15 Tips to Master Your Webinar Management
Your Step-by-Step Guide to organize a successful and memorable Webinar.
Brought to you by Stratecis Management Team.
Although Webinars existed since 2 decades, their use was limited to Universities, some NGOs, NMCs and small companies as an affordable and efficient medium to connect with clients and teams around the world. Since COVID19 outbreak started Virtual Events, Web Conferencing (including webinars) & Streaming became mainstream offering a temporary alternative to in-person live events, until further notice!
There are many platforms and service providers that make it easy for any organization to host a webinar or online meetings, even with limited technology expertise. Some prefer to use Meeting Video Conferencing platforms while others suggest a more specialized Webinar Platform or Stream their sessions on Social Media platforms. Both have great features with pros & cons – it all depends about the purpose and ultimate value aimed at creating from these virtual engagements.
Although streaming using YouTube etc.. is advisable but again it all comes back to the objective, but webinar portals and applications enable a more interactive experience especially for training, seminars and business-led sessions. Here, the audience can interact with the presenters/speakers, ask questions, engage with live polling, gamifications and provide instant feedback.
Managing large numbers of virtual attendees requires proper research, planning and coordination (similarly to any proper conference or seminar preparation). Noting that webinar solutions have different approaches to the management of participants. Eventually, depending on the nature of your meeting, topic, resources, objectives and staff - you can decide what suits you better.
In this document, we would like to share our experience with Webinars, so far, after managing and attending series of online for many years – and we will share what we captured from other professional platforms too to help you visualize the entire process. We will also share our extended experience in Hybrid models and Networking Marketplaces in our future edition.
What is a Webinar?
Webinar, as the name suggests, is a web-based seminar attended exclusively by participants from all over the world and is held via the internet using a video conferencing software in real-time. It is a term used to describe the online delivery of a seminar normally consisting of both audio and video content.
During a #webinar, the interaction is fully online and includes #polling, chatting and other text based instant messaging. Some technologies include functionalities that differentiate presenters/panelists from attendees.
TIP: Generating a link on #Zoom (for exmaple) and sharing with your contacts is not a webinar, this is a meeting amongst colleagues, friends or customers. A webinar demands proper organisation, research, promotion and follow up.
What is the difference between using Video Conferencing MEETING Features Vs specialized WEBINAR Features?
Tip: we experienced some out-of-control sessions through Video Conferencing in MEETING Features when some participants engaged in very abusive and unprofessional manners. This is something that can be better managed at the Webinar Platforms.
15 Tips on Mastering Your Webinar Management
Below, we'll outline the key steps you can take to plan a professional, memorable, value-driven and affordable webinars at your organization.
1. Ask Yourself Whether you need a Webinar or other form of online meeting
A webinar can be a powerful engagement, training and communication outreach tool, but the decision to use a particular format should be based on your goals and the needs of your customers and audience.
When determining whether a webinar is the best online event for your needs, consider:
● Your Stakeholders
● Your Community
● The subject matter.
● The time you'll need to cover your topic. Most online audiences tend to lose interest after about 90min.
While webinars work well for some topics, they're not suited to every discussion or training.
2. The #Content is King
Based on numerous event ROI studies and the countless events we organized in the last 25 years, the content is one of the single most important attributes of any conference – more so than the platform, the location, topic/theme, activities, duration, timing and even cost.
The webinar, like a physical conference, should: 1) be planned in advance, 2) have a great content and 3) should serve your audience or community, it is essential to research your topic and make a proper need assessment to understand what your community requires most.
When preparing your content, be conscious of the session duration and structure. For about 40 minutes of content, you need two sessions of 20 minutes with a ‘digital” break in between.
Know that the virtual experience works differently from the live experience in that there are multiple sources seeking the attention of your attendee (family, mobile, other screens, etc.). So try to make your content impactful by triggering emotions, using compelling visuals and music, etc. Also know that not all content needs to be delivered in one way, it can be repurposed and delivered in other forms (e.g. tips can be shared as slides).
3. Organisation & Management
Like any event, the agenda and how it is organised are both a necessity to keep the audience engaged for rewarding experience.
For a proper webinar management – depending on the number of panelists, sessions and topics, you need a team of:
· Content #Curator
· Presenter/Moderator and host
· Marketing & Outreach
· Virtual Meeting Organizer
· Assistant (s)
● The Content Curator is the person responsible for developing the webinar content, topics and identifying speakers. During the webinar, he/she may introduce presenters, interview the subject matter experts, trigger audience participation. The Curator, depending on the topic, needs roughly 10 to 20 hours of preparation per webinar.
● The Presenter/Moderator or Host could be the content curator him/herself but preferably, another subject expert with engaging conversational skills who can control the flow and balance the discussion. NOTE: Many webinars fail due to lack of moderation expertise.
