The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way companies do business. Social distancing means that in-person promotional events are off the table, and this may be the case for some time. In spite of this crisis, however, there is still an opportunity for savvy marketers to establish and maintain connections.
Many business owners are also taking advantage of the lull in business to increase their knowledge and improve their skills. Some might be specifically looking for content on how businesses can recover from the effects of the crisis. Producing webinars is a great way to connect with this rapidly growing market of home-bound knowledge seekers.
Online meetings are no longer a novelty. Zoom reports that 300 million people now use the teleconferencing platform daily, up from just 10 million in December 2019. Millions more use other applications, such as Webex, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. Even Facebook is also rolling out a web conferencing app accommodating up to 50 attendees at a time.
In the era of COVID-19, webinars might now be your best chance to meet new leads, create connections, and engage your audience. So let’s dive in. How can you best take advantage of webinars to grow your audience?
Plan your webinar
Planning a webinar isn’t as simple as putting together a slide deck and reading it aloud. People expect webinars to deliver real value, so you must ensure that yours is worth the time they spend watching it.
Choosing a topic, focusing on one idea, and setting a schedule are all important steps in planning your webinar.
Choose your topic
If you’re going to run a webinar, you should be an expert on the topic of your webinar. Whether you are running a webinar on how to calculate your consulting rate or how to cope with the economic effects of COVID-19, establish your credibility before doing anything else.
When I plan a webinar, I use the steps below to choose my topic:
- Determine the target audience’s pain points that could be solved with your product or service
- List the benefits attendees will get from your webinar.
- Decide what the purpose of the webinar is from a business perspective.
In other words: what problems do my customers have, what am I going to give them to help solve those problems, and what do I hope they will do as a result of my session?
If you’re stuck choosing a topic, it can be helpful to refer to Eventbrite. Search for Events around your industry. You should see a screen that looks something like this:
Focus on what events are well attended. This reveals what people find interesting. You might then choose to run a webinar on a similar topic.
Focus on one idea
The ideal length for a webinar is 30 to 45 minutes. Much longer and your audience will zone out, much shorter, and you won’t have time to deliver enough valuable information.
Since you will spend just a short amount of time with your audience, it’s tempting to bombard them with everything you’ve got. Resist the temptation! A single, focused topic is much better.
Again, consider your audience’s pain points and how your solution can help solve them. Your presentation should revolve around this topic, but it is not a sales pitch. Aim to teach your audience something of value.
Create Your Slide Deck
Whatever topic you ultimately choose, your next step is to create effective slides. Your presentation should be:
- Light on the text. A maximum of two short bullet points per slide is ideal. These are summaries or key takeaways, not the full text of everything you plan to say.
- Heavy on visuals. Illustrations, graphs, and infographics are much more engaging than walls of text.
- Tell your audience what they can expect if they stay, and what they’ll miss out on if they don’t. Remember: focus on value.
- A well-timed joke helps to break the pattern, keeping your audience’s attention. A balance of serious content and humor is key to a winning presentation.
- Easy to read. Use easy to read colors and fonts, and make sure your text is big enough to read comfortably on a laptop screen.
You don’t want your slides to end up looking like this:
Source: Learning Tree
Before you write your slide deck content, create a checklist of the main points you want to cover. This will ensure you don’t miss anything crucial. Remember that you will not have time to go into detail on every single point, so drill down into what is really the most important.
Once you’ve completed your slides, have a rehearsal. A dry run with a small audience – ideally online, but someone from your household will do – will help you spot where your presentation could be improved.
Set a schedule
Timing is important to maximizing attendance at your webinar. Many of your potential attendees are probably working from home, but they might be just as busy as they were in their offices – or even busier.
According to a study conducted by GoToMeeting, Thursday is the most preferred day for webinars, followed closely by Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is the worst weekday to hold a webinar because people are trying to finish their deliverables before the weekend, while Monday is often devoted to finishing pending tasks from the previous week.
This study also discovered that 11 AM and 2 PM are the best times for webinars. You won’t get much of an audience either at the start of the workday or after 3 PM. If you really must schedule a webinar outside of business hours, 8 PM is the best time. People are already done with dinner and are probably looking for something to do before bedtime.
Remember time-zones, too. The beauty of a webinar means that people are not bound by geographical location. Focus on where you expect the majority of your audience to be located, but consider potential attendees in other locations as well. Once you’ve selected a topic, scheduled your webinar, and planned your presentation, it’s time to move to the next step.
