I completely get why everyone decided it was a no-brainer to do webinars when we first went into lockdown …. It’s a frictionless sales tool which perfectly capitalises on people being ‘stuck’ in front of their computers - a captive market.
However, 12 weeks later (give or take) and there are gazillions of these things. The strangest thing is that they are all so similar. They usually have a catchy title to hook you in and make you think you will miss out by not attending and then after 2 minutes in you hit a wall …. Why are you here again?
I think it is an example of knee-jerk digital transformation. I am not sure how to reach my customers, I don’t want to openly sell… I’ll do a webinar!
So, let’s start at the beginning… why do people use webinars?
– Global reach ✅
– Minimal/zero cost ✅
– Build relationships, brand and sales - umm.. this is where the problem lies❗
Before COVID when considering an event there were lots of details to consider. Let’s just take one basic aspect; the venue (does it reflect our brand positioning i.e. is it funky/classy/unique enough?)
The impression I get is that people haven’t applied the same rigour when considering a webinar:
Is a webinar the best tool to use to meet the objective?
Who is this webinar for and how do we get them to attend?
Does the content meet a need for the target demographic?
How do you want attendees to feel afterwards? Is there a take-out?
How does this event position our business /product to these people?
So what is the best use of a webinar whilst in lockdown?
To build relationships, credibility and trust with customers. Right now, most webinars fail at all three. There is no/very little interaction at all. So at a moment where we crave connection, webinars relegate attendees to an old style lecture model where we are mostly told to turn off video and stay on mute. No attention is given to the audience, whereas often they are experts in their field and could actually add to the content.
A real innovation would be to turn webinars into live business chat shows; to leverage techniques from the TV industry to produce engaging experiences and use the strengths of digital functionality to enhance the content, collaboration, learning, networking and community elements that a webinar could give.
Having spent the last 20 years using digital platforms and content to engage audiences (TV viewers, gamers, tourists, students and professionals) the lesson is the same: to keep people's attention you need to be interesting, entertaining or informative. And ideally all three!
So my top tips would be:
1 - Production values
Invest some time and resource into presenting the webinar in a more polished way; create standout by using on-screen graphics, relevant videos to access the wealth of beautifully executed content available and think about using multiple camera angles, the back drop, attire etc.. What does this say about you?… remember this is a TV version of you.
2 – Structure
Keep it bite-sized and manageable. Around 15-20 minutes is maximum for one person talking and interlace with structured interactivity (more detail below). Zoom fatigue is real.
In a WFH (work from home) world you need to grab people's attention like never before; you are competing with their inbox, WhatsApp notifications, news articles, chores, kids with questions on Egyptian mummies etc.. So be very clear about what people will get from this experience and deliver it. It needs to be either enlightening or useful… and they need to know in the first 2 minutes. Because the barrier to exit isn't the social embarrassment of excusing themselves mid row. They simply shut their laptop.
3 - Create connection
This is currently the biggest fail of webinars and one of the biggest customer needs in a WFH world. A rapidly flowing message board doesn’t leave people feeling part of a conversation.. There have never been so many social tools and people using them. We expect it.
There are many ways to connect with webinar attendees. Consider the best way to engage people, set the right tone and to meet your objective. Video walls, for example lend themselves to interactivity; whether used for the world’s most random Mexican wave or simply getting people to vote with their hands. You could also use video chat roulette, live questions or Slido word clouds or Kahoot quizzes. Lots can be done to make sure your attendees feel appreciated and involved. In a WFH world this matters more than ever.
Apply the same amount of thinking and preparation as you would to a physical event then your webinar will pay dividends. Although, webinars should be one element of your broader 'Go to Market' strategy, not the only tool as a result of the WFH environment.
One more point to note, no one seems to ask for feedback at the end of a webinar. This is neglecting a major strength of a digital experience; data to make informed improvements. Did it fill a purpose for your audience?
You need to consider your market, once you produce digital content you are competing with everyone other piece of digital content... even Breaking Bad! Its time to consider the needs of the customer and the capability of digital platforms ....Its time to re-imagine webinars. Experiment. Right now people are tolerant to imperfection.They are open to change and hoping for inspiration. Think like a budding TV producer; leverage TV techniques to produce an enriching experience and use digital tools to create interactive impact, community and connection.
Now that sounds interesting, entertaining and informative!