At Sprout Social, we love webinars. In fact, we have three different types of webinars and in a single month, we may run and participate in as many as six different sessions. One of the more recent webinars we ran was with an amazing company called Wistia, and it was oddly enough a webinar on how to run amazing webinars.
You can check out the recording at the previous link, but we decided to create this step-by-step guide on how to create amazing webinars to ensure you have everything that you need to get started.
Click below to jump to each section of the article:
From why you’d want to run a webinar all the way through to the tools you can use to get started, this post covers everything you need to know on how to create a webinar and to get your program off the ground.
Why You Should Learn How to Create a Webinar
When Sprout Social started our first webinar program, it was all about customer education. The purpose was to give customers an advanced look at how to use Sprout Social’s platform and to provide them with the chance to ask questions.
While these types are still a huge part of our program, we discovered other reasons to run webinars. We developed two other versions of webinars that include:
- Partner webinars are created with other companies within and outside our industry
- Thought leadership webinars are made to specifically speak to social media marketing issues.
Each of these webinar types helps accomplish one of these unique goals.
Throughout 2015 Sprout had the opportunity to work with 15 other leading companies on joint webinars. And already in 2016, we’ve worked with nine additional businesses. This is great for a few different reasons:
- These are typically adjacent companies with a similar audience to yours. If the time ever arises that a partner’s customers need a recommendation for a tool like ours, we can usually rely on them for a recommendation.
- These companies have also ended up being some of our greatest customers. As we’ve worked with these companies they’ve discovered more about our platform and realized they could use their own social media management tool.
- A lot of there partnerships have lead to deeper relationships. Relationships that turn into discussions about other joint pieces of content like eBooks, or even talks about higher-level things like product integrations.
Generating Leads & Customers
The main reason companies decided to start their own webinar program is typically due to lead generation and customer acquisition. This is because webinars are still a great way to drive qualified leads into your sales funnel. Our friends at Wistia recently shared some information on how their own webinar program performed in terms of lead generation in just three months.
Not only are webinars great for generating leads, but at Sprout we’ve found the leads generated from webinars convert to customers at a much higher rate than most of our other lead generation channels.
Webinars aren’t just great for generating new leads, they’re good for growing relationships with leads already in your system, or even your current customers. Leverage your webinar program to increase engagement with these groups of users to reduce the risk of them churning. Try and use your webinars to show these groups how to use your product in a way that they may not have imagined.
Building Your Brand and Trust
If you properly setup and run your webinar, not only will you drive a lot of leads into your marketing funnel, but you’ll also create a lot of impressions for your brand. Between the reach your webinar hashtag see and the sheer amount of people sharing your registration page online, you’ll gain access to a new and trusting social media audience.
— Catherine Babin (@catherinebabin) February 23, 2016
Educating Your Audience
If you think beyond the importance of new leads for revenue and reducing your churn, you get to a much more fundamental webinar goal: sharing your knowledge with others. Even if a person joins you doesn’t immediately start paying for your product, that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile venture to try your best to teach him or her something new.
How to Create a Webinar
Given the lead generation, branding and partnership potential of webinars, you’d think they’re a no-brainer. Well the difficulty with webinars lies within execution. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as slapping together a PowerPoint presentations and bringing home the sales. This next bit will discuss how to create a webinar, then we’ll move onto how to actually run that webinar.
Establish Your Goals
Why do you really want to know how to create a webinar? It’s important to hammer this out first because a webinar that’s geared toward teaching your customers how to use your platform and one aimed at driving new leads aren’t going to have the same audience, topics or presenters. Figure out what you’d like to do and plan the rest of your webinar accordingly.
Define Your Target Audience
Once you choose a topic, you can move toward picking a target audience. If you’re creating a product-specific webinar, that specific audience may have already started a trial of your service, or they could even be your current customers. If it’s a lead generation webinar, then that audience is likely similar to those you target with your paid advertisements. Try using a tool like Sprout Social to dig into your social media demographics data.
Find the Right Topic
Choose a topic that you know will resonate with your audience. If you can’t think of any ideas, try asking your sales team if there are certain questions they receive frequently that would make for a good presentation. You could also dive into your website analytics to see if there are any popular blog posts that are worth repurposing as webinar.
Find the Right Presenter
The fact that webinars aren’t in front of a live audience may lead you to believe they’re not difficult to do. It might seem like at the end of the day, it’s really just you speaking to an empty room. However, that’s not the case. A webinar can be just as difficult as giving a live presentation, so make sure you choose a presenter who is up to the challenge. If it’s your first time, you might want to have two presenters on the call so that one can take charge if the other has any hiccups.
Find the Right Partner
It’s not always necessary to include a partner in your webinar, but it can add a fun dynamic, helps scale the lead generation efforts and you have a person there to help you tackle questions. When choosing a partner, make sure you find one with a similar audience relevant to the content that you plan to deliver.
Create the Registration Page
After you have all of the content and presenters decided, you can build your registration page. This is the page you’ll send users to so that they can register for your presentation. Most of the webinar platforms give you the ability to create a page with their template, though it lacks customizability.
You could also create your own page that plugs into the webinar provider you use. This allows you to make it a bit more on brand. Here’s a look at a portion of the landing page we use at Sprout Social.
Once you’re ready to start collecting leads, it’s time to start driving them to your page to signup for the event. There are so many different ways to promote your webinar to drive leads to your site, but here are a few of the channels that we’ve found most successful.
