In an age when event budgets are being cut and broadband Internet access is rising, webinars are becoming increasingly popular. Webinars are web-based seminars, that usually include over 30 participants and are used to conduct presentations, workshops, lectures and large-scale meetings. Since webinars are held online, they allow companies to save money on travel, catering and venues, all of which are costs commonly associated with face-to-face seminars. However, due to their large attendance, webinars need careful planning in order to be successful. This is why those planning on hosting a webinar need to take their time to ensure that they properly go through all the necessary steps which will ensure the webinar’s success.
To help you organize your webinar, I’ve highlighted the most important steps that you need to take below.
1. Choose a date far in advance - The first thing you should do when planning a webinar, or series of webinars, is to refer to a holiday and events calendar far in advance. Keep in mind that you will be inviting several people with busy schedules, so give them enough notice to make time for your webinar. For example, the week before Christmas break could be extremely busy, as people are trying to tie up many lose ends before they go on holiday. By carefully considering your chosen dates, you can ensure maximum attendance.
2. Make sure that you get the time right - Consider time zone differences; if you are on the west coast, but are also inviting participants from the east coast (and vice-versa), don't schedule a webinar for when your participants will be out of the office. Also, don’t schedule your webinar too close to the end of the day - this is when your participants will want to wind down and see what they still have to do to make it home on time. If you’re inviting people from other countries, either choose a time that can generally work for all participants (which is rare), or plan on holding your webinar several times to account for different time zones.
3. Choose your webinar tool - Most online meeting tools have webinar options, you just have to choose the plan that corresponds to the number of participants you're expecting to invite. Test the various tools available, and choose the one with the features and functionality that suits you best. Depending on the sort of webinar you will be presenting, you might need to change between speakers easily, or record the webinar for posting online. Research all the features from several different tools, and you are sure to find the perfect software for your occasion. Make sure that once you’ve chosen the tool, that your provider is willing to train you so you can make the most of your webinar.
4. Practice running a webinar - As the host, you will be expected to ensure that the webinar runs smoothly. There are no excuses for not knowing how to switch between speakers, taking a poll or recording the webinar, for example. Invite some colleagues to help you test the tool several times after your training with the provider. Also make sure that all of your presenters are familiar with the webinar tool.
5. Develop an agenda and invitation - Before inviting your audience, set up your webinar carefully. Think about how long your webinar will last, and the main items that you want to discuss in the order you would like to discuss them. Also plan for a Q&A session, since your attendees will likely have some questions at the end of your presentation. Then, outline the agenda in the invitation. This is the easiest way for your participants to know if your webinar will be relevant for them. The invitation should also include a link that allows your participants to connect to the webinar, as well as a call-in number, in case they'd prefer to listen in by phone.
6. Invite your audience - Think carefully about what you want to present, and choose your audience accordingly. Be sure to keep track of your responses, so you know who will attend your webinar. By closely monitoring of your attendee list, you will be able to plan your follow-up ahead.
7. Plan your presentation - Keep in mind that the best online meeting presentations are highly visual and engaging. If you’re using PowerPoint, for example, do not cram slides only with words. Include pictures that are relevant to what you are presenting. You can also use video and even online games, if appropriate, to bring your presentation to life. Some webinar planners even send materials to the participants' offices ahead of the meeting. Learn to think creatively, and your webinar will come to life.
8. Record your webinar - By making a recording of your webinar available, those who would like to revisit some of the discussion, or those who could not make it, are able to listen to what was said in their own time. If you’re linking your webinar to an online marketing campaign, you can use the recording in any e-mails that you send out, reinforcing your message.
9. Follow-up - As with online meetings, following-up on a webinar is extremely important. Remind your participants of what was discussed, and conduct a survey to gather their thoughts on how the webinar went. If you are planning another webinar that could be of interest to your audience, make sure to let them know when they can expect an invitation.
10. Review your feedback - Always be sure to review any feedback that you have received on your webinars. This is how you can improve your next ones. Pay particular attention to the feedback relating to the presentation, as that makes up the core of the webinar.