What is a Webinar? Your In-Depth Guide

Rachel Meyrowitz

Webinars can be a secret weapon for marketers looking to boost lead generation, nurture engagement, and unlock a goldmine of valuable data. 

But dull, run-of-the-mill online events won’t cut it. The best webinars not only build your brand awareness and showcase your expertise — they also start a meaningful, interactive conversation with your target market.

To run sessions that captivate your audience, you’ll need to understand what webinars are and how different types work. 

In this guide, we’ll go beyond thinking about what a webinar is to talk about what a great webinar can be

We'll dive deep into the mechanics of webinars and give you plenty of examples so you can create next-level events that help you gather invaluable insights into your audience and build lasting connections.

Webinars 101: What Is A Webinar?

You likely already know that a webinar, short for "web-based seminar," is an online event (live or pre-recorded) that allows you to share your expertise, demonstrate your products or services, and connect with attendees. 

But did you know that webinars can be much more than a platform for delivering content? 

Webinars are a powerful marketing tool that can help you build meaningful relationships with your audience and achieve a variety of business objectives. Unlike traditional in-person seminars or conferences, webinars don’t have limitations like time zones and physical locations, meaning you can reach a wider audience across the globe. 

Webinars done right are more than just a talking head droning on about an educational topic or product features and benefits. They're immersive experiences that foster genuine connections.

In general, webinars involve compelling presentations, where hosts and guests share their knowledge and insights, along with engaging multimedia content, from standard slides to videos, animations, diagrams, screen-shares, and more. The best webinars also include interactive elements, like live Q&A sessions; a moderated chat where attendees can connect with presenters and each other; and extra engagement features like polls and surveys, downloadable handouts and goodies, and the ability to spotlight attendees and bring them to the virtual stage.

Image of webinar host smiling beside interactive Demio features
The best webinars are interactive, high-energy experiences that generate interest and excitement

From generating qualified leads and nurturing existing prospects to providing training and fostering customer loyalty, webinars are a versatile and engaging way to connect with your target audience.

Different Webinar Formats

Not all webinars are created equal. Just like any other marketing channel, webinars come in various formats, each with its own unique strengths and use cases.

To really harness the power of webinars, you need to understand how to leverage the different types effectively. Here's a quick rundown:

1. Live webinars

As the name suggests, live webinars are real-time events where you present your content to a live audience, whether it’s a masterclass, workshop, product launch, live demo, or interactive Q&A session. 

Live webinars are a great way to create a sense of urgency and exclusivity, bringing people together in sync to share an experience. They involve real-time interaction which lets you address timely topics, clarify concepts and assuage doubts for your audience, and gather valuable feedback in the moment. 

2. On-demand webinars

On-demand webinars or evergreen webinars are typically pre-recorded and hosted on a webinar platform or video hosting service. Attendees can access the webinar at the best time for them, either through on-page recordings or by registering and providing their contact information to access gated webinar content. With tools like Demio, you can send replays of your live event immediately after the webinar ends, segmenting your audience and choosing whether to send to all registrants, those who attended, or no-shows (or all three).

They offer complete flexibility and convenience for attendees, so they’re ideal for audiences spread across different time zones or with varying schedules. Since attendees can watch them when they choose, research shows that on-demand webinars have higher engagement and focus rates.  

With the right webinar tools, you can include interactive elements like polls, timed handouts/downloads, and even AI chat features, making your on-demand webinars finely-tuned engagement machines.

Demio AI chat responding to questions posed by webinar attendees during an event
Demio's AI chat offer continuous support by making sure no attendee’s question goes unanswered, day or night

3. Automated webinars 

Like on-demand webinars, automated webinars involve pre-recorded content, but it’s usually scheduled to play at specific times, simulating a live experience on autopilot. 

Hosts can join automated webinar rooms at scheduled times so they can interact with attendees and answer questions in the chat. Demio also offers AI moderation features so attendees can get real-time chat responses and extra event context, even without a live host or moderator. You can also set up your automated webinars to run polls and surveys and send out timed downloads and links to keep attendees engaged. 

A Demio webinar showing a slideshow presentation alongside polling, resource sharing, and live chat
Demio offers a suite of engaging, user-friendly features, such as polls, handouts, and featured actions, to keep your audience actively involved 

How Do Webinars Work?  

