A Beginner’s Guide to Webinars and Online Events

As we strive to stay connected in times that dictate distance, Maverick Publishing Specialists is harnessing its resources to help our clients communicate. This guide is designed to help you create and use a virtual presence to promote your message and keep in touch. We hope you find it useful…

Why Run an Online Event?

There are clear benefits to running an online event: cost, reach, timing, scale, ease and personnel requirements and enhanced opportunities for call to action can all factor into a choice of online over face-to-face. And, as current events prove, sometimes you have no choice but to find an alternative to your physical event. It may be an emergency Plan B but, with some research, effort and thought you may find online events becoming a core part of your marketing tool kit on a permanent basis.

What is an Online Event?

First and foremost be clear on what you mean by an online event:

  • One-to-One meetings
  • Web conferencing or Small group meetings
  • Live Webinars (with the possibility of interaction)
  • Webinars-on-Demand/ Webcasts (recorded sessions) which are generally available at any time online.
  • Online Training session (may be live, may be recorded, may be interactive, may have a pass criterion via LMS linked, may be internal or external.)
  • Webinar Conference/ Summit: a series of related sessions over some time, under one overall theme umbrella.

Each has its own value, and many large platform providers may cover all formats, but they differ in style, purpose and requirements. Treat every online activity with the same approach and you’ll fail. Instead, try to tailor the session to your needs and desired outcome.

Platforms

Depending on your requirements, there are many different online event platform providers, with functionality ranging from pure ‘event’ provision to full service, including all those elements that have to happen before and after the event. Selecting the one that is best for you will depend on your budget, personnel resource, audience size and requirements. Among the leading providers, you may wish to consider:

Costs

Costs will depend on your provider and may vary based on factors such as:

  • The number of services you want to utilize.
  • The number of administrators you need to have in place.
  • The number of seats you need (places within the Webinar).
  • How you will store the material.
  • How much personalization of branding is required.

How It Works – The Absolute Basics

At the most basic level, the process is not very different from a physical event.

  1. Advertise the event (remembering to make the what, when, where, who, why very clear).
  2. Keep attendees up to date in the build-up.
  3. Make sure you’re prepared for the event: you have your room set up (in this case virtual and physical), and the conditions are suitable for attendees and presenters.
  4. Hold the event, making sure attendees are looked after during the entirety of it.
  5. Follow up to ensure the event was successful and that attendees got all the information they expected and needed from it.

Of course, additional steps are sitting behind the above five key points. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the processes, however, there is nothing more complex than the traditional physical events you’ve organized and, in many cases, an online meeting is less time consuming and demanding.  

Fundamentally, the Webinar operates within part of your broader marketing mix. It should not and cannot work effectively as a completely independent piece. To this end, you will need:

  • A notification method: you can advertise on social and your website, but you should build a GDPR compliant sign up list. This is vital for reminders, updates and follow up.
  • A registration method: this may or may not be included within the webinar software platform.
  • An email provider (via the webinar platform or independent) to provide the messaging.

  • Ideally, you should be able to link your event to your CRM system – to record who has registered/ attended/ missed the session. You will want to treat them differently, with different follow up methods.

In addition to the above software requirements, you will also need:

  • A webinar team: at the minimum, this will include your presenter, an administrator (with knowledge of the software) and a support assistant (to moderate the session and, if interactive, to manage the chat room,  answer any user problems immediately before or during the session and support the presenter).
  • A suitable space to run the session (quiet, well lit, good internet connection).
  • Appropriate hardware: a good camera/ webcam and a high-quality microphone.
  • Suitable quality slides (even if not using in-session, then you will need a pre-presentation holding slide).

Summary

Many companies may be using webinars as last-minute substitutes due to event cancellation during this particularly difficult time. They can be a challenge to set up for the inexperienced but, as long as appropriate thought, time, planning and testing are given to it, it can be as helpful as any physical event.

Also remember that the webinar/ webcast/ online session is a component of the marketing mix and not a self-standing piece and, with appropriate preparation, hopefully, you’ll find it is an invaluable tool in your customer support.

There are, of course, additional challenges that may concern you about running a webinar – what platform to use? Should you charge and, if so, how do you do it? How do you prepare your presenter? How do you follow up? How do you include sponsors?

Good luck to anyone embarking on their first webinar sessions and if you have any further questions, we will do our best to help. For a more detailed consideration of these issues, please do contact us for a free 10 Point Check List on Info@maverick-os.com.

Simon Bewick
Affiliate Senior Associate
Maverick Publishing Specialists