Tips from the Experts on Hosting a Successful Webinar
Webinars have become increasingly popular as a communication, content marketing, and lead generation channel. The pandemic has only increased this trend. The popularity of webinars has resulted in greater expertise in hosting engaging presentations that reach a larger audience of educators at all levels and in all roles.
Lisa Schmucki, the founder and CEO of edWeb.net, hosted a recent discussion with a panel of marketing experts to get their advice and tips on getting the maximum benefit from integrating webinars into your marketing plans. The panelists were Rita Ferrandino, Innovation Consultant, Catalyst @ Penn GSE – University of Pennsylvania, and Founding Partner, Arc Capital Development, Linda Winter, President, Winter Group, Joyce Whitby, President, Innovations4Education, Jane Radenhausen, President, J Daly Associates, and Jim McVety, Managing Partner, First Step Advisors.
The panel provided advice on how organizations can use webinars for an ever-widening range of purposes: brand awareness, marketing insight, relationship building, professional learning, content marketing, lead generation, and support. The discussion covered key stages and tips for the webinar creation and follow-up process, from initial planning to the extended use of the webinar after a live event, including the marketing of products and services to prospects attracted by the event.
Webinars can be used for a variety of purposes, so establishing a clear set of objectives, along with plans to achieve them, is important right from the start.
Branding – Jim McVety sees webinars as a way to build brand awareness and credibility simultaneously, knowing those benefits do not always coincide when using other types of channels. He recommends engaging the audience with a topic related to a product or service, telling a story with authenticity, and including advice on how to approach an issue or solve a problem.
Thought Leadership – Webinars and their sponsorship can demonstrate how and why an organization and its staff are worth paying attention to and following online, which can result in continued participation in professional learning opportunities and the development of long-term relationships that lead to sales.
Lead Generation – Linda Winter has found the deeper engagement of webinar participants results in leads that have higher response rates than leads from other sources. Rita Ferrandino has also found that webinars tend to generate leads with a high return on investment.
Research – Webinars and their interactive features, such as the live chat and online polls, can be effective ways to test product ideas and messaging, learn more about target audiences, and gain insights from practitioners about current issues and effective strategies. As Winter put it, webinars can be “a great pulse check on the voice of the customer.”
Content Creation – In addition to the live event, recorded webinars can continue to attract new viewers and generate leads for years afterward. Excerpts from the webinar or links to the recording can also be promoted via web pages, social media campaigns, and sales presentations, providing further branding, thought leadership, and lead generation opportunities.
Concepting Your Webinar
Once the goals for a webinar have been established, its topic, title, and format can be aligned and refined to produce the best possible results.
Topic – Joyce Whitby recommends focusing on hot topics and pain points, as timeliness and relevance are keys to attracting a target audience. Winter mentioned that obtaining feedback from the edWeb team can be helpful because they know the types of audiences and numbers that popular topics are attracting.
Title – Ferrandino said she spends as much time on the title of a session as she does on the topic, because busy educators are often scanning a variety of upcoming events to see which ones look most interesting or helpful. Schmucki mentioned the importance of including keywords in the first three words of a title, while McVety noted that unexpected language or viewpoints can help to capture attention and differentiate the session as something new or thought provoking.
Format – Teachers like content that is timely and practical so they can use what they learned right away to help students. Administrators tend to prefer panel discussions that include other administrators and feature case studies and success stories that provide “pain relief,” according to Ferrandino. This justifies administrators taking time away from their busy schedules to attend a session.
Preparing and Implementing Your Webinar
With the topic, title, and format defined, Schmucki recommends having several weeks before the event date to prepare and then rehearse what will occur.
Pre-Marketing – Building the audience should be a sustained campaign that includes announcements through an organization’s website and social media, promotion through sales representatives and brand ambassadors, and announcements emailed directly to customers. The presenters’ social media and other events can also be ways to alert followers and encourage their participation.
Rehearsals – Jane Radenhausen recommends having presenters practice in front of a mirror and/or use Zoom or Teams to do a trial run and record themselves, so they can grow comfortable with the material and work through any presentation issues. Winter also recommends doing a run through of the webinar, including a Q&A session, for the same reasons and also to build the confidence of the presenters.
Starting the Session – The moderator and presenters can start the session a few minutes early while the audience is still signing on in order to begin a conversation and develop a personal connection. Asking audience members to put information about themselves in the live chat, such as their location and reason for attending, can provide good talking points and helpful information while increasing the engagement of participants.
Engagement Activities – Instant polls can also be a way to engage and validate participants, giving them the sense that their input is valued, especially if the moderator or presenter responds to the poll data. And other activities, such as a “waterfall,” in which participants all respond to a question at the same time, or creating a “word cloud” that shows the relative importance of key topics, also build and sustain involvement.
