Tips for Hosting a Successful Webinar

Tips for hosting a successful Webinar
While perusing the Social Media for Nonprofits LinkedIn Group, I came across a discussion on what the best webinar platform is and why. Over the past year we’ve hosted and participated in many webinars and figured we’d share some of our knowledge from experience.

While we were looking at the hosting options we’ve used for our webinars, and exploring ones that we hadn’t, it became clear that the service selected plays a small role in the success of a webinar, but there are many other factors that will determine success. Below are some tips that we’ve implemented to increase the success of our webinars over the past year.

Tips for Hosting a Successful Webinar

Testing

Testing is key, especially if you have multiple speakers and presenters who are all in different locations. It is important that everyone who will be participating in the webinar perform a test prior to the big event. While schedules may not permit everyone joining and testing at the same time, doing a quick dry run with everyone before the event is useful, even if this isn’t their first webinar.

How many times have you been on a webinar to hear the hosts say something along the lines of “Just a minute folks, trying to pass the screen over to Johnny. Hey Johnny, you see it yet? Sorry for the technical difficulties!” While not all tech issues will present themselves in your dry run, many can be easily avoided.

So what should you be testing? Everything. Have all participants use the computers, headphones, phones and software that they will be using during your webinar to ensure everything works well together. Practice passing the presenter role back and forth, advance your slides, whatever you plan on doing during the webinar, you’ll want to test. This will help make everyone familiar with the service and boost their confidence for the big day. Another tip would be to have a ‘participant’ log in to see what it looks like from their perspective and ensure the audio is correct.

Promotion

Of course you’ll be promoting your event, but instead of just saying you’ll be emailing your list, it’s important to come up with full fledged plan. This includes sending out an email, writing a blog post (or two), crafting social media updates and more. Integrate this webinar with your other marketing initiatives and use this event to cross promote with your other initiatives (when it makes sense, of course).

Think outside the box a little bit with your promotion. Have a lot of employees in your organization? Have them add a link about the webinar to their email signature. Don’t have a huge social following? Reach out to some thought leaders in your industry and see if they won’t send out a tweet or two to get the word out about your webinar. Make sure that all of the participants in the webinar are using the same messaging as they promote this event to their networks as well.

When promoting your webinar online, be sure the date and time are front and center of your messaging. People want to be sure they are available to attend before signing up. Be consistent with the time zone you use. I always stick to using the Eastern Time Zone.

Follow Up

This is where I think many webinars tend to fall short. You spent hours preparing for the event, putting together an amazing presentation, and after promoting the event well you put on a great webinar to an active audience. Now what? Send out an email thanking everyone for attending?

Let’s take it a step further. Did you record the webinar? Add that video to YouTube, or Vimeo and update your sign up page allowing people to register for access to the video. While you’re at it, put the presentation online for others to take a look at and review. We’ve had great luck uploading our webinars to Slideshare with a link back to the registration page where viewers can still watch the entire video.

Lastly, repurpose the content into blog posts. You went through a ton of information in your hour long webinar, but take a look at your presentation and cut it down into smaller, digestible bites that would be perfect for your blog.

These are just a few things we’ve learned after hosting our webinars that have helped us take these events to the next level. Do you have additional tips you’d add to my list?

Monika McMahon

About Monika McMahon

Monika joined Heller Consulting after spending 8 years in the Boulder technology startup scene. She is an expert in Social and Digital marketing, adopting and implementing new (and old) platforms for organizations ranging from ecommerce, SaaS, and nonprofits. Monika not only understands how these platforms work but how to use them to meet business objectives. When she is not educating and sharing her online talents, she can be found enjoying the music scene in Denver.

8 comments

  1. I especially cling to the concept of making the content available post-webinar. With sometimes unexpected meeting schedules, sometimes you just can’t make it to the actual event – be sure to send the follow up email to all that initially signed up with a link to the recording or follow up info. Great post!

  2. I’m a big believer in scripting the time. Not to the point of reading from a script, but at least knowing how much time will be spent on each topic, what the major points to communicate are, who will be speaking, when the floor will open for questions and for how long, etc. When all presenters have this, the webinar flows well. Also I agree with Kirsten’s comment about a second pair of hands to act as the “producer” – handling the queue of questions, answering as many as possible, passing some to the moderator for discussion.

    • Yes! You’re correct and that is one thing I left out of the post above, but practicing what you will be saying is also very important. This isn’t the type of thing you can ‘just wing it’ but if people are going to take the time out of their day to attend, you should be sure you are prepared.

  3. I agree with Kirsten! Having someone other than the presenter run the Q&A portion can be really helpful. There are times when people are having technical issues and it can really derail the webinar if the presenter is trying to manage those questions as well. It can also be really distracting as a presenter to keep seeing questions pop up–you want to focus on the content you deliver.

    I have also found it useful to test out your timing. Have a schedule (down to 3 minute increments) of what you will cover when. Then in your practice run you can tell whether you will need more time for certain sections, or if the time you’ve allotted is enough.

    • I like the idea of breaking it down into 3 minutes, that way you aren’t scripting the whole thing, but can still easily see if you’re on schedule or if you need to speed up. Thanks for adding your input, Mary!

  4. Great tips, Monika! Particularly the idea of repurposing webinar content – it is so tempting to heave a sigh of relief once you get through a webinar but there are a lot of tidbits that can be used again for other audiences/channels. One more tip: for more technical webinars like our Accidental Admin training, we’ve discovered it’s key to have someone besides the moderator on hand for Q&A. More attendees means more questions, and having someone with technical chops who can answer questions quickly and flag for discussion is really helpful.

    • That is a great tip Kirsten! Having someone able to monitor the questions and comments coming in through the system, or even socially on Twitter if you’ve asked them to use a hashtag, would be very helpful. That way the presenter can stay focused on the webinar and the Q&A person can organize and combine questions to more efficiently answer all questions.

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