Creating a webinar is one of the best ways to engage with potential customers in an increasingly remote world.
Since the rise of remote work, people rely on technology for education and social interaction more than ever. This means more Zoom meetings instead of in-person meetings, more walks to a home office instead of commutes to a high-rise, and of course, more webinars instead of live events.
The B2B webinar platform BrightTalk reported a 76% increase in video, webinar, and virtual events uploaded to their platform from March to June 2020. From April 2019 to April 2020, ON24 saw a 167% increase in monthly usage of its webinar platform. If there was ever a time to create a webinar, it’s now.
Are webinars dead?
In a word: no. While webinars may seem outdated, especially compared to social media trends that emphasize brevity over substance, they have proven to be invaluable in the time of social distancing.
It wasn’t always this way. A few years ago, we were afraid that webinars were a thing of the past. While nearly half of consumers reported wanting to see more videos in the future, we found that “Research content” and “Online courses,” both of which would fall under the webinar umbrella, ranked at the bottom.
However, the majority of companies are moving toward a telecommuting model, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. The new “working from home economy” guarantees that webinars remain a cornerstone of companies’ marketing and sales strategies.
Because companies are turning to webinars to replace their live events, the market is experiencing an over-saturation. It’s even more difficult to make your virtual event stand out from the pack. Luckily, HubSpot and GoToWebinar teamed up to bring you the ultimate webinar planning kit that can help you create a compelling, effective webinar.
Ready to host an online event that will engage potential customers and drive lead generation? Follow these steps to make a great webinar that works in 2021.
1. Brainstorm the right topic.
Before you can get started on making your webinar, you'll have to decide the topic you want to speak about.
The topic you choose should answer questions that your audience typically asks and preferably be highly specific. For example, if you're hosting a webinar on email marketing, you can choose to focus on subject lines in particular.
Overall, your webinar should provide value to your audience. Think about your company as a whole and your unique value proposition. What topics are you an expert on? What topics can you provide value on? Consider choosing an educational topic, as this type of content performs really well.
Align the topic with the goal of your sales team. A successful webinar hinges on sales and marketing alignment. If the marketing team creates content that isn’t helping their sales conversations, it won’t be a successful effort for driving high-quality leads to sales.
Luckily, you have experts at your disposal for coming up with content ideas that will actually compliment and aid the sales conversation: the reps themselves.
Instead of guessing what your sales team might want a webinar to be focused on, ask them. Get reps' buy-in for a webinar before you plan it. Set up a meeting to discover new content ideas and to find out what pain points they need to help solve. This will go a long way for ensuring sales' follow up with registrants is seamless once the webinar is over.
2. Choose a webinar format.
When considering how to structure your webinar, you have countless options. Panel discussions, Q&A’s, single-speaker presentations, and interviews are the four most common types. Other formats include product demos and case studies.
For panel discussions, you can invite industry experts to discuss a niche, current topic within your industry.
For Q&A’s, you need only the product experts in your team to answer your customers’ questions.
Interviews are also a great choice. You can either choose an industry expert or a current customer to interview them on their experience with your company.
3. Pick a webinar tool.
There are many webinar hosting platforms you can use to create your webinar. Popular platforms include ClickMeeting, GoToWebinar, and Zoom.
When you're researching a tool to use, consider your objectives. How many people do you think will attend? Do you need a tool that could allow over 1,000 attendees? How much does it cost? And how easy is it to use? These are questions that you should look into when deciding on what webinar tool to use.
Additionally, you'll want to make sure the tool can handle the type of webinar you want to host — can it handle video chatting for panels or Q&A webinars? The right tool for you will depend on the overall objectives of your event.
4. Assign roles to your team members.
After choosing the platform, you want to assign roles in your team. Typically, you’d need to choose four people:
The organizer handles all facets of planning, from ideation to content creation. They are usually the primary contact in the webinar platform.
The presenter is the subject matter expert, either on your team or in the industry, who’s going to present on the topic you’ve chosen.
The moderator is required for panel discussions, but not for single-speaker presentations. This person will help stimulate conversation for panel participants. You can also assign a moderator if you expect to receive a lot of questions from attendees.
Assistants are the team members who are at hand in case of a tech or another type of emergency. If there’s no sound, an assistant can step in to resolve this problem. Like moderators, assistants can also manage the chat box during the event.
5. Produce the content.
Once you find a tool and you know the topic you want to present on, it’s time to create the content depending on the type of webinar you want to host. Will it be a PowerPoint and talking head presentation? Or perhaps you want to do a live panel Q&A? Either way, you'll have to produce the content and prepare for the big day.
