Webinars are a real success story of the last few years. They’re now a firm staple of the marketing mix, with healthy time and budget being allocated to them. We have all seen webinars levelling up from homespun PowerPoints to fancy, multi-layered experiences. As the craft has evolved, so have our requirements and it’s an ongoing challenge to ensure levels of engagement remain. In a recent workshop, 44% of attendees put creating engaging audience experiences as their top priority for webinars in 2022.

Make it a two-way conversation

Webinars are opportunities to engage directly with your audience, but that doesn’t necessarily need to mean they watch someone on the screen talk at them for the entire allotted time. Conversational formats took off last year and this is a trend we expect to see maintained. Popular paths to making it more conducive to conversation include adding interactive polls, continual Q&As (rather than at the end when everyone just wants to leave to get a drink before the next slot) and breakout rooms for separate sessions as required. As a host, this means you might need to be more flexible with content and be prepared to go off script. Lean less on slides and invite more collaboration with panel discussions.

Give your audience more than one thing to do

Many of the webinar platforms now allow you to create multi-layered experiences. Clickable areas within the webinar consoles are on the rise, with audiences being able to download materials, book appointments, play short games, have discussions with attendees – the list goes on. This is particularly interesting if you set up your CRM to analyse behaviour patterns. You can see just how engaged audiences are, what topics were they interested in and even specific insights into what they are looking for.

Make it look impressive.

The visual assault of talking heads and one-colour screens with badly placed logos should be left firmly in 2021. Webinar consoles can be actually designed very creatively, and many brands now develop their own visual identities for specific webinar series. It brings a bit more fun, again adds levels of interactivity and impressiveness, which is particularly relevant if the webinar is themed around content. I have to admit, I am slightly dubious about the value of going all out on this as some have – I attended one webinar where a lot of time and effort had been put into making it look like a plush bar with a cocktail menu, which only served to remind me how much I would rather be at a bar IRL. But there is an argument that making the online event feel more professional can enhance sale potential and increase engagement.

It doesn’t have to run for an hour

Webinars tend to buck the trend that everything needs to be snappy and cut down. The average viewing time has consistently held at between 56-59 minutes for the last 10 years. But how many times in your own experience, has a webinar felt painfully too long for the content covered? Or there was so much content covered that important Q&A time is condensed? There are no rules when it comes to time, and people get better and more confident at creating webinars, we can expect to see the running times vary. Short bursts of concentrated content work well in some instances, and longer, deep dives in others. Context is everything and as the host, you can judge what will work best for your audience, topic and event.

Don’t take registrations and attendance as the only success factors

This is particularly relevant, given nearly 50% of webinars are not watched live. Having an on-demand strategy that makes the most of this amazing content you are creating is incredibly important. Besides, if we start to look beyond attendance numbers there are more insights to be found. For example, if you are putting more dynamic content such as polls or Q&As within the webinar, what do the results tell you? Can they inform your next piece? If respondents asked specific questions during panel sessions, is there an opportunity to follow this up, or connect one to one? A webinar shouldn’t be underestimated as a great channel to connect audiences with sales directly. Many platforms now enable appointment settings or breakout rooms with product specialists or sales reps direct from the webinar.

Audiences are coming to expect more from the webinar format as it evolves. For hosts, this means we need to stop building from a traditional presentation expectation and take a more creative approach.

If you'd like to chat to us about webinars, or any aspect of your marketing strategy, do get in touch.