Do you want to know the secret to planning a webinar that gets better results … even if you’re a total beginner?
It’s simple … don’t start from scratch.
Marketers have been planning webinars for years (us included!). And they’ve learned from experience about what works and what doesn’t. So, there’s no reason you have to go through the planning process blindfolded. You can steal what works for others to shorten your learning curve.
And in this blog, we’re going to help you do just that!
We tapped our internal webinar guru, Kelsey Yen, to share her best hacks for planning webinars that get results, broken down into 8 easy steps.
1. Webinar Planning: How to Create and Select a High-Performing Topic
Coming up with topics that your audience loves can seem hard unless you know what strategies to use.
“I like to do a little research to understand what type of content is trending with our audience,” says Kelsey Yen, Demand Generation Manager at Act-On. “An industry podcast with high engagement is usually a clear sign of an audience’s proven interests.”
You can also take research a step further by using tools such as BuzzSumo to uncover your competitors’ best topics—just type a competitor’s main URL into the tool, and it will show the highest-performing content.
Another way to find great topics is by checking internal content metrics. Use tools such as Google Analytics to find your top-performing blogs, eBooks, and other content, and then consider new angles for your webinar planning.
“I also like to track industry trends and tie them to our products,” says Kelsey. “We noticed earlier this year a trend around marketing in a recession, layoffs, and doing more with less. We used these insights to create a webinar that did very well with our audience.”
And last, pay attention to ongoing content engagement. For example, we noticed high engagement around an email deliverability article in our newsletter. As a result, we leveraged that topic into a webinar, and it’s become one of our highest-performing webinars to date.
2. How to Plan a Webinar: Choose the Right Format
When planning a webinar, there are many formatting options. We typically use a traditional format, which includes a 30-minute presentation followed by a 15-minute Q&A.
“A traditional webinar format is fast and easy to execute, which is helpful when we’re jumping on trends like marketing in a recession,” says Kelsey. “But with that said, I’ve noticed some really fun webinar formats, like roundtables, firesides, and townhalls.”
You can also brainstorm creative ways to present your information, such as a knockout webinar format. “I’ve only seen this style done once by Drift, but it’s where a bunch of SMEs from different companies present their thoughts and viewers vote on their favorites until there’s one winner,” says Kelsey. “It seems like a great way to get the audience engaged.”
Also, the SME you select will play a role in your format. For example, a traditional educational format with detailed slides might work best for a highly technical SME, while a more conversational fireside chat may work well for a CMO or VP. Experiment, evaluate, and see what works best for your SMEs and the audience.
3. Best Way to Host a Webinar: Find Your Subject Matter Experts
Once you finalize your topic, decide who will present it. Here are a few ideas for finding the best subject matter experts.
- Internal experts. Ask yourself, “Who internally has an interesting point of view on the topic?” Maybe you have more than one potential SME, and they can present together (each with a different perspective).
- External experts. Partnering with external experts gives your audience high-quality information and extends your reach. You and the external presenter will both promote the content, driving more participants and potential leads.
- Your customers. People trust their peers. That’s why involving customers in webinars is a great strategy. Consider inviting a customer to co-present a webinar, sharing how they solved a specific pain point important to your target audience.
Keep in mind that securing internal experts is often the easiest, so if you feature external experts or customers, give yourself more lead time (we typically plan an extra few months).
4. Planning Webinars: Pick the Perfect Time
Here’s the truth about picking the ‘perfect time.’ There isn’t one.
But some times work better than others, and you can find them by following the data.
“I send my webinar promotional emails the same day of the week and time of day I plan to hold the event,” says Kelsey. “If engagement is high, it’s an early indicator that the time might work well for the audience.”
You can also increase the odds of picking the best time by looking at your general email open rates to determine what day and time typically works best for your audience. And of course, looking at past webinar attendance for patterns is helpful too. One last note would be to consider time zones. For example, if you know you have a lot of European customers, picking a convenient GMT time will be important.
It’s every marketer’s nightmare. You work hard on a webinar, and registration rates are low.
What went wrong?
Most likely promotion.
