Webinars have become one of today’s most important and productive tools for lead generation, pipeline acceleration and the education of customers and prospects. As more and more marketers rely on webinars to engage with their customers, competition for the time and attention of those customers intensifies.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 #1. Thinking a Single Promotion
- 3 #2. No Optimized Registration and Confirmation Pages
- 4 #3. Making Your Console Too Vanilla
- 5 #4. Leaving the Audience Out of the Conversation
- 6 #5. Killing Your Audience with 1,000 Bullets (and Text too)
- 7 #6. Selling Your Audience Out Instead of Helping Them
- 8 #7. Leaving Audio to Chance
- 9 #8. Dissing Your Audience’s Time
- 10 #9. Not Having An On-Demand Strategy
- 11 #10. Treating All Leads Equally
- 12 Conclusion
Today, simply giving a webinar isn’t enough. Companies must deliver great webinars that really stand out.
If 99 things go right in your webinar, and only one thing goes wrong, that one wrong thing is what people will remember. No surprise there, because it’s the same in everyday life, whether it’s at home or on the job.
Your webinar is not exempt. In fact, there’s some added drama because the meeting is held online without the presenter directly facing the audience. Give them a reason to lose confidence, and they’re out of there quicker than a raccoon in your trash bin as you walk up the driveway.
That’s a little different than what happens at a physical meeting. It’s less likely for someone to walk out of a physical meeting because of a minor glitch. Their peers’ eyes are upon them. But when it comes to webinar problems, you can bet that your participants will web-surf, walk away from the screen, or worse, log out.
But not all problems are related to the actual presentation. In fact, many mistakes are made in the early stages and resonate until the end.
In order to put on a successful webinar and draw the most participants, it’s important to understand the common mistakes and avoid them upfront.
#1. Thinking a Single Promotion
Unfortunately, some marketers send out their e-mail list just once and settle for the results. Studies show that attendance can increase when sending multiple e-mails at least seven days before the event. Although it’s commonplace for some organizations to kick off a webinar in seven days or less, it’s usually not a good idea.
This approach involves sending the invitation a week before the webinar and then following up a few days before. But studies show that audience size increases by 36 percent when you start promoting the event more than one week before. By changing to a two-week promotional strategy, you can bring in more participants as well as work several angles to register them.
Your first invitation could be HTML — that’s when it’s formatted as a web page and includes pictures, graphics, and color — and focus on the event at a high level.
The second might be plain text — less razzle-dazzle, but certainly readable on any device. The art of driving webinar registration is all about catching people at a moment of receptivity with a message that resonates with them.
According to a GotoMeeting research, 36% of registrations occur between 8-10 am. Make sure your email invite is at the top of your recipients’ inboxes right when they get to work. Avoid promoting your webinar in the afternoon as there is a steep drop-off in registrations starting around 2 pm.
Extending webinar promotions beyond a week and delivering multiple messages and email types increase your chance of successfully hitting that moment of receptivity.
#2. No Optimized Registration and Confirmation Pages
Here’s an alarming statistic: Fewer than half of the people who begin registering for your webinar will complete the registration form. That means marketers are losing more than half their prospective audience members at the point of registration.
And what’s driving them away? It’s the registration page itself. This failure to optimize registration (and confirmation) pages is easy to fix after you recognize the problem.
Here are some ways to get your potential attendees to follow through on registration:
2.1 Avoid lengthy registration forms
Nobody likes filling out lengthy forms, yet some organizations think that it’s a good idea to ask for far more information than they really need.
Busy customers take one look at these long forms, decide they will be too time-consuming, and exit the registration process. Don’t make the mistake of scaring off your audience with overly complicated registration forms.
Just ask for basic demographic information such as company, name, title, industry, revenue, and contact information. This is enough information to determine if the prospect is right for you, but not so much information that prospective attendees will get turned off and quit.
2.2 Embedding helpful tools
They enable registrants to place your webinar on their existing business calendar increases the likelihood of them attending the live event.
2.3 Inconsistent creative expectation
The old “bait and switch” has become so commonplace that prospective participants need reassurance.
Attendees need visual confirmation that the event for which they are registering is the same event they saw in the promo, but often there is a visual mismatch from promotion to registration. Avoid this potential miscommunication by assuring your prospects they are in the right place.
Use consistent creative information on every page, including consistent pictures, icons, and logos. Make sure those items are on e-mails, registration pages, and landing pages.
2.4 Don’t forget about the confirmation page
That’s the page that tells them they’ve successfully registered. Many promoters don’t take advantage of it, but there’s so much you can do with one.
Think about it: When you buy something online, e-commerce retailers confirm your purchase, and then offer you other opportunities such as purchasing a similar product. But not all webinar producers have caught up with this concept, thereby limiting the growth of their audience and brand. The confirmation page is the perfect place to grow your audience numbers by telling them about your upcoming events.
Try the following to help maximize your present and future webinar attendance:
- Tell your audience about upcoming events – Provide blurbs and links to upcoming webinars.
- Have them subscribe to you – If you have a newsletter or other online information, share that with them.
- Let them download – Here’s an opportunity for them to download white papers and other PDFs about your organization and products.
