Following the overwhelming postponement of nearly every in-person event around the globe, webinars and virtual events have naturally seen a massive uptick in 2020. In a recent study, ON24 reported a 330% year-over-year increase in the number of webinars hosted in March.

This makes sense. With fewer opportunities to engage audiences at events or conferences and a growing work-from-home culture normalizing virtual meetings, webinars offer brands a logical next step in shifting their event marketing plan – and a massive opportunity to reach and engage new leads.

The same report from ON24 found 69% of marketers begin planning webinars three months in advance. While this may seem like a long lead, there’s plenty to be done between webinar conception and actualization if you want your webinar to truly make an impact.

At Franco, we’ve hosted and prepared numerous webinars for a wide variety of B2B and B2C clients. Whether you’re interested in discussing macro, trend-based concepts (like Franco Vice President of Strategy Nikki Little did during her recent webinar on authenticity in digital marketing), or specific, tactic-based content for a niche audience (like this recent webinar for the National Auto Dealers Association we created for client automotiveMastermind), we’re well-versed on how to maximize the impact of your virtual event.

Here’s a six-step process to prepare, plan and promote your next webinar:

1. Plot Your Approach

Webinars can be time-intensive to produce and promote, but with hard work comes great reward. In a survey by InsideSales.com, 73% of business leaders said webinars were one of the best ways to generate quality sales leads. Before committing to developing a webinar, first take the time to ensure this is a worthwhile endeavor for your organization.

First and foremost, ask yourself, “What am I hoping to gain from this webinar?” and second, “Is a webinar the best way for me to achieve this goal?” If you’re able to clearly answer those two questions with specific and quantifiable answers, you’re ready to proceed with developing your plan.

Compile a list of additional considerations spanning from platform to subject matter experts (SMEs) to help you pave your content development plan, such as:

  • Who is the audience for this webinar?
  • What do we want them to learn?
  • How will we promote the webinar to get attendees?
  • Where will this webinar live?
  • How much time do we need to develop the webinar content and design?

2. Identify Your SMEs

After determining what you want to talk about, it’s time to determine who in your organization is best suited to speak to the topic. This doesn’t have to be one person, per say. Panels or Q&A sessions are a great way to incorporate more than one SME or to support speakers by pairing them with other SMEs with complementary strengths.

Speakers can make or break a webinar – so picking the right person (or persons)  is critical. When choosing speakers, consider a person’s expertise and current bandwidth, paying particular attention to their:

  • Previous experience and expertise
  • Time management
  • Workstyle and ability to collaborate
  • Bandwidth and availability
  • Public speaking skills
  • Skill in conveying passion and energy via video
  • Ability to adapt and improvise, when necessary

3. Create Captivating Content

Once you determine your topic and who is going to present it, you’re ready to begin creating content. Work with your chosen SME to develop a webinar outline that speaks to their strengths and includes an agenda of clearly defined audience takeaways.

Be sure your webinar outline covers the basics, including:

  • Speaker introduction: Who they are, what they do and what makes them qualified to present the topic.
  • Setting the scene: Information or stats that give context or demonstrate the importance of the topic.
  • Key takeaways: Clear and concise lessons that audiences will learn during the webinar. We recommend breaking each takeaway into its own section with a few supporting slides.
  • Final thoughts: Reiterate the key takeaways from the presentation and the supporting statements.
  • Q&A: Don’t forget to ask for audience feedback. Consider drafting “planted” questions that can be asked by another member of your organization to get the conversation rolling.

From here, assess your outline and identify any opportunities where visuals could help illustrate your message. Consider inserting strong images, infographics or short videos throughout the presentation to keep audiences engaged.

4. Attract Attendees

A webinar’s success is dependent on getting the right people in attendance. Meaning, you need people to sign up – which requires creating an effective and user-friendly registration page.

With a plethora of webinars increasingly available, yours needs to stand out from the crowd to get audiences to register and attend. When setting up your registration page, ensure your content includes:

  • A catchy, thought-provoking headline
  • Key details including date, time and session length
  • Speaker details and a personable headshot
  • A bulleted list of webinar takeaways
  • A strong CTA to register and attend

Once people register, ensure your confirmation page includes an option for registrants to share the session with their colleagues on social networks like LinkedIn to expand your reach even further.

Further promote your registration page across your owned and shared audiences, including your social media channels, email  lists and your website. Ensure your promotional messages draw upon your webinar’s key takeaways and emphasize to your audience what’s in it for them if they attend.

5. Set Yourself Up for Success

Leading into the final days ahead of your webinar, ensure your presenter is prepared to speak to the deck – and ready to adapt to any curve balls thrown their way. Run through the webinar deck in its entirety (more than once!) and note any inconsistencies or needed improvements in presentation or timing.

During your dry-run, ensure your presenter is comfortable and well-versed on any needed software or technology components. Test any video or animations and run through how to adapt if something goes wrong.

If faced with a challenge on-air such as a frozen video or getting stumped during the audience Q&A, a quick recovery is key. When in doubt, have your presenter remember these three steps:

  1. Stay calm: Take a deep breath and focus on maintaining a consistent speed and tone in your speech.
  2. Keep communicating: Avoid dead air by navigating your way back to plan. If a video doesn’t play, explain the content and transition to why you wanted to show that content. If you can’t answer an audience question, redirect the conversation to a topic you’re able to confidently speak to.
  3. Move on: When in doubt, get back to the topic at hand. Don’t spend time fussing over videos that won’t play or fuddling through a convoluted answer – move on. A small stumble is quickly forgotten when followed up with strong recovery.

6. Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Ride the momentum of a successful webinar and seal the deal with strong follow-up communications. Segment your lists according to attendees and no-shows and tailor your outreach accordingly.

Send both attendees and no-shows a recording of the webinar and slides with messaging that encourages them to take another step in engaging with your organization. Consider creating supplemental materials such as downloadable guides or case studies to share more great content related to what you discussed during the webinar in hopes of converting attendees to leads.

Finally, don’t forget to collect audience feedback via surveys and questionnaires – and to apply that feedback to improve future webinars.

Get Started With Our Comprehensive Planning Checklist

Ultimately, a webinar’s success hinges on successful planning, spanning from user-friendly registration pages and promotional marketing to content development and follow-up emails.

Does your organization need help producing your next webinar? Our team is experienced and ready to assist  in every aspect of successful webinar planning and content development  – from start to finish.

Reach out to learn more.

Lexi Trimpe is a Senior Digital Account Executive at Franco. Connect with her on LinkedIn