We promote through many channels, but one of our favorites is email. On average, emails can drive 57% of webinar registrations.
“Where we’ve seen success is starting promotion about three weeks from the webinar start date and sending a total of three to four messages,” says Kelsey. “When we promote too far in advance, we tend to see a drop off in our live attendees.”
Other strategies to consider include:
- Social media. Our target audience spends time on LinkedIn, so that’s where we focus our efforts. Pro tip: Don’t put your registration signup link in the body of your LinkedIn post. Include it in the first comment. LinkedIn wants to keep viewers on its platform, so its algorithm rewards link-free posts. Instead, say something like, “See below for the registration link in the comments.”
- SME promotion. Consider asking your SMEs to promote the webinar, especially if they have influence in your target market.
- Retargeting. Retarget prospects who have interacted in the past and might be interested in your webinar topic.
Email signature promo blocks. Ask your account managers and other customer-facing staff to promote the webinar directly in their email signature lines.
6. Planning Webinars: Creating an Amazing Webinar Experience
Now that you’ve gotten your audience to sign up for the webinar, you’ve got to plan an amazing experience for them. We won’t bore you with the obvious: Pick a solid webinar platform, practice it, and get comfortable. You probably already know that! But we do suggest a couple of tips to level up the experience for attendees.
- Create a high-value slide deck. You don’t want your attendees to just download your slide deck. Nope, you want them to use it. Whatever you create, make sure it’s an amazing reference.
- Add relevant resources. In the spirit of creating something valuable, include a resource section with links to related content and any references mentioned during the presentation.
And one more tip while we’re on the subject of creating an amazing slide deck. Don’t forget to include a clear call to action. We like to include three key takeaways at the end (with the last one being more product-focused). And then we include a survey question asking if the audience wants to receive more information about our products and services. If they say yes, they go straight to our sales team.
7. Planning Webinars: Post Attendance
We’ve found that many people who register for webinars don’t actually attend the live event. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested.
“Recently, I’ve noticed a dip in live webinar attendance,” says Kelsey. “My theory is that people want things on their own timeline. Who watches live TV anymore? Not me! We’re busy during the workday, and the odds of finding a time that works for everyone are slim. So, you need to have a game plan for your post-webinar watchers.”
Here at Act-On, everyone who registers for a webinar receives three messages, but the exact messages they receive vary based on attendance behavior. Here’s what that looks like:
Attended the webinar
- First touchpoint: Receives a recording and relevant content to keep learning on the topic.
- Second touchpoint: Receives a larger piece of content, such as a case study, that generates engagement and builds their lead score.
- Third touchpoint: Receives an email from the presenter (if it’s an internal SME) that invites the prospect to connect and offers help. If the presenter is external, the attendee receives a more general message with an offer to help.
Registered but didn’t attend
- First touchpoint: Receives the recording and webinar recap in case they don’t have time to watch it.
- Second touchpoint: Receives an eBook in the same content area as the webinar.
- Third touchpoint: Receives additional and relevant resources on the topic.
And here’s a bonus idea to consider. You could also include a message from the SME presenter asking for feedback on how they enjoyed the webinar and starting a conversation.
8. Planning Webinars: Measure and Improve
Every webinar you hold is a test. It’s an experiment. And there is data that you can leverage from that experiment. What topics resonate well with your audience? What time of day gets the highest number of live attendees? What types of webinars get the highest conversion rates? (Tip: we often see the highest conversion from topics that are closely tied to our marketing automation software.)
Then iterate and improve your performance through careful, systematic planning and execution.
Want some inspiration for your webinars? Go ahead, steal ours! You can view our entire library here.
Planning Webinars: FAQs
What are webinars? A webinar is an online presentation that allows participants to interact and learn from a host in real-time through video, audio, and chat features. It is also an excellent way to generate leads.
How do I learn about what webinar means? A webinar is a tool that marketers use to build engagement with their audience, generate leads, and strengthen relationships with prospects and customers.
What is webinar event management? Webinar event management refers to the process of planning and executing a webinar from start to finish. It involves choosing the topic, selecting speakers, promoting the webinar, and creating a plan to engage and nurture participants.