- Encourage social sharing – Embed Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn buttons so registrants can tweet or post that they just signed up for your webinar. Doing so promotes your event to a much wider audience. Over time, the additional viewers you capture via social sharing can add up to significant numbers.
#3. Making Your Console Too Vanilla
You’re asking your webinar participants to stare at a screen for an hour. If that location is not visually engaging, you will see them drop off quicker than flies around a bug lamp.
So what makes a great console? In the abstract, it’s one that helps retain audience focus and attention throughout your presentation. But more specifically, it provides an opportunity to reinforce your branding and message. Remember, a well-designed console will engage your attendees and establish your brand.
To keep them interested, every console should include the following:
- Your corporate logo and color scheme – That should be clear to viewers from the start.
- The presenter’s top-line message at the top of the screen – If attendees remember nothing else, they’ll remember your key message after staring at it for an hour.
- Appealing graphics – Make the background of your webinar console visually appealing by using bold colors, images, and graphics. The console is your pallet upon which you overlay the audience experience.
#4. Leaving the Audience Out of the Conversation
It’s ridiculous to expect your attendees to stare at a screen watching a talking head or worse looking at slides, for an hour. It’s simply unacceptable. You have so many audience participation tools at your disposal. It’s important to change the thought process from talking at your audience to having a conversation with them.
Here are a few ways to make them feel like part of the conversation:
- Live Q&A – The most widely used interactive tool in the webinar experience changes participants from being passive to active by allowing them to ask questions.
- Polling – Getting a feel from your audience by polling them during the webinar can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Not only does polling enable presenters to directly engage with viewers, but it also ensures they are paying attention by requiring them to take action. In addition, it allows attendees to benchmark themselves against their peers’ votes. An added bonus is that you can gain interesting insights about your market or brand perception.
- Social media – Encourage your audience to use social media. When viewers can react to events in real time over social networks, it maintains engagement. That’s why you should provide the tools to share directly from your console and keep them in your webinar.
- Group chat – By letting the audience communicate with one another, you expand the conversation by getting them to listen to you and their peers simultaneously.
#5. Killing Your Audience with 1,000 Bullets (and Text too)
Asking your attendees for an hour of their time and attention is a lot to ask, but forcing them to stare at slides filled with endless text is sheer torture. It’s the easiest way to drive people away from your webinar. The bullet list goes down as one of the great presentation innovations, but unfortunately, overuse has dulled its appeal.
After a few PowerPoint slides crammed with too many large dots preceding some words, your audience will start to tune out. Since the days of the seminar in a hotel ballroom, presenters have struggled with the problem of excessive text, making the bullet list a great way to simplify things.
But too many lists are just as unbearable as the excessive text that preceded them, making bullets more overplayed than Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” A bullet list is still a functional tool, but you need to rein it in. Compelling slides combined with great storytelling is the key to keeping your audience’s attention and getting your message across.
Consider the following:
- Limit the number of words you put on screen: It distracts the audience from the host. Remember, the speaker is the storyteller, not the slide, so you want the audience concentrating on listening to what he has to say, rather than looking at the slide. If there’s a need for lots of words, it’s better for them to flow eloquently from the presenter’s mouth.
- You want to compel the audience with imagery, not word slides: The best presentations tell compelling stories that are supported by engaging visuals.
- A few bullets go a long way: When using bullets, be sure they are not used in mind-numbing numbers and that they highlight key points. One idea is to summarize your words and pictures with a bullet list at the end of each section.
#6. Selling Your Audience Out Instead of Helping Them
Don’t get me wrong — it’s okay to sell products via webinars. Just be upfront about it. Aside from the occasional giggle, no one wants to sit and watch a snake-oil salesman do his thing, especially when an audience member registers for your webinar expecting to be helped.
The looking-to-be-informed masses come to your presentation for answers to their pressing problems, or to consider new ideas.
Now, what do you think happens when they realize they’re just being pitched? That’s right: They leave in droves. And that’s sad because you are missing a valuable opportunity to establish credibility and earn trust. Instead, you must offer prospective participants new ways to think about their toughest business problems.
When you’re direct and helpful, you establish yourself as a trusted advisor — a position that ultimately will enable you to more effectively present your solutions, products, or services.
Although your webinar should help them with topics such as “5 Keys to a Successful (insert name here)” or “How to Optimize (something),” it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t address your product or service. Just do it from a perspective that helps solve their problem, rather than just making a sale.
Many companies conduct webinar product demonstrations, targeting serious buyers. These so-called “deminars” can be highly effective, but the audiences must know what they’ve signed up for. Don’t pull a bait-and-switch. Attract an audience with the promise of addressing a specific business problem but then give that problem a mere surface-level treatment before jumping right into a detailed product pitch.
#7. Leaving Audio to Chance
Movies, television, and webinars all depend heavily on their visual aspect. Nothing turns off your audience more than terrible audio quality.
If they can’t hear your voice clearly, they can’t hear your message. That’s because what we see on the screen is enhanced by how clearly we can hear it. Poor audio quality can frustrate audiences interested in your content, especially when they struggle to understand what’s being said to them.