For example, if you're creating a PowerPoint, you'll need to create your slide deck. Make sure that the slides emphasize your points, but don't include a script. These slides should be visually appealing and include interesting graphics, such as images or GIFs.
If you're hosting a discussion-style webinar, plan out your speakers, gather audience questions, and prepare any other questions you might have so you can prioritize your time during the webinar.
6. Select the right day and time.
To select a time and date for your webinar, you'll want to consider where your audience lives. Use tools like Google Analytics to see where people are, so you can choose a convenient day and time zone.
ON24 reports that Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to host webinars, with 11 AM being the best time. Another popular time is 10 AM. Both are great for a wide range of time zones, and should avoid most commute times or work hours. Typically, these times avoid conflicts for the greatest number of people.
However, if your audience is solely in the United States, then you wouldn't need to worry about global time zones. Instead, you can focus on planning a time when most people aren't commuting. For example, early afternoon or after work hours are generally good times.
7. Practice your webinar before the event.
Practice is essential for a successful webinar. Many things can go wrong on the day of the event, but by preparing, you can avoid technological mishaps.
Practicing can also help you get acquainted with the platform if you’ve never used it before.
We highly encourage creating a fake event on your webinar platform. Publish it, send a link to another one of your team members, and practice as if it was a real webinar. Your team member would watch it as an attendee, which would tell you what the presentation looks like on the other end.
8. Promote your webinar.
Now that you've done the backend work, it's time to ensure you have people who want to attend.
To promote your webinar, you can create a landing page where people can sign up and then distribute and promote that link in several ways.
For example, consider running ads through social media and search engines. Additionally, you'll want to use free promotion tactics — you can post on your own accounts, on your website, and send an email to your subscribers. It's important to use your own follower base to get people interested.
Reminder emails are also helpful. Consider sending "Don't Miss Out" or "Seats Are Filling Up" emails as the day gets closer.
And when people do sign up, you'll want to remind them leading up to the day. You should send them the webinar link about an hour before so it's top of mind, and they don't have to go looking for the link in their registration email.
9. Follow-up with your audience.
Webinars are obviously a great sales opportunity, and you don't want people to leave your webinar and never think of you again.
That's why you'll want to send them a thank you email and gather feedback from attendees so you can plan better webinars in the future.
Remember that attendees generally like to have a recording. If you send them a link to the recording afterwards, they don't have to take fervent notes during the webinar. This also means you can send it to registrants who wanted to attend but weren't able to.
Once you’ve come up with relevant content topics for your webinar and set up the event, it’s time to get that webinar in front of as many eyes as possible.
With webinars, it’s not just about generating initial excitement; you have to build excitement and encourage engagement once the webinar goes live.
1. Set up a search-engine optimized landing page.
The first step in your webinar promotion strategy is to create an optimized landing page that can organically jumpstart registrations.
This landing page should have a target keyword in the title, a sign-up form, and optimized copy. Ideally, the form should integrate with your other marketing and sales tools, automatically turning registrants into contacts or prospects.
2. Promote your webinar to current subscribers and contacts via email.
Now that you have a landing page to direct users to, it’s time to target your first attendees: people who already know about your company and customers who have engaged with you in the past.
After sending a personalized email to your contacts, take the following steps:
Create automated email reminders that will be sent to prospects who have been invited but not yet registered.
Create manual email templates reps can send in their one-on-one communication with prospects.
Set up an automated email to notify reps when one of their prospects has registered for your webinar. This will help them engage and close those prospects down the road.
3. Promote your webinar via LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
LinkedIn is an excellent platform to promote webinars. Webinars are usually created for other businesses, and LinkedIn is the ultimate B2B marketing platform.
LinkedIn now has an option for virtual events, which allows you to add the webinar access link. Registrants can also jumpstart discussions on the event page, giving you potential topics to address during the presentation or Q&A.
You can also advertise the webinar through display ads on Google, Instagram, and Facebook, though we encourage keeping the bulk of your investment on LinkedIn.
4. Send reminder emails to registrants.
Once you’ve gotten registrants, that doesn’t mean they’ll show up. After all, if you promote a webinar one to two weeks in advance, a portion of your registrants are likely to forget when the live date comes around.
Remember to send out reminder emails the day before and day-of the live event to ensure a high live attendance rate.
5. Offer a certificate of completion, professional development hours, or continuing education credits.
An easy way to entice registrations is to offer something in return. Certificates of completion, PDHs, and CEUs are credentials that attendees will want to receive after the webinar. This also entices people to stay until the end.
Certificates of completion can be offered to virtually any professional. Industries such as engineering, architecture, software engineering, and marketing require professionals to continue their training after starting their careers.