● #Marketing & Outreach. Like any conference or event, a marketing specialist is needed to set up the registration, promote the event and communicate with participants before and after the webinar, on social media, e-mails, etc…
● The #Virtual #Meeting Organiser Ideally, the VMO should be able to concentrate their efforts on preparing and delivering the session. Working and selecting the webinar software, registration, troubleshooting, and other logistical details detracts from the presenters' ability to give an engaging presentation. Time commitment: eight to ten hours per hour-of-webinar.
● Assistant. Assistants are crucial members, as they help by answering questions that the organizer and the presenter don't have time for. Assistants are particularly helpful for answering technical and logistical questions ("I can't hear the audio," for example).
Experienced organizers often produce webinars without any assistance, but you should consider asking for help if you or your audience are unfamiliar with webinars and webinars’ tools; you plan to play a large role in the conversation (either as an interviewer or a participant). Time commitment: one to two hours per hour-of-webinar.
4. Determine the Format of Your Webinar
Below are some popular formats you might consider as a start:
N.B. Note that having a speaker/presenter trained or to be trained for video conferencing and how to best speak on camera is worth investing in.
5. Plan the Visuals for Your Webinar
Because webinars rely on audio and visuals to get the message across, both should be engaging and carefully planned. Plain slides with a lot of text don't work very well. Here are seven ways developed by Dulcey Reiter to make your presentations more engaging.
Some slides you may wish to include are:
Ø An introductory slide reminding your audience how to log in to the audio and what time the webinar will begin.
Ø A slide introducing each presenter, including job title, organization, and a photograph if available.
Ø A quick overview of the webinar agenda and the topics to be covered.
Remember to include a disclaimer slide for sensitive or controversial topics.
6. Pick the right Webinar Platform
Dozens of web conferencing tools exist but these are most common with Zoom being the most popular recently.
7. GOOGLE HANGOUTS.
For comparison and assessment, we referred to many blogs and webs – but we felt this one is quite comprehensive https://www.adamenfroy.com/best-webinar-software
7. Create a memorable experience
The experience at the end makes the difference. Make sure it’s engaging and try to spice it up with some special features and sometimes engage some of your attendees to take part at the discussion.
Polling questions are great to keep the audience engaged and part of the discussion. Moreover, it gives you data in a seamless way that you might usually need to put a lot of effort into collecting such data.
Do some digital break sessions - make your audience engaged with some wellbeing sessions; be creative and let your webinar be remembered. These can be live performances from DJs, comedians, instructor-led workouts, scavenger hunts or breathing and mindfulness exercises.
Another way to make sessions memorable is to have a virtual “photo booth” where attendees can take selfies with the name of the event and hashtag it on their SM.
You may also wish to use the services of a live scribe that can illustrate the takeaway message of the session very creatively. Takeaways and Tips: after 48 hours people tend to forget about the session, to make a memorable and valuable experience create main takeaways and tips slides. And later share it with your audience and use them in our social media post event campaign.
8. Plan ahead with your speakers
About 6-10 days before your webinar, hold a conference call with your speakers to determine:
● What questions you'll ask and the order in which the speakers will present. - the more the content is agreed on prior to the session, the less likely it is to have any unexpected issues arise during the session.
● Deadlines for materials. Ask presenters to send you slides or other visuals at least two to three days before the practice session so you have time to proofread and finalize the presentation.
● An agenda with the order of the speakers and the duration of each segment.
You also need to ask for their photo and bio. If you have designed a SM post, also remember to ask for their approval and encourage them to share it with their social networks.
Follow up this initial call with an email containing notes from your discussion.
9. Schedule a Dry Run (aka Practice Session)
A few days before your webinar, you should schedule at least one 30- to 60-minute run-through with all participants to work out any unresolved questions or technical issues.
Your practice session should cover the following:
● An introduction to the webinar tool and its features. Discuss how to use the tool and what features are available to the presenters. Also make sure everyone knows whom they should turn to if they have questions or problems during the webinar — and how they can reach them. Ask/inform your speakers about polling and agree on ways to answer audience questions.
● An equipment check. Ensure that all of your presenters' operating systems, browsers, headsets, and other equipment are compatible with the web conferencing tool. Most webinar tools let presenters and participants test their computer for compatibility before the event.
● A review of your agenda and visuals. Go over the agenda and move through the presentation to ensure that slides are in the right order and that speakers know where they come in.
A practice session is also a great opportunity to generate enthusiasm for the upcoming event and rally your presenters.
10. Reserve Your Equipment and Space
Regardless of the equipment you use, you will need a quiet space to conduct your webinar. Reserve a conference room or other space where there won't be background noise or interruptions. You will usually want to have the following equipment:
● Headsets. The organizer and all presenters will need headsets — telephone headsets if your webinar tool uses a phone bridge, or computer headsets if your tool uses integrated web audio. Never present a webinar using a speakerphone. Even in a quiet location, the audio quality is often poor.
