How to Host a Webinar

This is article #12 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.

As your inbound machine starts to crank and you are producing volumes of content (guides, ebooks, infographics), webinars can be useful to provide variety and connect with targets who may not be interested in reading an entire ebook. Depending on your target persona, webinars are surprisingly popular and can generate quite a bit of buzz in your industry. They also require significant logistics and planning, so let’s walk through the process of hosting a successful webinar:

1. Identify the topic

Each webinar should tangentially relate to one of the core points of your story (i.e. your product’s value props). A great strategy to get started is pairing a webinar with a written piece about the same topic. For example, my team wrote an ebook about the future of technology for health clubs. We’ll host a webinar about the same topic that essentially walks through the content of the ebook. That’s effective because some targets will want to read the ebook and others would rather consume that content in webinar format.

Webinars should rarely be about your product specifically. You don’t want them to feel sales-like. Instead, they should always be value-adding and educational, focusing on whatever points you’ve identified resonate with targets.

2. Find a co-presenter that has industry influence

Webinars are best with two players involved:

  • Host: person who guides the discussion
  • Guest: person who is positioned as an expert and responds to questions

A successful strategy is inviting guests who have industry influence or, better yet, their own lists of contacts. By co-branding your webinars with a guest (this could be a vendor partner or industry thought leader), that guest will be incentivized to invite their contacts to attend the webinar. This is huge for you because it introduces new contacts (i.e. leads) to add to your database.

3. Use GoToWebinar and integrate it with your marketing automation system

To actually host a webinar, you need a software tool. My team uses GoToWebinar, which integrates seamlessly with Hubspot. This tool helps us:

  • Collect registrations
  • Send reminder emails
  • Share our screen and audio during the webinar
  • Facilitate Q&A during the webinar
  • Create a recording of the webinar to share later

A tool like GoToWebinar costs between $100 – $300 per month, depending on how many attendees show up.

4. Create a landing page to collect registrations

Use your marketing automation system to create a landing page and form to collect registrations. Similar to downloading a piece of content, targets that want to attend your webinar need to provide their contact information in return, thus converting them to a lead.

5. Create slides as a visual aid during the webinar

While a webinar should be an organic conversation between the host and guest, typically slides are used in the background to help illustrate the points you are making. Be sure to make these slides:

  • Extremely simple
  • No text that is smaller than 30-point font
  • Queued animations to ensure the audience doesn’t read ahead

As with any slides, the show is you and the slides are just there to support what you are saying.

6. Send reminder emails, social media posts and sharable graphics

Begin promoting the webinar 2 weeks in advance. This gives people enough time to get it onto their calendars but not so much time where they will forget about it. Over those 2 weeks, send reminder emails, post on social media and use custom graphics that depict the webinar details, time and guest information.

7. Do a technology test and run-through with the guest

At least 1 week before the webinar, do a brief “mock webinar” with the guest to ensure that your technology (speakerphone, microphone, screenshare) all works properly, the audio comes in clearly and there are no issues dialing in and viewing the slides. Nothing is scarier than having 100 people on the line during a webinar and having everything freeze or the call drop.

8. Host the actual webinar

It’s webinar day! Consider the following details for the webinar itself:

  • Duration should be 30 or 45 minutes; longer will lose people’s attention.
  • Start the webinar 3 minutes after the start time to account for stragglers
  • Spend roughly 75% of the time on presentation and 25% on Q&A
  • Use GoToWebinar to enable attendees to ask questions throughout
  • Ensure that the host and guest speak loudly and with high energy
  • Ensure the webinar is being recorded (both audio and video)
  • Expect an average attendance rate of 50% of registrations

9. Follow up with the recap and video recording

After the webinar, follow up with specific attendees if you didn’t answer their questions live. Additionally, send a blast email to all attendees and no-shows with the recap recording and a next-step, perhaps downloading additional content or even a demo of your product.

10. Measure and benchmark against other campaigns

Webinars are a lot of work. As you begin hosting more, be sure to track metrics (registrations, attendance, MQL conversions) to see how effective a webinar campaign is in comparison to other mediums like written content.

11. Define a webinar cadence

Once you establish your webinar strategy, consider offering monthly webinars as your audience begins to anticipate and look forward to them.

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