Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to Produce Amazing Webinars

Sharon Burton gave this as one of the final breakout sessions of the 2012 LavaCon, and I decided to take this one in as something that looked interesting, rather than necessary.

Weninars should be part of your social media plan, part of your content strategy and content develpment plan. They are a way to engage with your customers and users.

Webinars increase product and industry buzz, introduces your product to potential customers, positions your company as a leader in the field, and supports current users with in-depth demonstrations on advanced topics.

you and your company can look clueless if you have bad topics or a badly run webinar, or look like a genius if you have great topics and an exciting series.

Sales is not a good option to run webinars, although they will want to.  Marketing may be, if they are a technical marketing group, but if it's all shiny, customers will see that there is no content and leave. Support sees it as a way to reduce support calls, but they tend to only to webinars on the topic of "how to work around X," which makes your company only interested in making products that require workarounds. Upper management wants to talk about the company vision, but customers want concrete content. Tech comm people are perfectly positioned.

Webinar ideas don't appear like a bolt of lightning. You have to come up with ideas. Do research about what the competition is doing. You have to schedule them--and be careful about when: watch what else is going on, both in your industry and in life (such as holidays). Finding and managing guest speakers can be interesting. And of course you have to write webinar content, including white papers. People like having a thing when they are done with a webinar.

Afterwards, follow up. Write survey questions and evaluate results. Include a question on suggested topics for further webinars.

What are good topics? Think about the audience. Current customers? Potential customers/ Decision makers? C-level executives? Industry influencers?
  • Advanced topics for existing customers are always in demand.
  • Product demonstrations--but these are not sales, but pick a thing that your product solves (and never talk about how to buy the product).
  • In-depth product dives.
  • Survey results.
  • Top 5 or 10 things you need to know abou... (and "about" is not your product)
  • Where the industry will be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years (if your C-levels really want to give a webinar)
 Make your topics product-neutral.

You'd be shocked to find out how many people are willing to speak in your webinars for free.

Start internally to find speakers, from support, management, and training. Find conferences, work your network, look on Twitter to find external speakers.  Happy customers are one of your great speakers bases,, and they are doing interesting things. People trust case study information more than just about anything else we do.

As far as scheduling, probably want to do 1 ever 2 weeks, per track. If your company has a lot of verticals, this can take a lot of time. (But you don't have to start with that much.) Nothing says "we care about you" like a lot of free information. Find a time that works for the bulk of your markets, but understand at least half the world is not going to attend live--and that's OK!

You're missing as much of 50% of your audience if you're not recording your webinars. 

There is no "best" tool. Look at:
  • Is the UI easy to understand?
  • Is it complicated to create webinars? Can you create templates for reuse?
  • Can you have multiple speakers without adding accounts?
  • Can you create and sent email notifications?
  • Does it manage the signup process for you?
  • Does it record? And in what format?
  • Can you mute attendees?
  • Does it host recordings? And if so, what are the space limits? (And make sure you archive your content locally.)
  • Can you run polls during the webinars?
  • Can you send surveys after the webinar?
  • Do you get attendee reports?
  • Can you brand invitations and other public-facing pages?
  • Does it require Flash or other tech your users don't have?
  • Can attendees chat with you and other attendees?
Dos and Don'ts

Mute your audience. Business areas are not quiet. Attendees want to hear you, not your audience.

Use backup support. Someone to answer questions behind the scenes, handling technical support, etc. Make this a non-speaking person. You can't manage this while you are trying to present.

Give enough lead time. At least a week's notice. People have busy workdays, and you need time for social media to get the word out.

Don't do a bait-and-switch presentation. Don't publicize a topic and then do whatever you want. This almost always happens when you let your C-level executives do their thing. Do what you said you were going to do.

Learn your webinar technology. If you don't know, you lose credibility. If you have a guest speaker, make sure they know beforehand.

Once you have a webinar, you have an hour of content. Can you break that content up into pieces and reuse those pieces?

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