How To Create a Successful Webinar From Start to Finish (Step-by-Step Guide)
Webinars are an incredibly powerful marketing tool, but they’re also one of the hardest to pull off. The process of creating a successful webinar is long, and maintaining an optimized event that yields consistent results requires careful planning and attention to detail.
Although everything may look ready to go on paper, your webinars can still face any combination of problems when the live date arrives, such as too small of an audience, poor time management, attendee drop-off, to name a few.
However, you can tackle or prevent all of these issues with a thorough webinar creation process. Let’s go over the entire webinar SOP so you can start building webinars that succeed each time.
The webinar planning stage is as important as the presentation, if not more so. It goes beyond basic preparations: For starters, you need to choose the right webinar format, which requires extensive planning based on what you hope to get out of your webinar strategy.
Choose the Topic
Hone in on the content of your webinar. In general, successful webinars have a narrow and well-defined scope. Broader content should be broken down into something easily identifiable for your audience. This also enables a more concise delivery and attracts more qualified attendees.
Begin this process with a simple topic brainstorming session. List several ideas based on demonstrated customer interests. Think about what your customer base typically has trouble with and how you can address their troubles; the more specific you are, the better. However, be sure to balance that narrowness so you still interest a wide segment.
The main requirement for your topic selection is that it provides value to your audience. Think about your brand, your unique value proposition, and other fundamentals that generate interest in your products and services. Where do you have the opportunity to offer the most value? What insights can you share with your target audience?
You can then break down your topics list according to internal goals and capabilities. The final topic choice must align with the goals of your marketing and sales teams, so, if you see options that won’t contribute to their conversion metrics, remove them. Your aim is to secure high-quality leads.
It’s also helpful to ask your sales team what they think the webinar's focus should be. Set up a meeting and discuss it with them to uncover unique ideas.
You need to find a compromise between conversion goals and capturing an audience. Input from marketing and customer support teams can be invaluable as well, adding the common pain points of your customers into the process to hone in on the most relevant subjects.
Pick the Right Format
The format of your webinar influences how the presentation plays out. The main options are simple presentations, interviews, panel discussions, and Q&A sessions.
After you choose a presentation style, you need to decide how you’ll make and distribute it to attendees, either as a live or pre-recorded event.
👉 Simple Presentations
The simplest format for a webinar is to have a speaker present information via slides and then interact with the audience. This style is the most similar to a traditional lecture. The presenter prepares a presentation and then delivers the content to your audience according to that plan.
Afterwards, they move on to other segments. You have some creative control here to incorporate elements like polls or surveys, among other customizable interactions. Normally, the speaker is also able to elaborate on attendee questions at the end in a Q&A session.
Simple presentations are most suitable for small audiences. The scope of the webinar is more specific and places a lighter workload on the presenter.
Interviews spotlight a participant who has authority in your niche, such as an industry expert, relevant micro-celebrity, active customers, or someone else of interest to attendees.
These guests are interviewed in a formal manner to maximize the value audiences receive. Their structure also encourages interesting discussions that enrich the audience’s knowledge and hold their attention.
Several factors influence who you interview. For example, inviting a well-known guest entices a larger audience to attend. Meanwhile, an expert with deep insights gives attendees confidence that they’ll leave your event with tangible value. Of course, a mix of both is ideal.
Interviews are harder to organize though. You need to prepare questions and establish a structure that keeps the webinar on topic, controlled, engaging, and informative.
👉 Panel Discussions
Panel discussion webinars are more than just scaled interviews. They’re harder to organize and run but create more dynamic and interesting experiences for audiences when executed properly.
Panels normally consist of a few industry experts. They follow a conversational style, where intriguing thought leaders share their viewpoints and build a dialogue around your topic. The differing opinions foster richer discussions, making them appropriate for a larger audience.
Panelists will normally speak to each other for most of the webinar. That means you’ll need a competent moderator who can keep the event on schedule. They also must be highly knowledgeable on the topic and charismatic to maintain attendee interest.
This format is suitable for encouraging attendees to ask questions.
👉 Q&A Webinars
A Q&A webinar involves a product or service expert and a group of your customers. This format enables a higher level of participation from attendees and is one of the best ways to gather in-depth knowledge about your customers’ honest opinions.
Of all the formats, this one is the most open-ended and unpredictable. Attendees may be hesitant or all too keen to complain after they see other attendees voice concerns or complaints.
Be aware, Q&As place greater demands on your host, and it’s possible they won’t know the answer to every question. Moderation is also difficult with this format, so extra research and planning are necessary to address these concerns.
👉 Live Webinars
Live webinars open the door for greater interaction. Presenters can communicate with attendees directly, making the experience more dynamic and authentic. The real-time aspect also greatly contributes to audience engagement, especially when professional and charismatic presenters are there.
Where live webinars can falter, however, is when the presentation doesn’t go as planned. This can happen due to a problem with the presenter, a segment of the audience, or even technical issues. But with good planning, appropriate audience size limits, and a moderation plan, you can address these issues before they arise.
👉 Automated Webinars
Automated webinars have an edge over live webinars in some areas: For one, they eliminate most human and technical errors. Pre-recorded and on-demand webinars deliver your webinar content without the risk of technical failures or presenter issues. You can even edit them out and recycle a well-edited webinar for further use.
Another key strength of automated webinars is its ability to reach a wider audience in a shorter time and with a smaller monetary investment. Because they’re pre-recorded or on-demand, you can present them to people in different time zones or with different schedules. This helps you attract more people who would otherwise be too busy or unavailable. Automated webinars are also cost efficient, making that larger reach more affordable than live webinars.
In addition to this efficiency and accessibility, automated webinars ensure consistency. They enable you to deliver the same quality of experience to a massive global audience and maintain your brand image.
