“Am I the only person not running my own webinar?!”
Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but if you’re in business for yourself, or you simply are looking for ways to make money online, you may be one of the few who aren’t.
Webinars are on fire, and they’re only getting more widely used. Webinars are live events conducted over the internet for a host of purposes, including product promotion, business promotion, personal advocacy, online training, and more. They’re a persuasive, fun, and effective resource in which you can deliver your pitch to a large audience in a small amount of time, helping you to reach the most potential customers as possible. And it’s that broad-yet-targeted publicity that can catapult your efforts more forcefully than any other tool.
Businesses use webinars to publicize a product or service they have to offer. Individuals use webinars to promote their personal brands. Self-published authors can use webinars to make short presentations about their books. Colleges, universities, and companies can even use webinars as a means of educating staff and students. The myriad of uses of webinars grows every year, so maybe it’s time you learn just what a webinar is and how to run one of your own.
What is a webinar?
The term ‘webinar’ is just what it sounds like – a web-based seminar. Also termed web conference or webcast, a webinar typically is a live, interactive conference conducted over the internet that can include presentations, voice and/or text chats, video- or file-sharing, workshops, lectures, training, and so much more. Webinars are a much more intimate, educational, and promotional forum than, say, an impersonal email or brochure because they are live events in which audiences can interact with those conducting the webinar and each other. They generally last around a half hour to an hour, but the more concise the better.
Audiences enjoy attending webinars for scads of reasons. Many like the educational aspects of being able to learn something new without leaving home. Others choose to attend webinars in order to learn about the various products or services of businesses they’re considering utilizing. Still others tune in because it helps them achieve further insight into a product or business. Naturally, many people show up for a combination of these, and just about anyone who tunes into a webinar does so because it can be infinitely more interesting and engaging than simply reading a website’s content or other sales material.
A brief history of webinars?
Webinars originated from the late 1980s technology that introduced real-time text messaging allowing computer users to instant message each other. From this telecommunications automation came the launch of LifeShare Plus, a software which gave users the ability to share screens, transfer files, etc. The first public internet conferencing became possible in May 1996 when Microsoft introduced NetMeeting.
The first webinar software PlaceWare became available soon after, allowing one location of users to make internet presentations to multiple other locations that could be attended by many users all over the globe. Finally, in 1998, management consultant Eric R. Korb attempted to register the trademark ‘webinar,’ but this was challenged in court. The term now actually is owned by a company called ‘InterCall,’ which is the largest conference service provider in the world. However, like the term ‘Kleenex’ for tissues, the word ‘webinar’ has become synonymous with web conferences and is used world-wide for such.
Who can run their own webinar?
Anyone and everyone! Seriously, if you’re a human being who wants to earn money online, owns your own business, or has a product or service to sell (including yourself!), you can run your own webinar. Webinars come from people in thousands of different professions, from sales people with a product to promote, to artists displaying their merchandisable artistic talents, to bloggers looking to publicize their online presence, and the list goes on.
You don’t have to be super tech savvy, either, considering all the assistance you can derive from webinar platforms that can aid you in conducting your webinars.
What’s involved in running a good webinar?
Running a good webinar takes the right equipment, a topic, a good presentation, and of course, a targeted audience.
Equipment: Naturally, you’ll need a computer or laptop in order to present to, and connect with, your targeted audience online. You’ll also need a good internet connection, since that’s how you’ll be connecting. The faster the internet connection you have the better, since you don’t want there to be any downtime in your presentation. After all, this is going to be happening in real-time. You’ll also need the right software platform in order to make this happen in real-time. Additionally, because a webinar is interactive, you’ll need a good quality microphone and a good camera in order to speak to, as well as with, your audience.
You can also utilize a Smartphone or tablet for webinar platform use. Finally, you’ll need any equipment that will be used in the making of your presentation.
Topic: Sure, this may go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway – you need at topic! Your topic can be a product or service you’re offering to the public. It can be a training course that’s targeting specific staff or students for a college or business. It can be any subject that you want to promote to as large an audience in as short a time possible.
Presentation: Your presentation will be the means of getting your information out to your public. Many webinar users choose PowerPoint slides to present their topics, but if you’re conducting a webinar to students or staff, you likely have a training module that can be presented over web conferencing. You can use videos, YouTube, shared files, or many other software and forums that will help you create the content you need to spread the word about your product.
Targeted audience: Of course, you want as large an audience for your webinar as possible. However, you’ll be wasting your time and a good presentation if you’re not presenting to a targeted audience. Asking yourself what types of consumers you are targeting will need to be done at the outset because you need to be thinking about target specifics from day one of planning.
Could you break down the steps I need to take to run my own webinar?
Once you learn how to do it, running your own webinar isn’t hard. There can be a lot of planning involved in your first webinar, but once you learn and conduct one web conference, like everything else, you’ll become an expert and you’ll likely want to run more of them. Of course, the great thing about this is that webinars have the power to reach so much more of your target audience at once than just about any other forum.
When learning how to run a webinar, it’s easiest to break it down in more bite-sized pieces that will make the task less daunting, thereby making it much more doable. Think about these four steps: planning, platform, promotion, and performance.