By this point, you're probably thinking, "Yeah, I get it. Webinars are awesome. But how do I actually pull off a webinar that drives results?"

Don’t worry — we’re about to dive deeper and take a look at the mechanics of creating webinars that get results. You can also use our checklist for webinar planning to guide you through the process.

Elements of a Great Webinar

Building a successful webinar is both an art and a science. 

1. Clear objective

The best webinars come from well-defined goals and objectives. 

Are you looking to generate new leads? Nurture your current pipeline? Drive product adoption for existing customers? Different objectives will require a different strategic approach. 

For example, a company looking to attract brand new leads might host a high-value educational webinar on industry trends, capturing attendee information through registration and webinar engagement metrics and offering a content download or consultation as a lead magnet. On the other hand, an organization focusing on new customer onboarding and adoption might host a series of product-focused webinars, complete with detailed demos, Q&A sessions, and hands-on walkthroughs to make sure users fully understand and make use of the platform's features.

2. Targeted audience

Killer webinars are clear on who they’re trying to reach. 

You’ll need to understand your audience and their pain points, interests, and preferences so your webinar content and delivery can resonate with them on a deep level. 

This isn’t just about your topic choice. Let’s say professionals in the supply chain management space are your target market. A webinar on "Optimizing Inventory Management” might be highly relevant for them — but if it's too generic, technical, or jargon-heavy, it won’t land. A webinar that provides clear, actionable insights on a particular pain point for this audience — like dealing with seasonal fluctuations and trends or next-generation forecasting processes — will have much higher engagement. 

3. Powerful presenter

Your presenter is the face of your webinar, and their ability to captivate and connect with the audience can make or break the event. 

Great webinars have great presenters: people who have the ability to bring your content to life, foster a genuine connection with the audience, and leave a lasting impression that resonates long after the event.

The best webinar hosts possess deep subject matter expertise but they also have a natural ability to engage an audience, weaving in relevant anecdotes and examples, and making use of videos, polls, and resources to keep everyone interacting. 

Taking the time to rehearse your webinar — or even pre-recording segments or the whole thing — helps make sure you give your attendees the best possible experience.

4. Engaging experience

A webinar is more than a one-way presentation; it's an immersive, interactive experience that keeps the audience hooked from start to finish. Incorporating elements such as live Q&A sessions, polls, surveys, gamification, and multimedia content drives engagement and makes sure your attendees remain actively involved throughout the event — and beyond. 

The best webinars leverage cutting-edge tools with interactive chats, Q&A, and poll features, incorporate multimedia elements and downloadable goodies, and spark dynamic conversations with their audience. 

5. Effective messaging

Great webinars need effective messaging to cut through the digital noise and position the event as a must-attend. 

Powerful messaging starts with a great webinar concept that offers your audience real value and solutions. It also involves creating a compelling webinar landing page, crafting compelling copy, using social proof and testimonials, and creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity to boost registrations and attendance.

 6. Strong analytics

Data is the key to getting the most out of your webinars. The right analytics help you understand your webinar results, make informed decisions for future events, and segment attendees so you can personalize your follow-up based on engagement level and indications of interest.

Look for a webinar platform (like Demio) that provides comprehensive analytics, from standard webinar KPIs like registration, attendance, and conversions, to deeper engagement metrics and focus time reports that take your lead scoring to the next level.

With the right data, you’ll be able to quantify the impact of your event, optimize your event strategies, and prove your webinar ROI.

Demio analytics dashboard showing webinar attendance, polling results and other key metrics
Demio lets you unlock the potential of your webinars through advanced analytics that reveal attendee behavior, focus levels, and engagement

7. Great software 

Excellent webinars are backed up by excellent tools. Outdated software can lead to technical glitches, limited interactivity, and a lack of valuable insights — all of which can undermine the success of your webinar efforts.

Demio is an intuitive, feature-rich, no-download, browser-based tool that gives your attendees a seamless experience and boosts your webinar results. Demio includes webinar platform features like:

  • Interactive chat, polls, surveys, Q&A, and audience spotlight features that make your webinars engaging and immersive
  • Downloadable resources like presentations, videos, value-add documents, and featured actions
  • Powerful engagement data showing who interacts with your content, downloads, and chats, so you know which leads to prioritize 
  • Easy, effective webinar registration page creation and automated email reminders to boost attendance
  • Insights and people reports, segmentation, and focus time webinar analytics to maximize your marketing results
  • Wide-ranging integrations with tools like Hubspot letting you build webinar analytics into your workflow
  • Customized branding that keeps your logo and brand top-of-mind on your registration page, email reminders, and webinar room
  • Demio AI chat features that let your attendees ask questions and get more context on your event 24/7

…. and a lot more.