They’re busy, anyway, so guess what happens when they can’t even hear your presentation? They drop out! Audio is too important to leave to chance. When it’s less than perfect, it can convey an air of unprofessionalism, which can lead to similar perceptions of your company as a whole.
Webinar presenters should always use landlines with handsets or headsets because the audio quality is much better.
Consider the following to make sure your webinar sounds good and doesn’t provide one more reason for your participant to drop out:
- Never use cell phones or speaker phones: The poor sound quality is evident.
- Use a good-quality handset or headset: The better sound quality is equally evident.
- Do the presentation in a small room: Big rooms often have an echo.
- Turn off air conditioning, heaters, or other noisy devices: You may think they can’t be heard over the phone line, but you will discover that buzz or hum when it’s too late.
- Sound-check every speaker 30 minutes before the webinar: This way, you have time to address any issues with audio quality in advance.
#8. Dissing Your Audience’s Time
Here’s another way to alienate an audience: Don’t respect your attendees’ time. Some producers run their webinars past their end time, whereas others try to fill up the whole session by stretching the content. Avoid both.
Most webinars average 45–60 minutes in length; however, that does not mean that you should automatically schedule all of your events for that length. What if you only have 20 minutes of great content? Should you stretch it out? Probably not because you should never add filler — your audience can recognize it for what it is.
If your webinar is scheduled for one hour, make sure to stop when the hour is up. Respect the audience’s time, and they will appreciate you more.
Here are some points to remember:
- Do not exceed the advertised webinar length – When you run over, you’re forcing the participant to make a decision that they don’t want to make. Not only does it make you look unprofessional, but you also put them in the tough position of deciding between finishing your event or making it to their next meeting on time.
- Schedule your webinar length based on your content – Just because you have 60 minutes doesn’t mean you should use the entire time, especially if your content doesn’t support it. Determine how long it’s going to take to make your presentation, and then add 10–15 minutes for Q&A.
- Start a tad late It’s fairly standard practice to start webinars about two minutes after the hour to allow attendees running from another meeting to get to their computer, put on a headset, and log in. If you are running into unpreventable technical errors that are forcing you to start a little behind schedule, be sure your webinar moderator is keeping attendees completely in-the-know about what’s going on and when your anticipated start time will be.
- End a tad early – If you still have five or ten minutes left in your allotted time but your presentation is complete and no more questions are coming in, don’t be afraid to end your webinar early. Your audience won’t think less of you — they will thank you and appreciate getting a few minutes back. In fact, this could earn you additional goodwill.
#9. Not Having An On-Demand Strategy
It’s important to have an on-demand strategy, so those who missed it can watch it later. Studies show that one in four webinar registrants attends a webinar on-demand, and many of them miss the live event entirely.
One reason is that most people don’t have a lot of time during the day, so they are choosing to watch at “off” times, such as during long commutes. Also, remember that your webinar is accessible around the globe. The differing time zones of your attendees make it impossible for everyone to attend live.
A global audience means your webinars have to be available on-demand for instant viewing at any time and on any type of device. With on-demand viewing providing such a massive opportunity to extend the life of your webinar, it is important to have a plan to not only archive the event but to promote it beyond the live date.
Consider the following:
- Get it out quickly: Be sure your webinars are available within 48 hours of the live event. The sooner you send out the link, the better.
- Notify all registrants: Let them know the archive link is available. Include everyone who attended, not just those who missed the webinar.
- Be a gracious host – That is, make sure to host the link to the archived content on your web site.
- Share with your sales department – Send them the link so they can promote it to their prospects.
#10. Treating All Leads Equally
Although all men are created equal, all your leads are not. Prospects are the people you want to register for your webinar, but some clearly are more suited for your message than others.
By tracking attendee activity and engagement, you can qualify leads. Unfortunately, many organizations have fallen into the habit of taking all the leads from a webinar and handing them over to the sales department without any prequalification.
This leads to sales reps working their way through more dead ends than you have in a fancy gated community. That’s why it’s important to assess each lead with the proper lead scoring. In this case, it refers to assigning leads to a ranking system that prioritizes interest in your topic.
Most of the data you need on the attendees is already at your disposal from registration and their behavior during the webinar. Intelligent lead scoring techniques allow you to evaluate and score leads based on criteria in two primary areas. By simply prioritizing the stronger leads, you will increase the effectiveness of your sales efforts and the return on investment, or ROI, of your webinars.
- Basic registration data: From this information, you can quickly establish company size, industry, job title, and revenue, making it easy to qualify whether a prospect is right for you and whether it makes sense for you to target the registrant further.
- Behavioral data: The increased level of interactivity in webinars not only serves to engage the audience, but it also provides a wealth of data on the interests of your attendees.
This data can be combined to create an engagement score that provides you with the interest level of the prospect. This data can include viewing duration, content downloads, questions asked, poll/survey results, and social media engagement.
Throughout the lifecycle of creating and deploying a webinar, there are a number of small things that can determine whether your webinar is a success for you and your audience. By avoiding this
10 common webinar errors, you can take your webinars from good too awesome.
What mistakes have you identified that you are doing?
Let us know in the comments below.