Promote your webinar
Promoting your webinar is the only way to make sure the right people know about it. Don’t be shy about promotion! Set aside a budget for promotion on Google Ads and Facebook.
Feature the webinar prominently on your personal and business social media accounts and your website or blog, making sure to include a link to the registration page. You can also tap into your existing email list, using free email providers to send a promotional mailing to your contacts.
You can also proactively expand your network and reach out to promote your webinar.
Make a list of organizations that might find your event useful, then use LinkedIn to find the relevant people. Be strategic: invite only people who are likely to gain real benefit from attending.
Cold emailing is a gamble. Your email might get ignored, or it might be deleted. However, you shouldn’t dismiss those who don’t register straight away – close to 60% of webinar attendees register less than a week before the event.
Host your webinar
Today’s the big day. You’ve rehearsed your content, polished your slide deck, and even chosen the perfect outfit and selected an appropriate webinar platform to host the event.
Now that you’re in front of the camera, you need to actually deliver the content effectively. This means you must exude confidence and expertise. To ensure you are at your absolute best, remember:
- Test your internet connection a day or two before to make sure everything is working as it should.
- Have back-up tech available if possible, just in case something goes wrong.
- Introduce yourself and tell your story in a few words. This establishes credibility.
- Give your audience the content you promised.
- Insert a bit of humor.
- Have a short Q&A session towards the end.
- Encourage your audience to send you an email if they have other questions.
- Announce the winner of your audience prize draw, if there is one.
- End with a call-to-action (CTA).
A great CTA might be a link to your squeeze page, where attendees can register to join your mailing list or receive your newsletter.
Source: Rally Recruitment Marketing
Making your webinar interactive is the key to keeping them until the end. Your attendees are likely looking for opportunities to interact with new people, especially as so many people are currently stuck at home and feeling isolated. So remember to include audience participation elements and to leave enough time for a Q&A session.
Follow up with your attendees.
You’ve finally delivered your webinar, given your audience the valuable information they came for and ended with a strong CTA. But your work is not finished yet! Follow-through is just as important as the webinar itself when it comes to converting attendees to customers.
The first 24 hours after the webinar are crucial for a few reasons.
First, it’s important to thank your attendees for showing up. Remote workers often follow a strict schedule to maintain productivity, so you must show your gratitude that they made the time to attend your webinar. You don’t want to be remembered as the person who droned on about your product for 45 minutes and then disappeared.
Second, the follow-up is a great opportunity to reiterate your CTA or to present another. For example, you might offer a limited-time promotional rate to webinar attendees at this stage.
Third, following up allows you to send your attendees a link to a recording or transcript of the webinar. This will keep your content fresh in their minds and allow them to return to it at their convenience. This is a great example of a follow-up email:
Source: Active Campaign
Finally, following up gives you the opportunity to solicit feedback. Was the content relevant and engaging? Should you have focused more on one area and less on another? Did you speak clearly? Were your slides engaging? User feedback is priceless as it gives you a direct insight into what your audience wants and how you can deliver it.
Treat your follow-up email as another part of your promotion – because it is. Using email templates for Gmail will help you create effective, engaging follow-up emails that result in click-throughs and conversions.
Bringing it all together
The best marketers see a challenge as an opportunity. COVID-19 is a challenge on a global scale, probably the biggest most of us have ever faced. But if you want to grow your business, you can’t afford to just sit at home, watching cat videos on your phone, and hoping that a cure comes along soon.
The good news is that while COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the world in profound and far-reaching ways, it has also opened up opportunities to think and act differently. The pandemic has forced millions of people to conduct both their work and personal lives online.
This means that right now, you have a captive audience at your fingertips. Your potential customers are both engaging online like never before and dealing with a host of new and unfamiliar pain points.
Many people are also using their time in isolation to learn new things and improve their skills. Webinars meet this need, as well as offering an opportunity for like-minded people to interact and share ideas. Creating a community around your webinars will help drive engagement, retain loyal customers, and pull in even more attendees for your next webinar.
So remember the key steps to running a great webinar:
- Choose a relevant and interesting topic that offers true value to your audience.
- Plan thoroughly, prepare interesting slides, and practice beforehand.
- Promote your webinar across all appropriate channels.
- Create a great landing page, which makes it easy to sign up.
- Present confidently and include humor.
- Include a Q&A and a chance for the audience to participate.
- End with a CTA.
- Follow up promptly.
Once you start doing webinars, you might be surprised at how quickly the momentum builds if you follow each of these steps.