How to Plan a Webinar That Engages and Converts
How to Plan a Webinar That Engages and Converts
Updated Mar 15, 2023
Everyone is hosting webinars these days, and for good reason. They’re as effective as ever for B2B brands looking to display thought leadership and reach their target audiences. You just need to know how to plan a webinar and have the willingness to adapt as digital marketing changes.
Start by defining your goals and your audience. Every good webinar connects with your buyers’ specific pain points and offers an engaging experience that feels more like a conversation than a PowerPoint dump. Sellers agree — 95% of them confirm the value of virtual and hybrid events, according to an ON24 survey.
To level up, you need to look at webinars as more than a one-time event. They can be an ongoing way to demonstrate thought leadership, attract new prospects and engage with existing customers.
We’ll show you how to create webinars that work, from concept to content planning and promotion and hosting. Then, learn how you can analyze the results and continue engaging with your audience long after the event.
Consider Your Strategy
Before you begin planning your next webinar, connect it to your overall strategy. What are your goals? How is a webinar the most effective approach?
Webinars can be used at any stage of the buyer’s journey, but keep in mind that the content will vary significantly. If your goal is lead generation, a full product demo might not be the best approach. Demos are more effective later on, when the prospect is close to making a purchasing decision.
Also consider the types of webinar formats available. Will you be live or pre-recorded? Do you provide on-demand webinars for people who can’t make the live event?
Whatever path you take, consider your ideal customer’s full journey and your sales and marketing activities as you develop your webinar. Here are a couple of other considerations.
Break Up the Content Feed
Webinars are an important component of a well-rounded content strategy, alongside written content, live events, audio and more. Live webinars, in particular, offer more opportunities to connect in a dynamic environment.
Single Session vs. Virtual Events
When we talk about webinars, we usually mean a single session. But you can also combine several webinar sessions into half-day, full-day or multiday events.
These themed events gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as a replacement for in-person events and conferences. Organizations could bring people together and share important messaging and information without risking anyone’s health. But even as in-person events have resumed, webinars continue to play a vital role in marketing and sales strategies — either as a stand-alone strategy or to complement live offerings.
Multi-session webinars can attract more attendees and allow them to personalize their experience. However, organizing and executing these events takes additional planning and consideration.
Prepare Your Content
After you decide on the strategic purpose of your webinar and the format, you can turn on your content marketing engine. This is the phase where you map out your agenda, determine what to share with your audience and how that information can help them take action. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Know What You Want People to Do
Start by defining the end goal: What do you want attendees to do or learn after the webinar? Then, work backwards to determine the best way to structure your content.
When you know what you want your audience to do next, you can better consider the timing, format and delivery of your content. For example, if you’re aiming to generate leads, you might offer a free resource or consultation at the end of your presentation, but only after you’ve provided valuable information and built trust.
Go Back to the Basics
If you’re having a tough time coming up with webinar topics, go back to the basics. What are the fundamental needs and challenges of your audience? What are they interested in? What’s the big news in your industry? What solutions are you offering to address these things?
Focus on your buyer personas, as well as insights from past events and other historical data. Conduct SEO research to see what your buyers are looking for, or look at customer reviews, surveys or any other relevant data. Don’t be afraid to target a specific audience or need — when you try to appeal to everyone, you won’t appeal to anyone. The secret is in the specificity.
Offer Thought Leadership
Sharing your brand’s expertise and unique perspective is one of the most powerful ways to reach your audience with content. Thought leadership should be a primary focus of your webinar planning process.
Each webinar should have a singular focus and center you as the go-to for answers, insights or counterintuitive advice. You’re sharing those nuggets of wisdom to enrich your audience — and by implication show them how they could benefit even more from a closer relationship.
Because you’re a thought leader, your pitch is your expertise, care and customer service. You don’t need to deliver a hard sell or focus on products and services instead of ideas. Save that for the product demo.
Remember that if you truly offer value to attendees, they’ll be more likely to trust you and seek out your brand in the future.
Plan Your Event
As important as your webinar content plan is your plan for the event itself. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Choose the Right Platform
There are multiple options when you’re choosing a platform for your webinar. Some are dedicated to webinar production and offer all sorts of bells and whistles; other systems offer webinars or live events as a side product.
For example, Zoom might be enough to get you started, but it’s not dynamic enough and doesn’t capture all the information you need as a B2B marketer.
Look at the Time
How long should your webinar be? Long enough to convey your message and short enough to hold your audience’s attention. In practice, most webinars are 30 to 60 minutes.
