We’ve all been there. You sign up for webinars, eager to learn how to overcome a challenge plaguing your organization. Instead, you get a lecture that’s about as exciting and coherent as Charlie Brown’s teacher in a Peanuts cartoon.

When webinars first appeared and began rocketing in popularity in the 1990s, they seemed the perfect solution to issues on both sides of the professional learning and development coin. 

Prospective attendees from budget-conscious organizations no longer had to forego learning and development opportunities because their organizations couldn’t afford travel costs, expensive conference registration fees and time away from the office.

And prospective providers had a new way to build credibility, feed the deep end of their sales and marketing funnel, and save resources providing online rather than in-person instruction rather than attending/exhibiting at costly industry conferences or trade shows. In addition, webinars were a ready-made digital source of prospect data and metrics to measure against KPIs. 

Twenty years later we have myriad webinar technology options, better computers and faster Internet, but webinar sessions themselves don’t seem to have evolved to the next level. People rave about TedTalks. But social media is rarely abuzz with a “must-see” webinar. Why?

Part of the reason, of course, is intended audience and purpose. Webinars are B2B events and not “edu-tainment” for the general consumer. But that doesn’t mean the packaging can’t be as pretty. The best content in the world is no good if no one is around to benefit from it.

So, how can your company improve your webinar strategy and enhance the experience for your participants? 

1. Make it exclusive. This is not about feeding perceptions that something privileged is of more value. It’s about providing tangible value. When you limit the number of registrants (our best-practice suggestion is no more than twelve people per session), you’ve created a different experience for your attendees. The webinar instantly becomes a more intimate digital roundtable discussion rather than a huge online house party.  Your registrants will feel like they’ve gained value from the questions of others as well as having all of their own issues and challenges addressed.

Pro tip: Create different webinar cohorts so attendees are at approximately the same seniority level. 

2. Make it human. Now that you’ve downsized your audience, upsize the personality. You’re no longer speaking to a faceless multitude. Suggest that attendees turn on their cameras so that you all feel like you’re relating to one another and you can more easily pick up on cues to be a more effective presenter. Heck, why not even have everyone introduce themselves?

Pro tip: Have a good mix between prospects and customers… 50/50 is always ideal. 

3. Make it personal. You’re hosting this webinar because you have something to impart that’s hopefully more substantial than a sales pitch. Yet even in sales, you have to understand what your customer needs. And you can’t do that if you’re constantly talking at them. Follow an 80/20 rule for your webinar content: plan on 80% as your standard presentation and 20% that’s personalized based on the people who register to hear you speak.

4. Make it interactive. Smaller group? Check. Cameras on? Check. Attendees noted? Check. But did you bring your list of questions? You know your attendees will bring theirs, and one of the things that will make your webinar stand out from others is the opportunity for attendees to share their own experiences. People like to give answers as well as get them, and your best practices coupled with some in-the-trenches examples are the best value combination an attendee can ask for.

Pro tip: Try ditching the word “webinar” altogether. Instead, try calling it a digital roundtable or panel, which inherently implies it’s going to be more interactive. 

5. Make it last. The best way to bring someone on board for your software, service or platform is to nurture that relationship. Send a follow-up email to attendees with a thank you. Include a link to a recent whitepaper or blog post or podcast related to the topic at hand. But whatever you do, do not make your next communication with a webinar participant a message from sales. In fact, the followup should come from either the presenter or the marketing team–not a salesperson. If you extend a positive experience where people feel valued and catered to, it’s more likely to yield a positive result. 

Pro tip: Ask for feedback on the format, style and content of the webinar. Find out how you can make the experience better for others. 

These are no doubt challenging times for B2B marketers. Although webinars continue to offer the same convenience they did pre-pandemic, there are new challenges that don’t just have to do with home bandwidth and speed of access. At-home workers are bombarded with video conferencing throughout the day, every day, and may be experiencing some very real fatigue.

So one more tip in getting and giving the most with your next webinar: 

Make it meaningful. Recognize people’s challenges in our “new normal.” Think about breaking a long session up into a shorter series, and/or offering multiple opportunities for people to participate in case “life happens” during the first go-round. And take a look at your content to make sure it’s relevant in the here and now. What are the topics that are really needed to help businesses thrive in uncertainty and what sessions can wait until the world feels a little more on solid ground?

All of these ideas revolve around shifting your thinking from “what can I get” to “what can I give.” Don’t be afraid to adjust your KPIs and focus on quality interactions over quantity–people are in need of some authenticity these days. Once that focus shines through in the marketing and content of your webinar, people will sign up, tune in and take with them what they need (and appreciate you for it!).

Before you go:
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