Webinars are some of the most effective and convenient content experiences available today. They’re powerful tools for connecting, interacting and delivering real-time content to an audience around the globe. If you already harness webinars to deliver your content—or if you want to—here is how to host a successful webinar.
Is a webinar the right fit?
Some content is better suited to the webinar format, like:
- A detailed examination of a niche topic from a fresh angle
- A panel discussion of a timely, news-based issue in your industry
- A thorough, example-driven how-to tutorial
- An adaptation of a presentation from a conference speaking engagement
- An interview with an industry thought leader
On the other hand, the following content probably wouldn’t make for a compelling webinar:
- A minor product release or update
- A news-based webinar with little or no new information/opinion
- A broad, “content thin” webinar on a general topic
- A webinar focusing on a tired idea or concept (e.g. “content is king”)
- An intentional sales deck/product pitch
Choose your webinar flavors
Like ice cream and coffee, webinars have flavors, which depend on your content theme, audience, and call-to-action
Thought leadership: Industry experts sharing their expertise or internal experts sharing case studies or best practices. Ideal for brand awareness
Educational: Educating your audience on a product or service that solves a problem
Solution: Generate awareness around one or more solutions that your product offers that your target audience is not yet aware of
Demonstration: A product or service demo that shows the product or explains its benefits
Training: Provides training your audience needs on a product, service or process
How to produce a successful webinar
Choose the right platform
- When choosing a webinar platform, consider:
- Webinar goal(s)
- How many webinars you plan to produce
- How critical branding and customization are
- Audio/video options
- Recording options
- Engagement tracking
- Interactive functionality
- Mobile access
Set the team early
Developing and running an effective webinar takes a small army, so determine internal stakeholders from the get-go. Meet with them early to outline roles and responsibilities. The team may include the creative team, subject matter experts, content and demand generation, to name just a few. Create a detailed task list and ensure the team is aware of their deliverables.
Determine the topic
General topics are dead—they don’t produce epic webinars! Instead, choose a highly specific content idea that you can explore in great detail. This will make it easier to focus the topic and minimize going off on tangents.
Choose the right presenter
You need a skilled, knowledgeable and engaging expert to host your webinar, so ensure potential hosts knows the topic inside and out and is comfortable talking on camera. Subject matter expertise is also vital for fielding unexpected questions.
Select the format
The complexity of your subject, availability of qualified speakers and your audience are all factors in deciding the right format. Consider:
- Will the webinar be hosted by a single presenter or a panel?
- Will there be a slide deck, video or both?
- Will it be an interactive Q&A?
Create a presentation deck
Back up your points with as much data and evidence as possible, and make it entertaining. Images should be easy to read and visually engaging—whenever possible, make your point with pictures, not words. Use a single template even if there are multiple speakers and avoid the trap of designing your images for a large projection screen—your audience may be watching from a mobile device.
Remember, your deck should strengthen and emphasize the points you intend to make in your script—it should not be the script itself.
Write your script
Talking about something for up to an hour, even if it’s something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, is hard work. A script will help you stay on topic and make keeping track of time much easier.
Find the right delivery space
Find a quiet room with a door so you won’t be disturbed and outside noise will be minimized. If you’re hosting your webinar from a home office, ensure your kids/pets/neighbors won’t interfere or make any noise during the webinar. Turn off notifications on your computer, cell phone and anything else that could be distracting.
Webinar best practices
Practice, practice, practice
Practice until you have purged every stammer, “uhh” and “err” from your vocabulary. Even the most skilled expert sounds amateurish when a message has no focus or drive. Time your practice so you don’t end up having to rush through the last ten slides.
Record a test webinar
Don’t assume everything will go smoothly during the live webinar. Test your equipment first and do at least one run-through several days before the live event to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and that the equipment works properly. ALWAYS do a dry run, no matter what. Even if your speakers don’t want to—just do it.
Use the right microphone
Use a headset, external microphone or landline phone, because few things will ruin a webinar faster than poor-quality audio. Don’t rely on the built-in mic in your laptop—the audio may be distorted or faint. And even the most reliable internet connection can fail, so use a land line to be safe.
Enlist a technical assistant/moderator
During the webinar, presenters need to be focused on delivering a great presentation. The last thing you or them should worry about is technical problems, so enlist an assistant who can handle technical issues real-time, moderate comments and do other tasks that could distract the presenter.
Don’t be that person who makes everyone wait in awkward silence for a webinar that should have started five minutes ago. Be prepared and ready to go at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time so you can get things going promptly and you’ll feel more relaxed when it’s time to start.
- Don’t spend more than 30 seconds on housekeeping—it’s not content and your audience came for the content. Once the audience is bored, they’ll move on to checking their email and won’t be engaged when the true content begins.
- Don’t talk about yourself first. Again, the audience came for the content. A brief introduction (30 seconds or less) can be useful, but link to your bio or put contact info at the end.
- Don’t ignore your audience. The entire point of a live webinar is to interact with the audience and allow participation. Try not to go more than seven minutes without acknowledging the audience.
- Don’t allow more than three seconds of silence. While three seconds may not sound like a long time, when you take away a speaker’s physical presence, the audience is left with the voice—no facial expressions or body language. Sound connects the audience to the content.
Accept that something may go wrong. No matter how much you prepare, things can go wrong, so don’t stress out too much. It’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality, but the more prepared you are, the smoother and more effective your webinar will be.