Thanks to the advances in technology, the rise of digital marketing, and recent world events, webinars have grown in popularity as people have looked for ways to engage more online. It’s likely you’ve been invited to more webinars in the last 18 months than in your entire career combined. The number of online meeting tools that have popped up – and the Zoom share price – alone is evidence enough of just how big this tactic has become.

Webinars are a hidden goldmine of potential for you to meaningfully connect and engage with your audience, prime them to buy, and position yourself as an expert and leader in your industry. That is, if they’re done right.

But while it might seem like a good way to easily reach and engage your audience, many businesses are still missing the mark. What seems like such a simple tactic is actually pretty easy to get wrong. Webinars need some serious thought and planning behind them to ensure they’re valuable for your business and your audience – especially now that the online space is so flooded.

To uncover exactly how we can set webinars up for success, we sat down with an industry pioneer in the area of visual collaboration, our very own align.me Co-Founder and sales master Brett Bonser. Brett has delivered thousands of virtual presentations throughout his career, and here he gives his best advice on how to plan and present a highly engaging webinar.

Why so many webinars lead to nowhere

First, let’s look at why so many webinars might seem somewhat successful, but don’t seem to deliver any tangible results.

Poor planning

The first mistake that can put a webinar on the path to missed opportunities is poor planning. Basic missteps like not giving prospects enough notice to register, a disorganised presentation, and inadequate communications throughout the lead-up and event will reduce the numbers of attendees – and fail to engage those who do sign up.

Not tailoring the content for the audience

A sign of a successful webinar is when participants are engaged and interested throughout the whole process. Unfortunately, it’s all too common that hosts put together generic or wide-reaching content, in hopes of capturing the attention of many. Failure to tailor the messaging, plan out the flow of the presentation, or nail down a clear action commitment at the end can often leave large sections of the audience unengaged and the hosts failing to achieve clear outcomes from their investment.

Not engaging with the audience

Another common mistake that webinar hosts make is using their webinar as a one-way presentation, (why not just watch the recording?), rather than as a tactic that engages their audience. Audiences are less likely to get the most out of a webinar if they’re not given a chance to engage and participate – for example, not having enough time for a Q&A at the end.

Webinars that exhibit all these “no-no’s” can still attract attendees and still be a tool to disseminate information. Yet they will often fail to provide any actual ROI, positioning the organisation as a memorable subject expert or thought leader, or uncovering and or generating new prospects.

Ultimately, when a webinar delivers no return for the host and no clear value for the attendee, the entire event has been a waste of time.

What do you need to do to plan an engaging webinar?

One of the best things about webinars is their versatility. From small gatherings to large assemblies, webinars can be tailored to any audience or message. But to deliver an effective webinar, you need to choose your audience and message wisely – and structure your content and delivery around them.

The key to a successful webinar is being incredibly deliberate and not leaving any gaps. An audience becomes highly engaged and attentive when you promise to address their specific pain points or interests. So, you’ll need to be able to ensure that your topic is niche enough that it will be able to find the right audience – no matter the size.

Plan each step of your webinar in advance and have all of the right content and touchpoints ready to deploy, including giving the audience clear action steps. And the best way to do this? Use the buyer’s journey as a guide.

Using the buyer’s journey as a launchpad for a successful webinar

The buyer’s journey should play a large role in your webinar strategy as it underpins everything you do in your marketing and sales.

But before we go any further, here’s a quick overview of the buyer’s journey:

The buyer’s journey describes the process a typical business buyer takes as they move through the sales funnel. The journey is not an administrative process, but a cognitive one. The buyer moves from being complacent to troubled, then becomes clear about needs and viable options, before deciding on preferences and opening the way for an acceptable contract.

As you plan your webinar, start with the buyer’s journey and ask yourself at what stage your audience is likely to be in when they read your invitation, or register for the event, or join the event itself, and or when they have attended the session. How best will you shape all elements of the event, before, during and after to help your buyers move from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next?

Webinars can be used at any stage of the buyer’s journey, which can help guide you on what type of webinar you’ll need to host. You need to be able to meet your audience at the right time and place to drive success and conversion.