Closing Strongly – A strong ending of the session engages participants in moving forward into the future with the presenters or organization. This could include a “call to action” such as signing up for free resources, additional information, or “webinar swag.”
Prior to the event, a follow-up plan should have been developed so that the sponsor can continue to engage participants and quickly take advantage of what has been achieved.
Marketing – The quantity and types of leads that the webinar generated should be analyzed immediately so the contact info can be used effectively for follow-up emails, distribution to sales reps, and other purposes. Radenhausen pointed out that consideration should also be given to how many more leads the webinar can now generate through further use of the presentation.
Content Usage – In addition to promoting more views of the webinar itself, it can also be turned into print and audio versions that can attract other prospects who may not have the time or inclination to watch an hour-long video. And simply having promotion copy on a website with a link to the webinar can help with branding and search engine optimization.
Additional Analysis – “Mining” the live chat transcript can reveal additional insights or issues that are helpful in preparing future campaigns. And as McVety pointed out, also analyzing the results of the follow-up activities can develop a better understanding of whether the content and related messaging are working well and should be rolled out further.
Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “Getting the Most Out of Presenting a Webinar.”
About the Presenters
Rita Ferrandino has built an international reputation as one of the most effective strategists and coalition builders in the education entrepreneurship community. She is a recognized STEM education expert, an authority on U.S. education policy and politics, and a leader in Future of Work strategies. Rita currently is the innovation consultant at the Catalyst @ Penn GSE Innovation Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She was the lead capstone instructor at the Education Entrepreneurship Graduate Program for four years. For three years, she was President of the Education Design Studio, Inc. Incubator funded in collaboration with the Milken Family Foundation and University of Pennsylvania.
Linda Winter received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and her graduate degree from the University of Denver. Prior to founding Winter Group, she worked in broadcast promotions for KRMA, Denver’s PBS member station and then at KMGH-TV7, a CBS affiliate in Denver. Winter Group serves companies and organizations in the K-12, higher education, and library sectors. The company’s portfolio includes work for many of the education market’s leading technology, curriculum, services, and product development organizations. Winter Group’s team includes writers, designers, developers, researchers, and account support specialists. The firm’s services include a range of qualitative and quantitative market research services, event production, and a comprehensive group of branding/messaging, advertising, direct marketing (digital/print), exhibit design, and sales support program development.
Joyce Whitby is the president of Innovations4Education. She is a lifelong educator who spent over ten years teaching graduate-level courses in educational technology at Long Island University, where, in 1984, she developed the T.E.A.M. program (Telecommunications, Education, and Multimedia). Since then, Joyce has been in the business of educational technology with key roles in professional development, marketing, and sales leadership. Most notably she has developed strategic sales initiatives targeting complex and urban environments for several organizations including WICAT Systems, Jostens Learning, Scientific Learning, Apple Computer, Monarch Teaching Technologies (makers of VizZle, an app for students with autism), and the education group of West Corporation (SchoolMessenger solutions). She has been an active member of SIIA for over 15 years.
Jane Radenhausen’s experience and proven record of accomplishment in helping companies generate new revenue streams through advertising are the key ingredients in her success as President of J Daly Associates. With a passion for excellence and exceeding expectations, Jane’s leadership capabilities translate into building top-tier sales teams and developing sales strategies. Her can-do attitude and upbeat personality are evident in her industry relationships, strategic partnerships and personal connections that provide the “secret sauce” to her success. Jane holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Georgia.
Jim McVety is Managing Partner of First Step Advisors. A lifelong advocate for innovation in education, Jim brings with him 20+ years of research and analysis experience. Jim has hosted numerous webinars, expert panels, and keynote presentations during his career, and his focus is on building the capacity of service organizations to better support educators and students.
About the Moderator
Lisa Schmucki founded edWeb.net in 2008 to provide a social network that could help educators and all professionals working in the field of education to connect and collaborate and break down the silos and traditional barriers in education. edWeb.net has become an award-winning professional learning network that serves a global community of 1 million educators.
Lisa is an education, publishing, and media industry veteran with 40 years’ experience in product development, professional learning, marketing, and entrepreneurship. She serves on the Board of the National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training (NCTET) and the Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI). Prior to founding edWeb, she held senior positions with Time, Macmillan, Peterson’s, Films Media Group, MKTG Services, Acxiom, and Achieve3000. She is a graduate of Princeton University and has a master’s degree from the Stern School of Business at NYU.
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Blog post by Robert Low, based on this edWebinar