Webinars are a great way to establish thought leadership, capture new leads, nurture existing contacts and customers, and generate revenue. This is evidenced by the rise of webinars as a marketing strategy.
But as more marketers turn to online education and consumers' attention spans continue to shorten, it’s going to take killer content and execution in order for your initiatives to rise to the top. So, how do you make your webinars stand out and provide true value to participants? Below are seven tips to start kicking your marketing webinars up a notch.
1) Offer Exclusive Information and Resources
For truly stellar content, really dig deep into your knowledge repertoire for the best you have to offer. I recommend sharing exclusive information and resources with attendees that they can’t get anywhere else. Think original research, sneak peeks, downloadable resources, and more. When preparing your content, ask yourself: Is this something that is worth an hour (or more) or someone’s time, or can this information be retrieved from a simple Google search? Base your presentation on the former.
A good webinar example of this is "The Science of Timing." Presented by HubSpot’s social media scientist, Dan Zarella, the webinar provided so much original research that it drew nearly 25,000 sign-ups. Take the time to develop something of value, and attendees are sure to follow.
2) Incorporate Engaging Guest Presenters
Webinars have a tendency to get monotonous when one person does all the talking. Give yours some flavor by incorporating knowledgeable, engaging guest presenters. The result: additional viewpoints, opinions, and experiences — all of which will create a more valuable experience for the attendee.
Experiment with different formats such as Q&A, roundtable discussions, and live debates to see which format resonates best with your target audiences.
3) Implement Immersive and Interactive Material
Think back to your college days. The best courses weren’t those in which you listened to the professor babble for two hours straight. Rather, the greatest value came from those in which you and your classmates were highly engaged and involved in the discussions. Not passive observers, but active participants. The same goes for webinars.
Don’t discredit the benefits of using chats, polls, tests, on-demand resources, and more to get attendees involved in the content being presented. Almost all webinar technology today has functionality built in to perform these types of tasks; use it to guide conversations and future content.
4) Foster Peer Interaction and Learning
Aside from a follow-up email or two, most webinars are over as soon as you close your browser. But, this doesn’t have to be the case. By pairing social networking technology with online educational initiatives, you can continue the conversations beyond the initial session, enable real-time collaboration, and stimulate peer interaction and learning.
For your next webinar, give attendees a place to meet one another, discuss topics presented, share ideas and experiences, and learn from the group. This is an element that is missing in many of today’s webinars, but if implemented correctly, it can add tremendous value to your educational initiatives. This could be as simple as establishing and sharing with attendees a unique webinar-specific hashtag through which they can engage in conversations about the content on Twitter.
In fact, our upcoming Client Services Series for agency professionals plans to do just that by launching a private Yammer community for attendees. Here, participants can share their own unique insight, experiences and resources, and engage in ongoing dialogue with peers long after the sessions have ended.
5) Evolve Curriculum Based on Feedback
In face-to-face learning experiences, instructors often tweak their presentations based on feedback, questions, overall comprehension, and insight. Successful webinars should do the same as a way to keep the information presented relevant and interesting to attendees. Use social networking and survey technologies to gather real-time and post-event feedback on content, and then use this to adapt future webinars.
If you're hosting a webinar series, consider updating curriculum based on attendee insight from past sessions -- similar to a choose-your-own-ending book. This will make people more involved in the process, and therefore, more invested in your presentations.
6) Sweeten it With Social Elements
Make your webinar a social event. We already mentioned the importance of creating a Twitter hashtag to give attendees a centralized way to connect about the content you're presenting. But don't just leave it at that. In addition to your presenter(s), be sure to assign a moderator who can manage the discussions, live tweet key points, answer attendee questions, prompt others for their experiences, and encourage engagement. Furthermore, share links to your presenter(s)' social networking accounts so attendees can connect with and ask questions post-webinar.
And social media participation doesn’t have to be limited just to Twitter. Get creative. If another network makes more sense for your audience, brainstorm ways to integrate that as well.
7) Make it Convenient and Accessible
Just because your webinar is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, doesn't mean that everybody will be able to attend during that specific time slot. Consider that some people may live in a different time zone, have a meeting scheduled, or another commitment in place.
When planning, strive for easy accessibility and flexibility by offering options, such as multiple times of day, on-demand access, or iTunes streaming. Varying formats lets people participate when it’s convenient to them -- and when they can give you their full, undivided attention. Futhermore, by recording your live webinar and offering an archived version, you'll be creating a more long-term lead generation asset that can be accessed long after your live event ends.
What are you doing to make your webinars compelling and valuable for attendees? Have you attended any standout webinars that took a unique approach to online education?
This is a guest contribution from Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer), the CEO of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency. He is the author of The Marketing Agency Blueprint (Wiley, December 2011) and the creator of Marketing Agency Insider, a hub for marketing agency resources and education.