That said, when you’re planning your content, focus first on creating a compelling presentation. Don’t try to build a webinar based on a timestamp. Think about the most relevant, important information you need to cover, and estimate how long each section will take.
As you get closer to the event, map out that estimated timing, building in time for introductions, polls, Q&A and any other elements. Consider a “dry run” rehearsal to get a sense of the length and identify potential concerns.
When you think about time, also consider your audience. You’ll probably identify a core time zone to align your webinar against — your time zone or your audience’s predominant time zone. Be mindful of where your audience is likely to be joining from and whether they can make your webinar — especially if you’re not offering an on-demand option.
Gate Your Experience
Gating your webinar means requiring free registration from your audience before they can access the content. Putting up a registration screen allows you to capture key contact information, such as name, email, job title and industry, which you can use for marketing efforts.
Gating screens out spam and unqualified leads. You want only the people who are genuinely interested in your webinar and those who are potential customers.
Invite Your Customers
The power of webinars is their ability to showcase your thought leadership and give value to attendees. So invite your customers — they already recognize the value of your business, and they deserve the opportunity to learn from your expertise. They can also provide valuable feedback and insights during or after the webinar.
Be sure to personalize your invitation, and consider offering additional benefits, such as exclusive on-demand access or downloadable content.
Use the Buddy System
Having a partner or co-host helps you keep the conversation flowing and exchange ideas in real time while adding different perspectives. It’s also simply less stressful than carrying out an event by yourself. Even if you are a solo webinar presenter, have someone on the back end who can manage the chat, help attendees with technical questions or even advance your slides.
Panels are another great way to involve multiple speakers and perspectives. Look for panelists who bring different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to a topic. When you have a dynamic discussion that avoids groupthink, attendees get the most value — and they see that your brand isn’t afraid of tough questions and deep thinking.
Promote Your Webinar
Your webinar’s value depends on people knowing it exists. Here’s how to create awareness around your webinar.
Develop a Timeline
The timeline for promoting your webinar depends on your marketing strategy. If you’re running ads to promote to a new audience, give yourself at least 30 days — six to eight weeks is ideal.
However, if you’re mostly targeting your existing customer base, prospect list or email audience, you might need only two to three weeks of promotion, at least to that audience segment.
To that end, choose your promotional channels based on who you’re trying to reach. Email lists are a great way to reach people who know your brand. Digital ad campaigns can target people you’d like to get to know. The messaging and tone you use for each of those campaigns will likely differ.
Optimize Your Landing Page
A well-designed registration page can significantly increase conversion rates. Keep it simple, concise and informative. Include key details such as the event’s date and time, a brief description and a simple signup form.
Make sure the form is easy to complete and only requires the most essential information (such as business email). The more fields you include, the less likely people are to register.
Plan Reminders and Follow-Ups
Don’t forget to schedule reminder emails for all registered guests. Include the event date and time, along with a brief description and a link to join the webinar.
Confirmation emails are crucial: Whatever webinar platform you’re using should auto-generate an email immediately after registration. Schedule a reminder email one to two weeks before the event, as well as a “last-chance” reminder an hour or so before the session begins.
Interact With Your Audience
Webinars should feel like a conversation, not a lecture. Here are some tips for getting your attendees involved during the webinar.
Polls are an easy and effective way to interact with your audience during your presentation.
Use polls early in the webinar, ideally within the first 10 to 20 minutes. You might also ask a question near the end (say, 45 minutes into a 60-minute webinar) as a sort of recap or “cooldown” question. Ask three or four questions per webinar to encourage participation and cover a range of topics.
Make sure the questions are simple, easy to understand and drive the audience toward definitive answers. This isn’t the space to confuse attendees or give imprecise choices like “I don’t know.”
Taking questions near the end of the webinar is a great way to engage with your audience and address anything you haven’t gotten to yet. Saving time for Q&A also helps prevent the session from being monotonous.
Make sure to have a couple of seed questions ready. Not every audience is quick to ask questions, so breaking the ice with prepared questions can round out the discussion and encourage participation.
To that end, keep an eye on the chat during the webinar. People might have technical difficulties, or they might have questions you can save for the Q&A. Some speakers like to use the chat to expand upon their points, seek midsession feedback or address questions in real time.
Progressive profiling is a marketing tactic used to collect customer data over time. For a webinar, this begins with the information you gather during registration. During a webinar, you might ask for more information — their job title, or some question about their interests or job duties.
By collecting this information over time, you build out prospect and customer profiles and can tailor content to better suit their needs.
Getting through a live webinar without issues is a success in itself, but there’s so much more you can measure.
