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What is a webinar and how can you use it?

By CCIWA Editor 

Webinars are an effective, low-cost tool to present and discuss information with a large group of people via the internet. They’re an excellent tool to instruct and share information, to create leads and to obtain a better understanding of your target audience.

They can also be used to demonstrate the presenter’s expertise and – if used correctly – to sell a product.

Beyond Blue uses webinars as an important tool to share information about new research while the Australian Taxation Office uses regular webinars to update tax professionals and businesses about complexities underlying law changes.

What’s the tech?

There is a wide range of free and paid software that allows a person to broadcast a presentation from their computer to an online audience. Free software includes Skype Broadcast, Google Hangouts and Facebook.

Software varies in functionality and look but all use screen-sharing technology that allows the presenter to display different types of information on the audiences’ computer screen.

Content types

The presenter could, for example, choose to display a panel showing a streaming video of themselves talking to the camera while another panel could show content, such as PowerPoint slides, animations, images or videos to support the commentary. They could also choose to only have the streaming video or only the content.

You can also use screen-sharing technology to demonstrate the way a piece of software works. Most software offers the viewer the ability to download documents from the webinar interface during the event.

Participation technology

Another part of the audience’s computer screen may also display a dedicated Twitter feed or a text-based group chat that they can participate in. Audience members may also be able to choose to participate in an online poll created by the host. Audiences can also participate in webinars verbally via their computer.

Content is king

People generally watch webinars to undertake training or to discover new ideas or solutions to their problems. So, it’s important that webinars are promoted with a title that promises high value (e.g. “Top five ways to successfully …”,  “How to …”, “Things you need to know to …”).

You want to be well prepared and provide a compelling presentation that keeps people engaged. That means keeping your dialogue tight, on message and confined to the time you’ve advertised.

If you think this tool could be used for a straight-out sales pitches, think again. People won’t be enticed to watch your webinar if it’s only a sales pitch. However, if you can first provide high-value information, the audience will be open to listening to a short sales pitch.

Like adverts on TV or radio, your pitch must only play a support act – not be the starring role. ‘Switching the bait’ by putting most of the emphasis on you pitch will only annoy people, drive them away and damage your reputation.

If you use PowerPoint, don’t read out word for word during the presentation. And avoid making your viewers read crowded PowerPoint slides. Use a few simple bullet points and accompany with an image or infographic where possible.

Participation is queen

One of the great advantages of webinars is the ability for the audience to participate in the event through the different interactive tools. It’s very important to set aside Q&A time as audience members expect to be part of a conversation, not just viewers of a presentation.

Participation offers benefits for both audience and host. For audience members, it allows them to explore your subject further and collaborate. For the host, it positions them as the voice of authority.

It also allows them to make emotional connections which create a predisposition to any subsequent calls to action. And importantly, two-way conversations allow the host to better understand their audience or customer base.

Invitations and registration

Most programs allow you to schedule the event, create a registration page and send out email or SMS-based invitations. You can customise the invitation with your logo and add social media buttons.

Many programs also allow the registration page to be customised with your logo and an image to reflect the subject or theme of presentation. Certain types of software also allow promotion of offers on the registration page.

Some also allow you to set up a timeline for the email or SMS notifications. So if a person hasn’t answered the initial invitation, they’ll receive follow-up invitations at dates and times specified in the timeline.

Once a person has accepted an invitation, some programs allow a customised ‘thank you’ page to be sent out. Customisation may allow the thank you page to include a subscription offer, a further invitation to participate in a survey or social media buttons to share an invitation to the event.

Analytics

Certain software also allows integration with third party tracking software, such as Facebook or Google Analytics to track retargeting, conversions and sales from pre-configured offers.

On-demand

Not all viewers will be available to participate in a webinar, so it’s usually good practise to capture each event on video and publish it online. Some software will allow you to video the webinar and publish it online for a specific time.

Webinars are an effective, low-cost tool to present and discuss information with a large group of people via the internet. They’re an excellent tool to instruct and share information, to create leads and to obtain a better understanding of your target audience.

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