Planning: This is the initial ‘homework’ stage, in which you’ll decide upon a topic and create your presentation’s content.
Topic: If you’re thinking about running your own webinar, you likely already have a product or service to market. Your product can be a book you’ve written, artwork you produce, or a service your business offers, and more. But your topic doesn’t have to be something you’re selling. It can be a learning module you need to use in order to train staff all over the country or in other parts of the world. Once you know what your subject matter will be, it’s time to start working on the presentation.
Presentation: There are a number of different webinar formats you can use to present your material to your target audience. If you’re training students or staff, you likely already have your presentation format in the form of a training module. If you have a product or service to offer, you’ll need to choose the format that will best present it that aligns with your own capabilities. The best way to find the right format for your presentation is to ask yourself questions. Will you be the sole presenter, or will you have collaborators such as business partners, speakers, and/or a panel of experts? Do you want to show videos that will enhance your presentation, or are you great at making interactive PowerPoint slide presentations that will be engaging enough for your attendees? What information do I want to get out about my topic?
Remember that your audience will most definitely have questions they’ll expect you to sufficiently answer. Therefore, when developing and designing your presentation, think as comprehensively as possible about what questions you would want answered, and then endeavor to answer as many in your demonstration as possible without going into information overload. From these answers, you will be able to create powerful content that will energetically engage your audience. It’s important to know that webinar attendees expect pictures, charts, or other graphics that will hold their attention. The idea is to keep as many attendees tuned in right through to the Q&A period at the end as possible. After all, webinars are supposed to involve your audience as much as possible.
NOTE: Don’t forget time zones! If your webinar will include attendees from different parts of the country or world than you, be mindful of their time zones and work these into the date and time you choose to present it.
Platform: If you’re thinking that running your own webinar is a daunting task because you can’t do it alone, you’re in luck because you won’t have to. There exist several webinar platforms through which you can conduct your web conference, including Google+ Hangout, Skype, GotoWebinar, Facebook, and YouTube, to name some of the top sources. Some webinar platforms are free, while others may include a cost to you depending upon the services they offer. When choosing a platform, consider these key components:
- What is your budget? The good news here is that some webinar platforms are free or at least offer a free trial. Look into discounts offered through online promo codes and ‘groupon’ type rates.
- How many attendees will you need to accommodate? Which platform’s features are right for your webinar can depend partly on whether you’re expecting a small audience or a large crowd.
- How will you present your information? If you’ll be presenting alone, you won’t need web-hosting software that permits you to use split screens in order to co-present with others or a panel of hosts. But it’s important to think ahead, since once you’ve learned how to use one host it will be time-consuming to have to learn a different platform.
Promotion: Promotion means marketing to your targeted audience. It’s the ‘people’ part of your webinar, which many would argue is the most vital aspect. After all, you won’t get people to attend your web conference if no one knows about it. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked-In – these and other social media resources are fabulous tools that can help you get the word out about your webinar’s topic, date and time it’s being held, and how attendees will benefit by tuning in. Twitter is a must for a webinar because you’ll want to create an official hashtag for your webinar. Additionally, newsletters, email blasts, and yes, even brochures sent to targeted businesses can help to promote your webinar. And, if you’re wondering if you should charge for your webinar, know this – statistics show that at least half of the attendees of free webinars tend to drop out before the thing’s over. Charging a small fee can help deter this occurrence because folks who pay, even a nominal fee, will take your webinar more seriously. It’s also important in this stage to gather and record as much info from your potential attendees as you can, such as names and email addresses, since you’ll want to do a little personal follow-up afterward.
Performance: This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say. All your planning has come down to this, your webinar’s live presentation. How you’ve set it up, developed your content, and promoted will culminate into how well your demonstration goes. If you’ve done your homework, chances are greater that the running of your first webinar will go well. A best practice, especially for your first webinar, is to conduct a rehearsal in order to familiarize yourself with necessary tech components. Think of your webinar as theater that requires practice in order to go off without a hitch. But don’t forget that live events can – and probably will – have a hitch or two. Therefore, it’s important not to ‘sweat the small stuff,’ such as a few seconds of lag time here or there, or an attendee who asks too many questions. That’s why a rehearsal can be so vital. As long as you’ve put the proper amount of work into your presentation, answered as many questions beforehand as you think your audience will ask about your product or service, and conducted all visual and audio tests ahead of time, chances are good your web conference will be successful.
Remember also to record your live event, as you’ll want to keep a record on hand for future reference. You may even want to offer this recording to those who could not participate.
If possible, have at least two or three people involved in the running of your webinar. This way, you’ll be able to divide up the tasks as well as have backups on hand if someone is called away.
Following your webinar, be sure to do some follow-up.
Your attendees will expect it.
Analyze the data you’ve gathered, including all questions asked, answered, and even new questions that haven’t been answered yet. Then send out emails to those who attended as well as those who didn’t make it. Include summary information as well as info on future webinars you’re planning on conducting. Always be sure to thank participants at the end of your webinar, and always include thank-yous in your follow-up. After all, each person who planned on attending is a potential client, whether they tuned in or not.