The 2023 B2B Marketing Webinar Benchmark Report from webinar software provider BigMarker offers insights from over 1.5 million events hosted on the platform in 2022. BigMarker found:
- Wednesday is the best day of the week to host a webinar in terms of registrants, followed by Thursday.
- Wednesday is also the best day in terms of live attendees — 14% higher than all other days.
- 1 p.m. in your local time zone is the best time of the day to host a webinar.
- If you can’t do that time, or need to account for other time zones, early morning to mid-morning is next-best.
Use Reporting Tools
Reporting tools, including those that come with whatever webinar-hosting platform you’re using, dig into your audience’s behavior and engagement, allowing you to optimize future events.
While registered users are a good starting point, pay closer attention to what percentage of registrants attend the webinar live — or view the on-demand recording within a certain time span. And be prepared for this percentage to be lower than you’d expect.
BigMarker’s research found that Wednesdays — the day with the highest number of registrations and attendees — only had about a 20% live attendance rate, on average. Whatever you think of that performance, it’s the benchmark for B2B webinars. Use benchmark data to set expectations within your own organization and to inform your marketing strategy.
Engagement is another crucial metric to track. Some platforms show you how long users are in the session. Comments and chat responses are a qualitative way to see how your audience is responding to your content.
On-demand access is also a best practice. This feature provides another opportunity to connect with your audience — both registrants who couldn’t make the live event and anyone you reach for weeks, months or years to come.
Dig deep into your reporting data to gain insights into your audience’s behavior and interests. For example, look at those who registered but didn’t attend. Consider how you can reach out to them and reconnect, whether through the on-demand offering, other content or an incentive.
The data you collect from webinars can be invaluable if you’re paying attention and applying it to your marketing.
Repurpose Your Content
Signing off from the webinar means it’s time for the next phase: Repurposing that content and maximizing the reach and impact of your thought leadership. Here are some tips for repurposing your content:
Divide and Conquer
One webinar can produce multiple pieces of content that cater to different stages of the buyer’s journey. As a standalone piece of content, your webinar is great for top- or middle-of-the-funnel activities.
But let’s say you cut that full session into video clips to share on YouTube, Vimeo or social media. Those quick previews can reach potential buyers even earlier in their journey. Meanwhile, writing up an SEO-optimized article summarizing the webinar can be powerful for people just encountering your brand or those closer to a decision.
Think about how your content can mirror the natural journey customers take. For example, a nurture email campaign can build on the webinar by providing a follow-up guide — and you can also tailor this for registrants who didn’t attend.
Webinars are powerful content, but it’s the ideas and messaging within them that matter most. Free those insights and deliver them to your audience wherever they are.
Create Snackable Content
Breaking up your recording into snackable pieces of content helps you reach people, especially on social media, who might not find your registration page but might be interested in what you have to say.
Create clips that cover a key takeaway, a speaker’s particularly insightful quote or explain an important concept. These clips should be no more than a minute long so you can easily share them across a variety of social channels and formats.
Tools like Lately help turn this time-consuming process into a quicker task. Instead of manually reviewing your recording, identifying key moments to highlight and cutting and editing copy, the tool automates much of this work for you. You simply review the content, make adjustments and publish.
Consider automated, or simulive, webinars. These events combine pre-recorded sessions with many of the interactive elements of a live webinar, including polls, Q&A and handouts. They’re perfect for when you have product demos or other content you want to make available on demand. People can register and attend as if it was in real time.
Create Pillar Pages
The time, resources and energy you put into making a successful webinar also provide the foundation for high-quality pillar pages that matter to your business. These pages can be a great SEO boost while providing a valuable resource to interested people, including potential customers.
Thought Leaders Are Market Leaders
Webinars help you effectively communicate with your audience to share your thought leadership and build meaningful relationships.
Now that you know how to plan a webinar, are you ready to see how content marketing drives growth for your firm? Schedule a brief consultation and learn how our framework helps you:
- Develop your reputation for thought leadership.
- Fuel your ABM and demand gen strategies with differentiated content.
- Strengthen your employer branding by telling the stories of the people who power your company.
Thought Leaders Are Market Leaders.
Email newsletters are a powerful vehicle for communicating your thought leadership and building long-term relationships with your prospects and customers.
Ready to see how content marketing can drive growth for your firm? Schedule a brief consultation and learn how our framework can help you:
- Develop your reputation for thought leaadership.
- Fuel your account based marketing with differentiated content.
- Strengthen your employer branding by telling the stories of the people who power your company.