Many B2B companies are already leveraging webinars as part of their content marketing and thought leadership efforts. As with any marketing tactic, a successful and effective B2B webinar is ultimately a byproduct of proper planning and execution.
Webinars are a powerful way to reach and engage prospects and generate leads. According to the latest 2020 research from Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers rated webinars as one of the highest performing content types for both securing leads and converting leads. Whether you are already hosting webinars or considering adding them into your content marketing mix, it’s important to “plan your work” and “work your plan.” So it’s with that in mind that we’ve developed a list of 12 tips to consider when planning and hosting a B2B webinar.
1. Plan, plan, plan
Any webinar that is considered a success by both the host AND the attendees is the result of careful and meticulous planning. Naturally there are a lot of logistics associated with webinars, so it’s important to carefully consider the date, time of day, presenter(s), moderator and topic, among other things. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is especially true of webinars.
2. Develop great content
Content is the reason people register and attend your webinar, so without great content you either won’t get people to show up or you won’t get them to come back. Carefully select your topic/title/speaker based on your target audience’s interests and needs, as it relates to what your firm does. Generally speaking, webinars are intended to be educational—not “salesy”—so be sure that you create content that your audience will find helpful and valuable.
3. Put effort into your slide deck
Along those lines, be sure that your slide deck is creative and compelling as well. Remember that it’s meant to support what your presenters are saying, not be what your presenters are saying. Similar to preparing a presentation for other situations, your slide deck should be visual, use large text and avoid trying to cover too much ground on each slide. (See 17 Ideas for More Compelling and Effective Presentations)
4. Use the right tools and equipment
In many ways, a webinar is only as good as the tools you use to produce them. And it starts with choosing the right webinar software. There are a ton of webinar tools out there to choose from (GoToWebinar, WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc.) and selecting the one that’s right for you comes down to capabilities, preferences and cost. Once you know what you need most from the software, choose the one that best aligns with your needs.
And it’s not just the webinar software that matters—having the right equipment is important as well. This includes everything from having the right kind of room to conduct the webinar in, headset microphones that offer crystal clear and static-free sound and a dependable Internet connection.
5. Get the word out
A well-planned webinar with great content, a compelling slide deck and the right tools will be of no use if you don’t have attendees! Once you’ve identified the webinar logistics (date, time, title, etc.) and have set up the webinar in your preferred webinar tool, you need to spread the word! Set up a landing page to promote the webinar and create images, graphics and videos that can be used on the website and social media. We recommend to start promoting at least 3-4 weeks in advance of the webinar, using a variety of methods including email, social media, website calls-to-action and even paid amplification.
6. Be prepared—for everything
I can’t overstate the importance of preparation. While some might think that webinars are easier to present for than an in-person seminar, in some ways they are more difficult. The audience is virtual, so you can’t make eye contact, pick up on social cues or feed off the energy (or notice the lack of) like you can in person. And the audience only has your voice and the slide deck to hold their attention. So naturally, the more prepared you are, the better you’re going to connect with the audience. Know your material, practice and time the presentation and set up early for sound and equipment checks.
Another component of preparation includes being ready for the unexpected. What if you lose your Internet connection? What if the phones go down? What if attendees are having trouble logging in? Identifying what could come up and having a contingency plan in place ahead of time will make it much easier to deal with should any problems arise.
7. Designate a producer/moderator
We highly recommend that you designate a “producer” whose primary role during the webinar is simply to run the webinar software console. The presenter(s) should be focused solely on presenting, but you need someone to run the software, collect Q&A submissions, launch poll questions/answers and field comments from participants. The producer can also serve as a moderator, introducing the speaker(s), making announcements and handling audience questions during Q&A. We’ve found this role to be critical to the success of our webinars.
8. Create a webinar production checklist
As we just discussed, running a webinar involves a lot of logistics and details. And forgetting to do something as simple as pressing “record” at the start of the webinar can have a negative impact on the success of your webinar. So to avoid missing any detail and to keep your webinar on track, it’s a good idea to create a webinar production checklist. This should be a list of all activities and items—both big and small—that need to be completed in order to successfully host a webinar.
9. Start on time, end on time
Your audience’s time is valuable, so be sensitive to it and honor the time constraints that you’ve advertised for the webinar. While it’s not uncommon for many webinar attendees to arrive late, it’s still best to still start on time. And it’s equally important that you end on time as well. This points back to the necessity of being prepared and making sure that the presenter has timed their presentation and can stick to the time allotted.
10. Deliver content as promised
The title and description that “sold” the attendees when they registered should be accurate to the actual content that is presented during the webinar. In other words, if they are expecting something educational, don’t make your webinar a thinly veiled sales pitch. Your promotional emails and landing page are essentially a promise, so make sure that by all means you deliver on that promise.
11. Allow time for Q&A
Be sure to allow time at the end of the webinar for taking questions that the audience can submit throughout the webinar. The Q&A provides a great opportunity to engage with the audience and give additional insight to what you have previously discussed, as well as related topics that are of interest to the audience. Polls are another way to interact with your audience throughout the webinar, learn more about them and tailor the webinar to their pain points and interests.
Last but certainly not least is follow-up and this goes for both attendees and non-attendees. We recommend creating a post-webinar survey that ideally gets served up when the webinar has ended. Keep the survey short and to the point and seek to gauge how well the webinar met the expectations of the attendee, the quality of the speaker/content, suggestions for improvement and ideas for future webinar topics.
You’ll also want to send an email to attendees (ideally within a few hours of the webinar) thanking them for their attendance and offering links to download the slide deck and/or view a recording of the webinar. Similarly to non-attendees, you’ll want to send an email expressing your disappointment that they were unable to attend and offering them the opportunity to download the slide deck and/or view a recording of the webinar as well. You might want to consider a drip campaign as well to keep registrants engaged with additional content that is relevant to the topic of the webinar.
Extend your webinar’s shelf life
While webinars are an ideal tactic for content marketing, success ultimately depends on how well you plan and execute. Hopefully these 12 tips will provide some insight to help make your B2B webinars more successful. And because so much time and effort go into creating a webinar, consider ways that you can repurpose the material for other uses such as blog posts, email campaigns, graphics and videos. Webinars are one of the most successful lead generation tactics and are full of valuable content, so make sure they continue to pay off and provide value for your audience after the live event ends.