Webinars Are Dead, Long Live Webinars!

It was early in my tenure at Panaya that I was challenged to prove my point: Webinars are dead!

I was so convinced that I was right, that I agreed to get one organized.

Not to give it the slightest whiff of self-sabotage, I went the whole nine yards: I Used research to beef up the email database, focused on the most likely decision makers, selected a topic with a high likelihood of resonating with our audience, expressed a single clear message that was applied consistently throughout the campaign, from subject line to landing page to submit button.

For the audience there were no distractions and only one way out: Register!

And this is how I made a complete fool out of myself and became a hero at the same time…

It was all a resounding success. 65-70% of some 300 registrants turned-up as attendees. Around 65% where actively involved and responded to poll-questions. The answers were synced into the campaign report in Salesforce and the Sales Development team had a blast using all the “inside information” to direct their calls and qualify the leads.

For many years we perfected our own little enterprise. Live webinars in 3 time-zones and 3 different languages with qualifying questions dressed up as innocent poll-questions. With 6 weeks for every campaign and 8 campaigns a year, our webinar circus was unstoppable. The corporate crack habit that was very hard to kick!

Fast forward 10 years. Webinars must be dead and buried by now!

Surely you cannot entertain a modern day, YouTubing, Instagramming, Snapchatting audience with a PowerPoint slide deck and monotonous narrative? Well… apparently you still can. Long live webinars!

Obviously, you need to step up your game. A live video feed, well-designed materials and smooth interactions are a must. Studies by Benchmarks show that attendees have no problem staying on board for an average of 60 minutes. The last webinar we did had close to 1500 registrants, of which a third showed up to the live broadcast and another 30% watched the recording. It’s hard to find other content that can drive this kind of engagement!

Paid platforms have improved, and some new, low-cost or even free alternatives have emerged. So why pay? If you need a professional solution that can scale, has quality recording and boasts the full toolkit (poll-questions, surveys, reporting and syncing with your marketing automation or CRM), then established names such as GotoWebinar and Cisco WebEx are hard to beat. Depending on the size of your audience (simultaneous attendees) the monthly fee will be around $100 per month for 100 to 250 attendees. If you succeed in pulling bigger crowds (500,1000, 2000) prices go up ($200, $300, $400). Other names like Zoom and On24 have very competitive pricing. If you don’t need the toolkit you can also go with free alternatives from the big names: Facebook, YouTube Live streaming or Google Hangouts. New platforms such as WebinarJam use Google Hangouts on Air (HOA) as the basis and have built their toolkit on top.

So, here’s my advice. Plan ahead, take enough time to promote, use your social channels to drive people to your registration page and research the available best-practice around the favorite days of the week and times for a webinar. If your audience is spread around the globe you may find yourself running 3 live shows: APAC, Europe and NAM separately. If that is cumbersome, you can record the first session and play it in the other two, but… Make sure you run the polls, answer questions and chat live with the audience.

Attendees make the effort to join the live sessions because they need the interaction, otherwise they will opt to watch the recording instead. Be there, be active and be social – don’t disappoint them!

How to create webinar content that truly engages your audience is the topic of a next blog post.

About the Author
For the past 15 years Weeb has led global marketing activities for a wide range of Hi-tech start-ups, creating lead-machines that exceed targets. With a passion for people, business and all things tech, he uses his toolkit to hack business growth for a living. When not at Graduway you can find him on the trails or slopes, crash-testing yet another mountain bike or a pair of skis.
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