Winning in the webinar wars

Congratulations for reacting so fast to the new lockdown situation, but now you need to reinvent your approach long-term.

Take webinars. The number of people getting registered onto webinars has gone through the roof, but I don’t think those audience levels are sustainable – not unless you can up your game. This is because the novelty of remote selling is already starting to wear off, and participants are getting choosier about which webinars they participate in.

I’m fully signed up to the idea of there being no going back to the way it was, pre-lockdown. Webinars and similar video-based sales engagements and knowledge transfer sessions are here to stay. What I’m warning against is complacency. “If you build it…” they won’t necessarily come.

Even those who’ve hit the webinar jackpot lately need to realise that there’s a war on for their audience’s attention. I mean, how many webinars can a single person sit through in a week? And when it comes time to decide which one to choose, it won’t be the promise of what you’re offering that will sway them, but the experience of what the last one was like.

So here are 8 cast-iron ways to make your webinars deliver:

Know what you want to get out of it

What’s the purpose? Be specific. If all that’s driving your webinar is a general sense that it would be good to tell people about a new product then you aren’t applying enough focus. Make your purpose relevant to moving prospects and customers along the engagement process. Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is all supposed to support sales.

Give your audience the right expectations

Who are you targeting and what do they get for investing 30-60 minutes of their lives in your virtual show and tell? What are they going to get out of it? Make it practical and relevant to their jobs. Don’t be vague and don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Ensure participants have clear instructions on how to join. And when you kick off, provide a bullet-point summary of what’s coming up.

Control the controllables

There are a million things that can go wrong when hosting a webinar, and pretty much all of them can be avoided with practice and planning. Run a network speed test, make sure your tech is working, learn the controls, shut down applications that aren’t needed for the gig (they can divert your attention and do odd things when you least expect), and do a dry run-through. Be presentable, set up your frame to minimise visual distractions. Oh and mute everyone, at least until a designated point where questions are invited.

Have a clear message

Boil down what you ultimately want your audience to understand and stick to this basic message. People aren’t going to remember more than 3 things so take the opportunity to dictate what they are. Repeat them throughout. Give your audience conclusions without waiting until the end.

Don’t waste time

It’s nice to delay a minute or so to ensure latecomers don’t miss anything, but spare a thought for the poor unfortunates who bust a gut to dial-in on time. Keep the intros short and get stuck into the meat of your content. Stay to the allotted time and don’t run over. If your audience wants more, that can be a good thing.

Be a good presenter

Don’t let the ‘Senior Manager of such and such’ present just because of her job title. A decent set of slides can be boring as hell to sit through when placed in the wrong hands. You want energy, brevity, relevance and a natural delivery. The feeling of a genuine person who genuinely understands both their audience and their subject matter.

Interact and involve

This is important for two reasons: listening to feedback to make the experience more relevant, and minimising the chances of people turning off. Unlike a real in-person event, your participants could be doing anything during your webinar – keeping them involved with polls and Q&As at least stops them falling asleep. Polls are particularly good because they give you complete control. Encouraging chat and Q&A are also good but you need someone (not the presenter) actively managing this to make sure points aren’t going unanswered and that the event doesn’t deviate from your key message.

Follow through

You did all that work, got all those attendees – now make sure you follow through or it won’t have been worthwhile.

A good follow through starts with clear objectives. What expectations did you create and what is the next logical action to continue your audience’s journey along the engagement process and into the sales cycle? For example, the offer of a demo or a target-specific proof of concept that builds on the high-level understanding promoted in the webinar itself. Or a more personal one-on-one sales meeting might make more sense, to drill-down into actual projects and scenarios.

These choices need to be considered in advance, with a clear process of how and when to enact the follow-on stage. Develop a view on what success should look like (e.g. number of conversions) and be sure to evaluate your performance. Consider what to do about those who you don’t manage to move along into a logical follow-on activity, such as drip campaigns or further webinars that focus on their defined industry sectors or use cases.

You also need to be looking at what more you learned about your attendees, to build on your existing understanding and build a profile that makes future activities as relevant as possible.

Lastly, consider their specific needs, immediately after the webinar itself. Did they ask questions, get what they needed or have any other feedback? Inviting participants to download a recording is a great tactic, but don’t make the mistake of failing to tell people beforehand (viz data protection) that this is what you were going to do.

Ultimately you should be targeting measurable results that impact your pipeline and sales forecast. At the very least, you should be using follow up to learn more about how to continually improve your webinars to get better and better.