At the height of the pandemic, virtual events were the only way to go. Conferences, summits, and even family dinners all happened online — with people increasingly suffering from “Zoom fatigue” after long hours staring at screens. Now that most travel restrictions have lifted and social events are back in full swing, does that mean webinars (both live and recorded webinars), and other virtual business events, are in their death throes?
Well, not exactly. It seems people are in a hurry to socialize again but not necessarily around the water cooler. While some companies have forced or encouraged their workforce to return to the office, about 78% of employees prefer to work in either a remote or hybrid environment. And as people spend less time in the office, they’re less likely to leave home to attend in-person business events. Online events, in contrast, allow you to join in from anywhere in the world, take no travel time and are easier to work into your schedule — which is why they’re here to stay.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you can still run the same type of webinar you did in 2020. Since webinars have become common, expectations have shifted. We are no longer desperately trying to move events into cyberspace at a moment’s notice due to lockdowns. We’ve had a chance to practice and sharpen these skills, and our audiences know this. And they’re less forgiving as a result.
So the real question is not are webinars dead, but how can you produce an engaging webinar people not only actively attend but also enjoy?
Creating a Webinar People Love
Just because your webinar contains detailed or technical information doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Often, what makes a captivating webinar comes down to organization and presentation.
1. Focus on Your Audience
The goal of your webinar may be to increase sales, but like with other marketing activities, you’ll only accomplish your goal if you speak to your audience’s specific wants and needs. Put yourself in their shoes: what do they want to know? What problems are they trying to solve? What issues are important to them? If you’re not sure where to start, check with your sales team to find out what the most common questions are and choose webinar topics that will answer them. Most importantly, would you want to watch the recorded webinar afterwards?
The second thing you need to do to be truly audience-centric is to reward them for their time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hand out gift cards or discount codes (though those are solid strategies). It could be as simple as offering certification or access to an ebook or white paper. Sharing the link at the end of the webinar has the added bonus of encouraging people to stick around for the whole thing. No matter how you do it, that little token shows you value your participants’ time and could make the difference between a no-show and an active, engaged participant.
2. Avoid Death by PowerPoint
We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a face-to-face or virtual meeting, sitting through a slide presentation that’s just a wall of text accompanied by a monotonous voice is the quickest way to lose interest in any topic. Your webinar should be an experience that can’t be replaced by just sending the participants your slide deck. Instead of putting the slides at the heart of your presentation, think of them as props: objects that add to the performance but are not the basis of the performance. And that means they need to add something. Having the key points on your slides can make your presentation easier to follow, but make sure you also include graphics and animations that help you illustrate your point in a way that’s hard to do with just words.
Don’t have the time or resources to make beautiful slides? Don’t panic! It may actually be better to run a webinar without any, depending on your topic and format. It’s imperative, however, that your audio is clear, easy to follow and interesting. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need a professional voice actor, but you do need the speaker to vary their tone, speak at the right pace and not be afraid to emphasize specific points.
This approach alienates participants with hearing impairments, so make sure you also give participants the opportunity to rewatch your webinar later — with added subtitles. This addition means you can always reuse the recorded webinar as part of an e-learning platform and you’ll also have a text file ready to translate the content for other markets. Your webinar can become a prerecorded webinar that’s listened to around the world.
3. Show Your Face
Again, we’re back to PowerPoint, but think of how many times you’ve attended webinars where you’ve started on a slide. If the speaker does have their camera on, it’s just a small box in the corner of the screen. When your face isn’t the main focus of the screen, your audience can’t read your body language and will miss important social cues. This lack of human interaction also causes people to tune out. Remember that you have more of a gap to bridge online than you do in person. Make your job easier, and your participants more comfortable, by turning on your video and showing your face.
Naturally, looking down at your desk or note cards won’t be welcoming either. You need to look directly into the camera and smile. Nuanced expressions are harder to pick up, so stick with a relaxed, friendly expression as it’s easier to interpret and shows that you are approachable. Direct eye contact demonstrates that you are focused on the listener which in turn makes them more likely to give you their undivided attention. While you can’t actually make eye contact with every single participant, you can replicate it by looking straight into the camera.
Unsure that this will make a difference? Try it with an internal meeting first and ask for feedback. Even if you don’t get the desired effect the first time, constructive criticism and practice will help prepare you to “face” your next online event.
4. Involve Your Audience
One of the hallmarks of webinars is that there is a limited number of people speaking. On some platforms, the audience is automatically muted and may not have access to the chat. If you ask any teacher, they’ll tell you that their students learn more when they participate — and your audience is no different. By adding interactive features, you require your participants’ attention, making it less likely that they’ll become distracted or engrossed in checking their emails during the session.
This doesn’t mean that you need to call out individual members to check that they are “paying attention”. Instead, choose activities that are quick and allow members to respond quickly and even anonymously. For example, you could:
- Create a poll
- Hold a Q&A at the end or collect questions for later
- Create a word cloud through Mentimeter, or a similar program
- Hold smaller discussions in breakout rooms
- Involve them in a hashtag or another social media campaign
If you’re lucky and you’re using a platform like Wizywebinar, you’ll already have options like Q&A and polling built in. But don’t overlook the impact a social media campaign could have. Just asking members to Tweet along with a specific hashtag will increase your social media presence, which may encourage new prospects to join future webinars. Effectively engaging your participants and getting them to do some of your advertising for you.
5. Be Dynamic
Video is a medium that shows movement; so move. Sitting still at a desk is not dynamic and it’s not interesting. Walk around your space, gesture (appropriately) while you speak, and cut to other cameras where suitable. If you don’t have the space or technical equipment to do this live, consider adding prerecorded videos or animations to the webinar to break up the monotony and keep your audience interested. Otherwise, invest in quality hardware, like the Wizyconf Station, so you’ll have the tools to capture your sound and video professionally without needing to hire an entire film crew.
Remember, if your audience’s eyes aren’t being drawn to what you’re presenting, they’ll go elsewhere.
6. Vary the Types of Content
We’ve already covered how you can just ditch your slides, but have you thought of other ways you can break with the traditional idea of a webinar? The pandemic gave us plenty of opportunities to try out different types of online events, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Not sure where to start? A few tried-and-true formats include:
- Panel discussions
- Talk shows
- News-style broadcasts
Think of what you prefer to watch and listen to in your spare time, and replicate aspects of that in your online event. Obviously whatever you choose, design your content with your audience, subject matter and the strengths of your presenters in mind as well, so you’ll have the best chance of a warm reception. Remember, the sky’s the limit to what you can create!
The Wizywebinar Platform
At Wildix, we use our own solution designed for producing dynamic and engaging presentations: Wizywebinar. This is compatible with the Wizyconf Station, and it lets us create webinars anytime, anywhere. As a result, we’re always delivering practical training materials and useful tips for our partners and end-users alike. The solution also includes:
- Q&A functions
- Hand raise
- Whiteboard markup
- Social media streaming
- A content library, allowing you to upload and share files with your audience
If you’re interested in webinar conferencing, check out our Wizywebinar page to learn more.
Regardless of which platform you choose, just remember to focus on your audience and engage them and you’ll turn your death-by-webinar sessions into lead generating machines!
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