For example:

  • A webinar designed to move your buyers & acknowledge the pain in their buying journey could involve polls or a Q&A that really gets them to fully self-assess their current situation and declare a gap;
  • A webinar where your buyers have already acknowledged pain in their buying journey might involve an interactive workshop where you’re starting to throw around different ideas that say, “If you have this problem, what are the different paths that you might take?” You might even leverage subject matter experts that work through what buyers might need to solve a common problem to move them to define their needs; or
  • For an audience you feel are likely to be at the later stages of their buying journey, you might have a webinar that’s around best fit and potentially leveraging people that have gone through a similar buying journey to theirs. Other credentialed sources can provide clear examples of what they might expect if they were to engage with an organisation like yours as a means of moving them and you to a position where your solution is preferred.

Considering where your buyers are likely to be in their buying journey and where you are looking to take them next is a key driver of whether or not webinars succeed or not for sellers and buyers.

How to present a highly engaging webinar that converts

It can be a little overwhelming to consider all of this, so one thing we like to do is work backwards from the outcome and make our way back to the start.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you plan your webinar:

  • What is your audience currently thinking and what do you want them to think by the end of the webinar?
  • What is the action that you want the participants to take at the end?

A webinar should always, first and foremost, be built around:

  1. A clear, segmented audience (whether that is an industry, a specific role, etc.);
  2. Specific content that speaks to your audience and their point in the buyer’s journey; and
  3. Clear action steps that take the audience through the webinar, and also next steps for them to take at the conclusion of the event.

Once you’ve laid these foundations in place, it’s time to consider the different methods you could use to help further engage your audience and encourage participation.

Lift engagement rates by:

  • Sending out questions or a workbook

Send out questions or even a workbook for your audience to fill out during or before the webinar. Audience members that prepare in advance will be more likely to show up so as not to waste their work.

  • Utilising collaboration features

With platforms now having multiple collaboration features such as a whiteboard, polls, Q&A, and breakout rooms, it’s easier than ever to engage with audience members. Utilising collaboration tools will lead to higher participation rates and stronger connections with your audience.

  • Perfecting your timing

If your audience is fully engaged, emotionally and intellectually, on the topic you’re about to discuss, you don’t want to interrupt that flow with an ill-timed pitch or overly long introduction about yourself.

  • Planning how to re-use content

Webinars make a great addition to your content library. From gating the recording, re-purposing the clips to promote future events, or creating content based on the discussions with the audience, you’ll want to jot down a few ideas to ensure that you take advantage of it when the time is right. (Just make sure that your audience is aware of your intentions to use the recording.)

 Boost participation rates by:

  • Sending out an agenda

Sending out an agenda will ensure that your audience has a clear idea of what to expect, as well as prepare them for engagement.

  • Gatekeeping the content

Gatekeeping your webinar recording is a great method of guaranteeing that your audience will show up. If people know that they may have to wait a period of time to access the recording (as such 1-4 weeks), then they’ll be more motivated to attend the live webinar.

  • Sending reminders

Sending out multiple reminders has been shown to lead to higher participation rates. These reminders don’t necessarily have to be just a time and date, you can include the agenda and other materials in them to prepare your audience ahead of time.

  • Making sure that your platform is accessible

A common mishap during webinars is audience members being locked out of the platform due to their device’s security protocols. You don’t want to create barriers for your audience, so you’ll need to plan around this and find out which platforms are commonly used in professional settings.

Make webinars your secret weapon to successful sales

Webinars can be a great tool in your marketing and sales toolbox if you understand how to plan and execute them well. It’s not enough to put the information you want to share together, inviting your ideal prospects and hoping some of it sticks. Hosts actually have a lot more influencing power than they realise and can in fact put the wheels in motion to ensure their content highly resonates with the entire audience.

No matter where your audience sits in their journey or where you want them to get to, a webinar can be planned out as the perfect tool to position you, worry your buyer, present a solution, or show exactly what you can do as a solution provider. All it takes is a little careful thought and planning.

Our team has helped execute successful B2B webinars for clients in numerous industries such as solar and tertiary education, and we’ve also seen great success in transitioning traditionally in-person events into online webinars, such as our quarterly roundtables for our business partners and referrers.

For those that aren’t as experienced in hosting or managing these, our team of experts will be able to help you lift your game through a number of methods such as training or executing on your behalf. You can contact us here to start discussing how we can help you host better webinars.