Webinar Best Practices from Sharyn Fitzpatrick of Marcom Gurus

Webinars are a big part of all of our marketing plans, but few do them as well as Sharyn Fitzpatrick of Marcom Gurus. She helps companies run great webinars and has managed over 2000, so she’s seen just about everything.

I wanted to learn from Sharyn how to create a great webinar and how to avoid turning it into an expensive learning experience.

  

Q: What are some of the keys to a successful webinar?

 Sharyn: Expect the unexpected and plan for it. Allow four to six weeks from conception to completion. With so many moving parts, you need to plan your webinars as a production. Start with the basics – who is speaking, the topic, and an abstract of the webinar content.  Then, think about the whole process and lay it out in a document that will be your production guide for each event.

You need to think about the whole process:

  • What happens both pre- and post-event?
  • How are you going to follow up withleads?
  • Select speakers who have engaging content as well as an engaging speaking presence
  • Transfer knowledge, not sales hype
  • Match the content to a pre-determined target audience
  • Don’t talk widgets when an audience wants to hear about the latest trends in eLearning
  • Use webinar technology that is easy to use and reliable

I use a template for each of my clients to keep all the creative we need like logos, speaker head shots, content for the webinar platform, post-webinar descriptions, and follow-up messages.

Don’t forget to use the webinar recording as an on-demand asset.  You can get a lot of mileage out of the recording and sometimes even more than the actual live event. It also helps a lot with SEO.

 

Q: What are some of the gotchas to look out for?

 Sharyn: Here are some things to avoid:

  • Uninspiring and untrained speakers. Make sure you’ve heard them speak so you can gauge how much help they will need.
  • Too many PowerPoint slides with small type and hard-to-read graphics
  • Static presentations that don’t keep the audience engaged
  • Share knowledge, not sales hype – this turns people off and they’ll leave in droves
  • Silence: The audience is so quiet that there are no questions or comments – create scheduled interruptions using pre-seeded questions and discussion points throughout the webinar
  • Your speakers need to practice with the technology, so they’re comfortable with both the content and the webinar technology, so their presentation is delivered with confidence. The last thing you need is for the speaker to ask everyone in the audience how to advance the next slide (and yes, it has happened!)
  • Who handles the technical problems and incoming questions? You don’t want your speakers to be distracted by a question about a sound issue or a computer problem

  

Q: For a company who’s never done a webinar, how should they get started?

Sharyn: Follow a successful process. There are lots of best-practices out there, but here is one that has worked well for us:

  1. Define specific goals
  2. Describe your target audience
  3. Do an event summary
  4. Create event
  5. Send invitations
  6. Train speaker
  7. Create materials
  8. Send reminders
  9. Deliver event
  10. Send “thank you” and “sorry we missed you” e-mails
  11. Capture the Q&A transcript
  12. Edit and publish the recording
  13. Follow up with leads

 

Q: How far in advance should you send invitations?

 Sharyn: The rule of thumb was three to four weeks but that is often too far away. It really depends on your audience. An eLearning/training audience will plan far enough in advance but a technical audience likes shorter time frame. We have seen this over and over again reflected in attendance numbers.

Always send out reminder emails, so they don’t forget what they signed up for. If they signed up for a webinar more than three weeks in advance, then send out a five or seven-day reminder. If it is less than two weeks, then send out a 24-hour reminder. Usually, a one hour or 20-minute reminder also works.

Send a webinar invitation to your target list the day before the webinar to encourage them to register. Use “Last Chance” in the subject line. With our busy schedules, we may not know if a webinar will fit our schedule, so registering the day before will grow your numbers.

  

Q: How much should you budget for a webinar and how can you reduce costs without sacrificing quality?

 Sharyn: The technology and event management costs range from $2000 and up. Technology costs for 100 attendees cost X and that cost goes up when you have a large registration. You do get what you pay for. Since most webinars are for lead generation, you want to make sure you choose a quality platform that has a history of delivering problem-free events to audiences of your target size.

Marketing also plays a big factor in the cost. The average cost for a list of 5,000 names is $2500. You can control your budget by getting creative with your plans – do more with less. Trade for names. If you partner with someone, use their names for audience development. Build up your own lists so you just have to pay for email services, not names.

 

Q: What’s the best way to market a webinar?

Sharyn: Use an internal list, if you have enough names. Prospects who have heard of you will respond the best.

  • Use a text-only email, not HTML.
  • Banner ads and announcement in industry eNewsletters also draw attendance.
  • Create and implement a social media strategy. Hashtags such as #Webinars #eLearning could drive more registrations.

 

Q: Should you include partners to defray costs and handle some of the presentation?

 Sharyn: Only if you are willing to give them a share of the spotlight and they agree to play by your rules.

 

Q: What webinar platforms would you recommend?

 Sharyn: It is really more than just a webinar platform. It is also the event management capabilities they offer. Understand whether they handle registration, confirmation emails, reminder emails, post-event notifications, and reporting for lead generation.

These are probably the best webinar platforms. I have had success with:

Many of the platforms offer a trial. Take them for a test drive!  It really helps to decide which platform fits your budget and your program. I use all of them but the one I recommend the most is GoToWebinar. It is the most reliable, even with shortcomings such as limited branding and customization. The learning curve to set up and run a webinar is short and easy. I love ON24 but in order to customize the branding, you have to know how to use HTML coding.

 

 Q: How can people reach you if they need help with their webinars?

 Sharyn: You can visit my website or contact me directly at sharyn@marcomgurus.com. Also, my Webinar Chick blog is free to sign up at http://webinarchick.com

 

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Gordon L. Johnson has been a marketing leader in the corporate L&D industry for over twenty years with the last ten years focused on learning technology. Along the way, he’s discovered what works — and what doesn’t. More info at www.gordonljohnson.com.

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