The pace of change at which we have had to adapt to in recent months has been unprecedented with us relying more on digital technologies and remote working.
Webinars, or virtual events, have been around for some time. However, their popularity has risen phenomenally over the last month. We are all forced into a situation where we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, learning at a rapid pace.
Like everyone else, we recognised that we couldn't stand still. With our clients, we worked on a solution to continue to add value to their customers, to retain knowledge-sharing during this challenging time.
We hosted our first webinar for ICoTA Europe last week after an intense period of research, trials and rehearsals. We are pleased to report that it was a success with over 90 attendees participating from all over the world. We reached people we never could before with a typical 'Lunch and Learn' setting.
We have taken our learnings and are now developing a series of Mearns & Gill webinars because at times like these; it's more important than ever to talk, share experiences and discuss new ideas. It helps to remind us that we are all in this together.
We reached out to the public and received a fantastic response from people eager to learn more during these challenging times. Would we have done this had we not been in this challenging situation? Possibly not so soon, but it has provided an opportunity which we are embracing.
If you're considering hosting a webinar, here are some tips to consider.
Research the market for the right webinar product
There are many platforms available such as GoToWebinar, Zoom and WebinarJam so ask yourself some questions before deciding on one. Is your chosen webinar provider reputable? What are the hidden costs? How secure is the product? Is the product intuitive? Are other companies, or your competitors, using it?
Decide on what you need your webinar software to do
Webinar providers offer different packages for different levels of functionality, but the extra cost may not be worth it if you don't need the add-ons. What do you need the platform to do? Consider things like screen sharing, live audience questions, polls and recording.
Working with your audience's needs
Know who you're trying to appeal to, especially when you're figuring when and how often you should host webinars. Our client usually holds Lunch and Learns, but instead of hosting the webinar at lunchtime, we hosted in the afternoon to reach an international audience. Your audience's needs can also be critical when thinking about your format. If a lot of your audience members' companies don't allow a particular type of webinar service, it may be best to look into other options.
Rehearse with colleagues
We did many trial runs with colleagues with one person acting as a presenter, one as Chairperson and several audience members. It can be helpful to do this before rehearsing with the real presenter and client as it gets you familiar with the software so you can quickly address any concerns.
Market your webinar
Consider how you market the webinar, particularly if you would like to reach an international audience. Social media is excellent for this, and engaging content is crucial. Make sure your subject appeals to what they want to hear and put this information upfront.
Develop joining instructions
Make it easy for people to join and participate in the webinar by providing troubleshooting advice and guidance, including a support telephone number should they encounter problems on the day.
Start setting up your webinar early
Ensure your presenter and Chairperson joins the webinar at least half an hour before the audience because things can go wrong. For example, our presenter's microphone was not working correctly, so this window of time allowed us to fix it. Be as prepared as you can be, and you will feel more relaxed.
Welcome your audience
At the start of the webinar, welcome your audience and highlight some of the technical aspects of the webinar. You must ensure they understand how to use the question facility, for example.
If something does go wrong during the webinar, don't panic. Things may not be perfect, and people don't expect them to be. But if you practice, you are preparing yourself as best you can. Remember, you can't control it if a server goes down or an audience member's internet connection is poor. But you can help by continuing to communicate with the audience if an issue does arise.
Follow up with webinar participants
Follow up with your audience and send a survey. This way, you can make adjustments for future webinars and get a real insight into what worked and what didn't for your particular audience. If the platform provides audience statistics, review these. Statistics such as finding out if you had a fully engaged audience during the webinar can tell you if the topic or format of presentation needs work.
Will virtual events replace the need to host face-to-face meetings? Interesting question. Who knows what will happen in the future, but we will continue to embrace change, providing our clients and their customers with opportunities and platforms to continue to communicate, learn and share knowledge.
If you'd like some more advice or help with managing and marketing your virtual events, get in touch.