A webinar is a chance to get direct access to your audience—including people who don’t know you well yet—so it’s a great opportunity to build lasting relationships. Relationship building is something you shouldn’t take lightly, so it’s crucial to create a great experience for your webinar attendees.
Here’s the first thing to know as you’re planning your first webinar: A great webinar is not just the hour or two you spend in a virtual space with a group of people who are paying close attention to you. A great webinar actually has three components:
- the webinar itself
In the pre-webinar phase, a great webinar is one that people are excited to sign up for, that builds anticipation, that has people immediately putting it in their calendar because it's something they don't want to miss. During the webinar, the host creates an engaging atmosphere where people feel excited to listen, learn, and contribute—and to follow through on what they’ve learned after the webinar. Finally, what happens post-webinar is arguably as important as what happens before and during, because it’s when you keep the conversation going and continue fostering relationships with your audience.
Whether you choose to use your website to build your list, sell a product or create a stronger connection with your audience (or all of the above!), let's dive into the three parts of a great webinar, and how to master each one.
Creating and hosting a great webinar starts way before you log in and share your screen with everyone.
Picking a Topic
The first step in creating a great webinar is picking a great topic.
When you’re picking your topic, you first need to understand who your audience is and what their goals and pain points are. You then want to find out how you can provide value and teach them something that will help them reach those goals and remove those pain points.
All of the webinars I conduct revolve around topics that my audience is interested in and wants to learn more about. In session 521 of the AskPat podcast, I help Venisha come up with an idea for a webinar topic that works for her business goals. Spoiler alert: I encourage her to think outside the box a little bit.
Designing the Webinar
Once you’ve chosen your topic, you need to design your webinar. We’ll talk more about the structure of a great webinar in chapter 6, but there are a few guidelines and pieces that will go a long way toward creating a memorable experience.
Great webinars include a mixture of storytelling and teaching. You may choose to use slides to illustrate your points, but your webinar should also include moments where you’re face to face with the audience. You can use “pattern interrupts” to break up the monotony and keep people engaged. As for your slides, all the rules for creating a great presentation apply. Not too much text, and mix it up with images, even animated GIFs and videos.
The best webinars teach what they need to, without extra fluff. Stories can be added for flavor, but when the story crowds out the learning, your audience’s experience will suffer.
With that in mind, how long should your webinar be? The typical length of a webinar is anywhere between thirty minutes and up to two or even two and a half hours on the higher end. It depends on the topic. However long your webinar is, it’s really important to honor people’s time and not go over the scheduled time.
During the webinar, it is valuable to share testimonials and success stories of people who have taken the actions you’re suggesting.
A great webinar experience can also include co-hosts or guests. I've been on a lot of webinars as the featured teacher or guest, and it’s always a great experience.
Another powerful thing to do on your webinar is provide a small, quick win for your audience. If you want to give people a ton of value, you need to show, not tell them. This means suggesting an action people can take that will produce a positive result in a short time—and if it’s something they can do during the actual webinar, even better!
What about if you’re selling something on your webinar, like a course or training program? Regardless of your goals with your webinar, you always want to lead with education and giving people something valuable to take away. This also lets you prove your expertise and showcase your teaching style.
We’ll talk a lot more about selling on your webinar in chapter 7, but there’s a general rule I learned way back in 2010 from Lewis Howes that still holds true for any webinar, and that’s “95 percent content, 5 percent offering.”
Next, you need to have a great registration process. You want to create a registration landing page with more information that sells the benefits of signing up and joining the webinar. People aren't going to just give you their time—you have to earn it—and the information on this page will help you convince them it's worth your time. This landing page should create excitement and speak to the problems or the pains of your target audience. Think about promoting your webinar like you’re selling a product, with testimonials, what to expect, and what the outcomes will be. You should also share that the webinar will be an opportunity for direct access to you and a chance for people to get their questions answered.
Chapter 5 is where we’ll talk more about how to market your webinar to get more people to register—and of course, show up.
Speaking of showing up, once someone is signed up, you need to have a system in place for communicating with them, at minimum through a series of automatic reminders. Email is typically the best way to do this. Once a person registers, they will get sent reminder emails with links to make it easy for them to join; as we’ll see in chapter 5, some software can do this for you.
Once people register, you may even want to give them some “homework” to do beforehand to get them excited. For example, if you’re hosting a webinar about starting a podcast, you can have people start thinking about the name of their show. This will get them excited about joining the webinar and putting their show name into action and actually turning it into something in the future.
Become a Webinar Rockstar
Last but not least, practice! As the date of the webinar approaches, make sure you have practiced your presentation at least two or three times. Know your material so you don’t have to read directly from a script when it’s live. It’s okay to have notes, but if it sounds like you’re just reading, people are going to tune out. You also want to do a test run with everything set up the way it will be during the actual webinar (what they call a “tech rehearsal” in theatre). Make sure you have everything you need and that it’s working properly. We’ll go over the details of what you’ll need for equipment and software later in this guide.
During the Webinar
Right before the webinar: Log into your webinar platform at least fifteen minutes early to make sure everything is working, and connect with your co-host or guest before broadcasting live if need be. This also gives you a chance to make sure all the tech stuff is working perfectly before you let the main audience in.
Then, you can go live a bit early to welcome people and say hello before the “official” start. As people join, say people’s names, remind them they’re in the right place, and get them excited for the start of the show.
During the webinar, a great webinar host helps people get comfortable and feel like it’s going to be worth their time. You want to continually engage with people and make them feel like part of the event.
It goes without saying that you should introduce yourself, especially for people who may not know you. A great host gives people a glimpse of who they are and why people should listen to them, but doesn’t spend too long with their own backstory. After all, people are ultimately there for the content.
Then go over the logistical details of how the webinar will go and how the software works, as well as when and how to ask questions. Explain how long the webinar is going to be and what people will get out of it. This last point is crucial: You need to give attendees a clear idea of what they’re going to learn and what transformation they’re going to achieve by the end.
It can be smart to pose an open-ended question early on that you will plan to answer at the end of the webinar. This creates an “open loop” that will keep people curious and engaged throughout.
Throughout the webinar, thank people for joining and staying with you and encourage them to participate. When they do participate, such as by asking questions in the chat window, make sure to mention their names as you engage with them. Also, you probably won’t be able to answer every single question yourself, so it may help to have another person in there to filter them for you.
Some webinar tools, like Demio, even let you run polls and share those results in real time, which is another great way to get your audience involved.
These are just a few tips for creating an engaging webinar—a topic we’ll dive into in more depth in chapter 6.
Post-Webinar: Wrapping Things Up and Beyond
A great webinar ends on a high note and with a call to action. But the work doesn’t end there. You need to follow up with everyone who registered, whether they attended or not. At minimum, send everyone a copy of the recording so they can view it at their convenience. (I recommend hosting it on a permanent landing page on your website.)
And if you sold something on the webinar, then your sales process doesn’t end when the webinar does. If you shared an offer or call-to-action during the webinar, you can and should share it again. We’ll go over that and other elements of webinar follow-up—including how you should reach out to people who didn’t even register for your webinar—in chapter 8.
A Webinar Is More Than a Presentation
I have one more tip to help you learn how to make a great webinar: Join other people’s webinars to learn what to do and not to do. See what you like and what you don’t, what works well and what doesn’t.
Your webinar can and should be so much more than just a presentation. You can make it something that people will thank you for, watch again, and share far and wide. A great webinar is one that overdelivers and gets people excited about taking action and sharing what they’ve learned.
All right, let’s help you pick an awesome topic for your webinar!