- Blog Sidebar
- Paid Social Media
- Organic Social Media
- Content Submission Sites
How to Run a Webinar
At this point, you’ve chosen a great topic and presenter, gotten all of the audience into a room together and are ready to present your webinar. Here are some things that you should keep in mind when it comes to actually running the webinar:
Practice Ahead of Time
No matter if you know the webinar content inside and out, it’s still good to run through what you plan to say a few times. Even though it’s really just you sitting in front of a computer, talking and presenting can be a somewhat nerve-racking process–especially if you’re not prepared. If you end up getting thrown off at any point, lose your place or find yourself fumbling, remember to take a deep breath and start over your last talking point.
Click the Record Button
Before you begin your broadcast, make absolutely sure that it’s recording. It’s a terrible feeling to put on an amazing show only to realize that none of it was recorded. If you don’t record your webinar, you can’t send copies out to those who didn’t attend or left the presentation early. If the webinar platform you choose doesn’t have recording functionality you can always use a screen recording tool like Quicktime to capture it.
Take Care of Any Housekeeping Items
Typically at Sprout Social, we start our webinar by addressing two things:
- Tell your users how to engage with the webinar. The main reason of running a webinar is that your audience can directly interact with the presenter. Give your audience a unique hashtag they can use to ask questions. You can also tell your audience how they can do it through your webinar platform, which allows you to answer questions throughout the webinar or or after. Try to encourage users to engage with the hashtag by offering a prize for the most engaged Tweet containing that hashtag.
- Let the audience know you’ll send out a recording of the webinar. If any of your audience members have to leave at any point, let them know they’ll be able to view it on-demand. You’ll likely find that this is the question that gets asked most often, both during and after the presentation.
Introduce Your Topic, Company & Self
When you finish your housekeeping, move on to introductions. Start by telling your audience what the topic is about with some background information. Then shed some light on why your company is doing this webinar and tell the audience what makes you qualified to discuss that topic to give yourself some credibility.
Deliver Your Content
This isn’t The Kings Speech or your high school debate class, and we don’t propose to show you how to give an amazing speech, but we will say that our best performing webinars are those that remain conversational. There’s no reason you can’t be fun and informative in the same show. Try not to sound like the ongoing instructor that drones on without asking any questions or getting the class involved. Keep it interesting.
Closing Remarks & Small Product Push
Once you’ve finished discussing your content, it’s time to move on to the closing remarks and questions. During the closing, it’s practical to take a moment to discuss your company a little bit or to extend an offer to the audience. Make sure you keep your pitch brief. You don’t want to soil the content you discussed because you came off as overly-salesy. You may also leave a bad taste in the mouth of the viewer, and when it comes time to send them a followup email, they may be turned off.
Questions & Answers
After the closing remarks, you can start to answer some of the questions that came in during your webinar. One great tip we can give is to come up with a few seed questions beforehand, that way you can address a topic no one asked. Sometimes it takes the audience a few minutes to warm up to the idea of submitting questions.
Webinar Hosting Platforms
This list is by no means all encompassing, and make sure you do thorough research on your tools before going out there and starting your platform. However, here are a few tools that we’ve come across:
GoToWebinar is a member of the Citrix family and offers some solid functionality. Email automation, customer branding and polls make it a good choice. The only issue we’ve run into is that if you plan to have over 1,000 attendees, you’ll have to bump your plan up to GoToWebcast. Then you’ll actually have to download the GoToWebinar software to your computer.
Another amazing solution is On24’s webcasting platform. One of my favorite things with On24 is you can load your presentation to the platform ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about actually sharing your screen.
AnyMeeting provides a webinar hosting solution that seems to have all of the same features and functionalities as the others but with a much lower price point. Unfortunately if you are a fan of sharing your screen, that functionality is limited to a few of their plans.
Other Useful Webinar Tools
Over the course of our webinar career we’ve found some other great tools that you should include in your toolkit.
The presentation creation platform from Apple makes it really easy to build a beautiful, informative webinar. If you have a solid design team, you can ask them to build out a robust template so you can create all of your own presentations with limited design requirements moving forward.
Make sure to put your finalized slide deck up on your company’s SlideShare page. This is a great way to get more impressions on your content after you’ve presented it. Here’s a look at the month-over-month impressions we’ve driven from SlideShare since regularly submitting our webinar content.
SlideShare will house your webinar deck, but what about your webinar video? Look into creating a Wistia account for your video hosting. Wistia has great functionalities like the ability to add custom call-to-actions to your video and monitor some robust analytics.
Sprout Social is actually the company that brought you this blog post. There are a few really great ways to utilize Sprout’s social media management platform to help you run an amazing webinar.
To Drive Registrants: Social media should be one of the biggest channels for driving registrations to your webinars, but it can get cumbersome constantly signing in and sharing a post to your webinar intermittently. Use a social media scheduling tool like Sprout Social to create promotional webinar posts and schedule them for days leading up to the event.
To Assist Engagement: Engagement is such a big part of running webinars. It’s important to encourage your viewers to reach out to you during the webinar to create a better overall experience. However, it can get difficult to manage all of these conversations while presenting.
With Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox, you can manage all inbound messages during your webinar. Choose to filter by specific hashtags, social media profiles or keywords to ensure you’re not missing any of the conversation. You can also mark messages as complete as you go, making room for the new messages you receive.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should start your own webinar program, check out the recorded video of the recent “How to Run an Amazing Webinar” video.
Michael Patterson: Michael enjoys writing about all things social media, and his insights can be found on Adweek's SocialTimes, Social Media Today and Social Media Examiner. When he isn't pouring over blog posts he can usually be found exploring Chicago's unique neighborhoods and breweries.