6. Consider co-marketing the webinar.
Try your hand at co-marketing. One of the best ways to get new expertise, generate interest for a piece of content, and expand the reach of a campaign is to run a co-marketed webinar.
Instead of running a webinar with speakers internally, try working with another company that’s going after a similar buyer persona and bring their expertise into the conversation.
Doing so creates more interesting content and gives you the opportunity to get your webinar in front of another company’s established audience.
7. Survey participants after the webinar.
The only way to get better is to know how you can improve. By sending an after-event survey, you can refine your next webinar. Hosting a better event can help you confidently market it to prospects.
In this survey, you can include a link to the next webinar that you’re hosting, driving registrations for that event.
8. Deliver necessary information to sales.
A huge part of the pre- and post-webinar process is making sure the right information gets delivered to sales. That’s why GoToWebinar and HubSpot recommend creating one webinar hub that’s easily accessible by sales with the following information:
On-demand recordings of all webinars.
A calendar with past and future webinars.
Documentation that details the webinars goals, title, target persona, funnel stage, key points, speakers and logistics.
Promotional and follow-up emails.
Collection of graphic and text CTAs sales reps can drop into their communications.
Mechanism to collect suggestions from sales reps for new topic suggestions and general feedback.
Once the webinar is done, however, it’s time to make sure the sales reps are ready to close those leads. Send a follow up email to your reps and include the following information:
Leads who registered
Leads who attended
Leads who registered but didn’t attend
Leads who never registered
New SQL leads from post-webinar lead scores
Any other relevant webinar data
Send email templates sales can use to send to leads based on their webinar behavior. Include other relevant content they can use to continue to nurture leads in the coming weeks.
Putting the extra effort in will go a long way toward making sure the webinar is a success from both a sales and marketing standpoint.
Useful Webinar Creation Tips
Not sure how to set your webinar apart from the rest? No worries.
Single-speaker presentations are admittedly overdone. In a time when webinars are ubiquitous, it’s even more important to use different tactics to engage your viewers.
Think about ways to mix up how the information in your webinar is presented. Here are some tips:
Discussion-style webinars work really well. We’ve found that unscripted, discussion-style webinars to be quite effective at engaging our audience. In many of our live events, we’ve foregone the slides completely and instead brought two speakers together and had a host ask live questions on air. It’s effective for both encouraging Twitter participation via a hashtag and keeping the content conversational, but informative.
Answer your customers’ questions throughout the event. Try building a webinar around your prospects' questions. Send a call for questions to be answered live on-air. This will help build engagement and excitement for what’s to come. Hopefully, the people asking questions will be more likely to show up day-of too.
Engage prospects beforehand by adding interactive features in the webinar sign-up page. You can also use a landing page, like this, that includes a voting feature for people to upvote their top questions. This will also help you prioritize the material your audience is most interested in.
According to ON24, 68% of marketers say webinars are one of the best ways to tie marketing activity to revenue. Webinars can also help generate quality leads. Why?
They are highly engaging. According to GoToWebinar, the average webinar attendee viewing time is 57 minutes.
They work across the entire customer journey. From thought-leadership panel discussions to weekly live demos, webinars are a dynamic and effective way to move prospects down the funnel from awareness to closed deal and beyond.
They generate high-quality leads for sales. Webinars come with a ton of information about your prospects that you can use to identify high-quality, sales-ready leads. With each webinar registrant, you can collect lead and engagement data that your sales team can use to initiate personalized outreach.
They bring consumers to you for a variety of reasons. 27% of consumers watch a webinar that teaches them more about a passion or a hobby, while 24% reported watching webinars for the entertainment value. 18% of consumers watch webinars to further their knowledge about their profession. Nearly a quarter reported watching webinars for all of the above.
They give you the opportunity to teach something specific about your product or the industry. 30% of consumers report feeling more engaged when a webinar teaches them something new. And when it’s about your product, it’s safe to assume that they’re highly interested in converting.
They’re seeing an increase in attendee conversion. ON24 reported a 61% increase in registrant-to-attendee conversion in April 2020. In 2019, it was 55%.
We know planning and promoting a webinar can be difficult if you've never done it before. That's why we've compiled a guide, template, and checklist for you to get your webinar off the ground — whether it's your first or fortieth. Click here to download the kit for free.
It's All About Alignment
Webinars are seeing a timely resurgence. They’re not just an effective marketing tool; they’re also effective sales tools — but only if your sales team has the information, content, and tools to use them to move prospects down the funnel and close deals.
Creating the kind of alignment you need to make this all a success isn’t easy. That’s why HubSpot and GotoWebinar made this ultimate guide for creating a successful webinar and included a checklist to guide you through pre, ongoing, and post webinar communications.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and was updated in January 2021 for comprehensiveness.