That being said, automated webinars can lack the high level of interaction of live webinars. As a substitute, you need to leverage platform features strategically to automate interactions that keep audiences engaged.
Select the Appropriate Platform
Your choice of webinar platform affects many factors that determine your webinar’s performance.
When choosing a webinar platform, keep in mind two major considerations: its built-in features/capabilities and its integrations.
Also, while you comparison shop, think about your needs and objectives. For instance, how many people do you expect to attend your webinar? Different platforms can accommodate different audience sizes and charge varying rates accordingly.
Other important elements to look at are the video’s sound and quality, as well as the platform’s ease of use. If it’s too confusing, your staff will struggle to maximize its potential.
Research a platform’s offers to determine if it has the formats you need. Does it work well for Q&A webinars? Can you pre-record and automate your sessions?
Once you’ve made all the structural decisions, it’s time to put your plan into action.
Early on, assign roles to your team members, choose presenters, and delegate important responsibilities. A webinar team must include:
An organizer – This person handles the planning process. They run the idea drafting process and oversee content creation. They are the ones who the rest will go to first if they have questions.
A presenter – An expert who delivers the content to audiences. They are knowledgeable and are good speakers who can engage audiences and inform them.
A moderator – Responsible for controlling the schedule and flow of the webinar. Their specific duties depend on the format; larger events, for example, necessitate more active moderation. They must be in control and able to address all issues that come up to avoid jeopardizing the webinar.
Assistants – Appointed personnel who handle other issues. They include technical staff and people who may take on smaller tasks like managing chat or helping other team members.
Create Presentation Materials
The presentation’s content is normally a joint responsibility, but organizers and presenters must be the most closely involved. You need to create a structured content plan, then the content itself. The content will depend on the format. For example, if you hold a simple presentation webinar, a PowerPoint or something similar may suffice. Meanwhile, interviews demand only a list of topics and guidelines for timing and subject matter.
Visuals matter as well, so employ a memorable, professional design. Slide decks should be visually appealing, not just bland lines of text for a presenter to regurgitate. GIFs or highly decorative still images can work well, when used appropriately.
Scheduling the Webinar
The type of webinar you run will dictate its schedule.
Live webinars require practice runs and more thorough preparation overall so the team is ready when the start time hits. Because of this deeper investment and extemporaneous nature, you should schedule live webinars at a date and time that accommodate the largest number of registrants. That way, you’ll secure a bigger audience.
Automated webinars are easier to deal with in this regard. You can set them to start at different times for different audiences to suit their time zones and schedules. As such, automated webinars are easier to adapt to global audiences.
Promote your webinar in as many spaces as you can. This is where your chosen platform’s integrations can pack a serious punch. For instance, email marketing integrations work hand in hand with webinar planning to ensure your email list knows about the webinar and receives regular reminders for it.
Practice makes perfect, and every test run will reveal weaknesses that can be remedied before the webinar stage begins.
During the live webinar, follow the plan you prepared and practiced. Things won’t go exactly as planned, but that contributes to the event’s authenticity. Webinars aren’t supposed to be straight scripts anyway; some segments are meant to be open-ended.
Planning is key, but it shouldn’t interrupt genuine audience interactions. Webinar platforms offer audience engagement features to help you strike this balance. Demio prides itself on making audience engagement a core focus. It provides many tools for just this purpose, some of which require more planning, while others are more flexible.
Presenters, for the most part, focus on what they rehearsed, as do interviewers. Topic knowledge supports them through the Q&A sessions so they represent themselves and your brand in a positive light.
Meanwhile, the task of handling the unpredictable elements in a webinar falls on the moderator. Moderators address sudden issues during the event, such as technical problems and unruly audience members. When technical issues arise, your assistants should be prepared with the knowledge and contingency plans needed to take care of them.
To keep the webinar on track, establish a plan for important tasks and assign accountable parties for them. This includes:
Launching engaging and interactive features
Monitoring the chat
Keeping to the schedule
Ensuring the presentation is easily understood
Once you complete these tasks, you can feel confident the webinar will run (mostly) according to the plan.
After the webinar finishes, your main tasks are to:
Drive your message home and push a CTA
Gather information from attendees
Assess the success of your webinar
Once the presenters have thanked the audience and said goodbyes, stay in contact with your audience. Send follow-up emails and conduct post-webinar surveys to strike while the iron’s hot. This is the time to collect information while attendees’ minds are still fresh with your content. It’s also your opportunity to convince them to take the desired next step before they go cold.
If you leverage automation, you can ensure these follow-ups are sent at the right time without needing someone to click “send.”
Additionally, you should capitalize on the post-webinar period to see where the event excelled and where it fell short. Mistakes can occur during a webinar, and there are always lessons to be learned to optimize future sessions. Run analytics to discover issues like sudden drops in attendance and determine what to improve. This is critical: Analyze every webinar.
Your post-webinar data comes from two sources:
The platform’s built-in analytics features
Audience feedback gathered through surveys
The analytics features help you measure success based on audience actions. That reveals information your attendees may not explicitly share in a survey. They can pinpoint when attendees demonstrated interest and when they were passive, or at what point they left the webinar early. Some platforms provide comprehensive information. For example, Demio shows you exactly who engages with your webinar and at which parts. You can see who downloaded a handout, or who responded to a poll, among other things.
Meanwhile, surveys collect real attendee opinions, provided the survey questions are well crafted.
When combined, this data will help you make adjustments that ensure your next webinar is better than your last.
Webinars are an asset to the broader engagement marketing process. They require significant investment and work, but the fruit they bear pays in dividends. We’ve gone over the major choices you need to make to build an enjoyable and valuable webinar experience and walked you through important considerations. The rest is up to you.