● A power cord if you're using a laptop.
● A network cable to connect you directly to the network if you aren't using a wireless connection.
11. Set Up Registration and Decide How Much (or Whether) to Charge for Your Webinar
Before you begin marketing your webinar, determine what tool you will use to register attendees. Some online conferencing and webinar tools include built-in registration options Signing up participants using a separate event-registration tool is another like eventbrite and many other ticketing and event hosting platforms for an extended support.
You will also want to decide whether you will charge for your webinar — and if so, how much. Many fee-based webinars are in the $25 to $50 range, but others can be upwards of $200 per attendee.
With free webinars, you can expect that more than 50 percent of the people who sign up will fail to attend (like most free-to-attend conferences). One advantage of charging for your webinar is that it provides an incentive for participants to show up.
Participants will have higher expectations when they pay. The more you charge, the greater the expectation that you will deliver an engaging, well-produced webinar. If you plan to charge more than a small fee (for example, more than $25), make sure most or all of the following are true:
● You have a wealth of hands-on experience, you have an especially deep knowledge of the subject, or the topic is not well covered elsewhere.
● You have a lot of experience with training in general and online training in particular.
● You can collect payments easily.
● You plan to conduct webinars on a regular basis.
● You need to be able to grow your content
● You need to be able to continue to engage your audience in a variety of different ways
When you setup your registration link, make sure that it mentions the time zone of your operation.
Remember to setup and test confirmation and reminder emails (try to set these to one week, one day, and one hour before).
You may wish to send out an email campaign to all/some segments of your network, depending on the topic. You may also choose to design and send a personal invitation (a PDF to your attendees can be an option to consider but this might lead to junk folder sometimes)
As part of the setup, don’t forget to upload your polling questions on the platform and test them out in your practice session.
12. Publicize Your Webinar!
You will want to begin sending out information two to three weeks before the event. You should:
● Create an engaging, succinct description.
● Clearly convey the intended audience for the webinar
● Define your audience well – and avoid generalised topics (always remember your target audience and why you are organising the webinar)
Good places to advertise your event include your website, referrals through your partners and speakers’ social media pages, direct emails (are still the best), online event calendars, newsletters (online and printed), Twitter, Facebook, and at local events in your community. Try to have all your social media platforms buzzing - don’t rely on just one format. Don't forget to promote future webinars at the end of current webinars.
13. On the Day
Keep the troubleshooting manual handy for any technical issues. A few hours before the session, check from how many countries are the registrants and collect any questions from them to pass them on to the session moderator and speakers.
When the webinar is about to start, the host should turn off their camera and mute themselves, leaving only the moderator and panelist(s)/speaker(s) on screen. The host should then start the recording and broadcast live to all attendees. You may wish to livestream to FB and Youtube as well.
Once the session starts, the Moderator allow for a few minutes to allow ppl to join (play a digital break, ask people where they are tuning in from, how they are feeling, why did they join - or any other trigger questions to gauge their interest and pass the time)
The host(s) should manage, chat engagement, Q&A, extracting Questions from Q&A and sending the important ones to the moderator, alternate screen views between panelist and slide (spotlight feature on Zoom), launching polling and sharing results
During webinar, it is useful to take screenshots for sharing on SM.
Do You Want to Record the Webinars for Later Viewing & Promoting your session?
If so, ask how the webinar vendor handles recording and whether the vendor charges extra to make that recording available online. You also want to ask what exactly gets recorded. Some tools record the slides along with audio, but don't record the chat conversation or the desktop sharing. Vendors also vary in terms of how long they save the recording. Some delete it after a month, whereas others save it until you delete it yourself.
Do remember to inform your attendees and speakers at the beginning that the session is being recorded.
14. After the Day
After the webinar, collect the unanswered Q and A as well as questions in the chat and send them to the speakers- try to get them answered within 2 days and send them to the audience. It is important to not leave anyone feeling their questions unanswered or that they are not important.
Send the recording within 24h along with a thank you message and a useful document to help the audience remember the takeaway message of the session.
15. Hire Professionals so you can focus on your Mission
Like most conferences and events, there are companies specialised in managing top-class webinars and online events so you don’t get distracted from your mission or main job. We are happy to support you if needed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any assistance.
SOME EXTRA TIPS
Technical Issues - How to troubleshoot
Cisco 2020, “Troubleshoot Your Cisco Webex Meeting”, <https://help.webex.com/en-us/nq0gfqcb/Troubleshoot-Your-Cisco-Webex-Meeting#topic_0C5BCC8DF0BCA8B1E5CB7BDF18A3C059>, viewed May 6, 2020.
Zoom Video Communications, Inc., “Troubleshooting” <https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/sections/200305593-Troubleshooting>
Naji El Haddad