How to host a webinar

Webinars are one of the most effective one-off digital marketing channels for B2B brands in terms of your ROI and all of the assets you can harvest from them afterwards. Here’s a checklist for getting started hosting your own webinar.

Pick your tool

There are a lot of options out there for webinars – some free, most paid. If this is for a larger brand, err on the side of paid. The one I rely on most in 2017 is GoToWebinar because GoToMeeting has been solid for me for several years. WebEx is another one with a large portion of the marketshare but personally, the experiences I’ve had running and attending WebEx webinars haven’t been as reliable.

Even GoToWebinar has its snags. If you’re hosting a webinar, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Just plan for that mentally in advance.

Every year, there’s new tools that come about and others that fade away. Keep in mind that you want something reliable (you don’t want technical issues in the middle of your webinar), you want something where you can capture registrants’ information afterward and you want something with a recording feature – or if that’s not built in, some tool that can record instead. Everything else is just gravy.

Determine your goal(s)

What do you want to get out of the webinar? If you’re a B2B brand, is it more qualified leads? If you’re B2C, is it more awareness for your offerings?

For B2C, there’s a fine line between webinars and your videography strategy. Facebook Live and Instagram Live may be great, mini-webinar-esque platforms for a nontraditional webinar approach.

Regardless, some good goals to consider for a webinar include:

  • Greater brand awareness
  • X number of email addresses to flow into an email marketing campaign
  • Customer acquisition – X number of new, qualified leads
  • Customer retention

We’re also specifically talking about free webinars in this instance as a lead-gen tool. Paid webinars are another topic entirely.

Determine your audience

Based on the goal you’ve set and linked to this webinar, what sort of audience do you need to reach? Think on the people you want to attend or, more importantly, sign up to attend the webinar.

Choose the topic and presenter(s)

This may seem pretty late in your steps to be choosing your topic and who will present but I promise – trying to do this without having the other pieces in place makes this very difficult. Many companies want to offer webinars but they choose to offer what they may feel like doing on a whim without regard to the other components.

Or what tends to happen even more is a company says “I really want to offer a webinar” but because it’s such a huge, blank slate and seems like a formidable task, they never do it.

When you’re choosing your topic and who will present the webinar, think about those previous questions. What are the goals? Based on the goals, who’s the target audience – who do you want to attend? What do you want them to get out of the experience? What sort of problems do they face that you can help solve? Framing the choice of the topic based on these questions will help make this effort worthwhile in the long run.

Set a promotion plan

You’ll want to promote the webinar before and afterwards. Different promotion options include:

  • Creating blog post(s)
  • Sharing the sign-up information on social media
  • Sending out emails to your existing lists
  • Running a paid campaign on professional sites, like LinkedIn
  • Running a paid AdWords campaign, if you’re savvy enough with AdWords

If you’re using GoToWebinar or another paid service, you’ll want to send notifications to the people who signed up typically a day and an hour in advance. This helps the webinar be a bit more top of mind, but as we’ll note, it doesn’t particularly matter if they even show.

Remember the request to find a tool that has recording capabilities? During the webinar, you’ll want to remember to record it (or better yet, ask someone else to own that task) and afterwards, you’ll want to send out a recording to the sign-ups. This is why it doesn’t truly matter if they attend the day-of (unless you’re counting on audience participation for your webinar, which is risky).

Do a dry run

Yes, it takes time. But do it. It’s worth it. Don’t question me on this. 🙂

Accept that most people won’t show up

Too many companies get caught up on who attends the day-of and get very focused and very nervous on this. Depending on your goals, it typically won’t matter. If you’re using this primarily as a lead-gen tool, you’ve already gotten their information for signing up and learned that they’re interested in what you have to say.

So who cares if they can’t carve out 30 or 60 minutes to actually attend? They’ll probably watch the recording you send instead. And even if they don’t, they’ve shown that they want more information in some way, shape or form.

Don’t let the attendee count get to you. The rate as of 2017 is that 20-50% of your registrants will actually show up.

Remember that plan?

Stick with it. If you say you’re going to send out the recording, don’t forget to do that. Try not to promise that it will be up within 48 hours or within a set period of time because it’s a task that always falls to the wayside for smaller companies (and sometimes even larger ones).

Deep breaths. Webinars can be stressful. Stick to the plan you set for yourself for running it and promoting it, make sure you do a dry run and go for it!