid attendees.
Communication with Registered Attendees
Email is the most common way to connect with registered attendees. Some webinar platforms allow you to text message or use tools such as Facebook messenger.
Leading up to the event, it is essential to remind attendees about the event and in the case of promotional webinars, provide motivation for them to attend. This might be providing details about what they will learn or how the information will help to solve a specific problem.
A typical email sequence for a webinar is a message 4-7 days before, the day of, and 30 minutes before the event starts. Be sure to provide clear details on how to access the webinar and provide a link to the web-based meeting event. Confusion about how to access the webinar will certainly create dissatisfaction.
Communication after the event is equally important. A webinar is a great opportunity to establish authority on a topic and drive traffic to products or your blog/website. Have a plan to send a sequence of emails to attendees after the event.
Web/internet-based Meeting Tool
A webinar can be conducted with a number of technology tools. Some are inexpensive such as Google Hangouts on Air, a Facebook or YouTube event. Full-featured options include GoToWebinar, Zoom Webinar and WebinarJam. The essential component needed is a web-based, group meeting. Attendees are provided a hyperlink and join the web-based meeting via the link. As the presenter, you have control over the audio and screen during the event.
Advanced Webinar Features
Many webinar platforms offer advanced features. The most common include audience engagement, integration with tools to help follow-up on customers (leads) and evergreen or simulated webinars.
Audience engagement includes features such as polls or quizzes. This allows for attendees to stay engaged in the presentation and to gather important information about your customers. While audience engagement is a valuable tool, it is often necessary to have a virtual assistant or support person available during a webinar when including polls or quizzes.
Analytics and advanced reports allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of your webinar and target follow-up to attendees. Details such as whether a customer that registered attended the webinar, how long they watched and even if they had the webinar as “front screen” can be tracked. With this detail, you can send specific follow-up messages to customers that did not attend or left before you made your product pitch. Tools like GoToWebinar and Zoom Webinar offer advanced reporting.
An innovative webinar approach is the use of evergreen or simulated webinars. These webinars are pre-recorded but have the look and feel of a live event to the attendees. Tools like StealthSeminar and EverWebinar allow you to create an on-demand or pre-scheduled webinar. These are advanced webinar techniques, but something to consider once you have a high performing webinar.
While there are some essential elements that you must consider when conducting a webinar, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. First and foremost, you must decide on the purpose of your webinar and what your goals are for the event. This allows you to focus on the essential technology elements and map out a registration and communication process to support your goals.
It may make sense to opt for a more expensive paid option if the features support your goals, but you may find that your needs are met by a lower cost option such as an unlisted YouTube live event. What can be guaranteed is that once you conduct your webinar, you will have a list of things you want to improve and change for the next one!
Be sure to grab my free webinar checklist!
It contains questions to answer BEFORE beginning your webinar planning and a list of features to help you determine which platform will best meet your needs.