Webinar Use Cases

By now, it should be clear that webinars are versatile tools that can drive marketing success across various industries and business needs. 

Let's explore some common webinar use cases that will help you understand how to harness their potential and supercharge your engagement marketing.

Educational Webinars

Educational webinars are virtual events designed to share knowledge, insights, and expertise on industry trends, topics, or best practices. They help position your brand as a thought leader and subject matter authority while educating audiences on your solutions.

Often, educational marketing webinars focus on top-of-the-funnel content designed to attract new leads and grow your database. These webinars typically feature insights from industry experts, analysts, or experienced professionals, with content ranging from high-level overviews of changing industry landscapes to real-world case studies and deep dives on niche topics.

For example, HubSpot runs webinars with influencers and HubSpot experts sharing actionable tips and strategies, cementing their brand reputation as marketing thought leaders.

Hubspot’s advertising webinars generate leads and boost brand awareness and reach

👀 Turn inspiration into action with our tips on how to use webinars for marketing

Professional Development Webinars

Professional development webinars are designed to support continuous learning and growth by letting individuals enhance their skills, knowledge, and competencies in their field. These webinars can cover a wide range of topics, from industry-specific technical skills and even certifications to soft skills like leadership, communication, and time management.

Webinars provide an accessible and cost-effective way for students and professionals to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, tools, and best practices in their field. Interactive webinar features let educators deliver powerful learning experiences at scale.

The American College of Healthcare Executives offers webinars that keep health professionals up to date on cutting-edge practices like AI-supported operating rooms 

Product Demo Webinars

Product demo webinars showcase your product's features and benefits to potential buyers who are actively considering a purchase. Unlike a one-to-one demo, webinar product and sales demos allow you to reach a larger audience and scale your sales efforts while speaking to buyers’ individual doubts and pain points.

The best product demo webinars clearly articulate the value proposition, address common objections, and use storytelling to paint a picture of how your solution solves real challenges for your users. The goal is ultimately to move your prospects closer to a buying decision.

Modern, audience-centered product demos aim to engage and entertain as well as inform by creating opportunities for active audience involvement.

Demio turns product demos into a game, so audiences can engage, play, and discover your brand.  See how it works and join the fun with our Game Show Demo!

Onboarding Webinars 

Onboarding webinars are designed to welcome new customers (or free trial customers) and ensure they get the most value out of your product or service from day one. A great onboarding webinar clearly explains all the key features (with real use cases), demonstrates how to complete important tasks, and leaves customers feeling confident and excited to get started.

By investing in customer success from the start, you set the stage for a long and fruitful relationship: onboarding webinars can speed up time to value for new users, boosting customer lifetime value and reducing churn.

The most important elements of an onboarding webinar are clear explanations, step-by-step walkthroughs, and plenty of time for Q&A. Strong onboarding webinars deliver an "aha moment" for your customers as they understand exactly how your product will solve their day-to-day challenges. 

Product Training Webinars

Product training webinars educate customers on how to use a product or develop a particular skill. These webinars go beyond initial onboarding to provide ongoing education and development. The most effective training webinars are well-structured and interactive, with a mix of presentations, demos, discussions, hands-on exercises, and resources like workbooks and reference guides.

For customers, training webinars can cover new or advanced product features, integrations, and best practices for different use cases. Examples of retention and nurturing webinars include product tips and tricks, customer success stories, and sneak peeks of upcoming releases. The goal is to remind customers of your ongoing value and make them feel appreciated.

Customer support platform Zendesk has some great examples of ongoing customer training webinars that teach users advanced platform skills and help them get more value out of their investment.

Zendesk’s Apps Marketplace on-demand webinar empowers customers to discover new ways to use the product

Run Killer Webinars with Demio  

By now, we hope it’s clear that webinars have the power to engage audiences, build brand authority, and drive real business results. But to unlock their full potential, you need the right strategy and the right tools.

Demio is your all-in-one solution for creating impactful webinars that engage your audience and elevate your brand. Our intuitive platform provides data-driven marketers with transparent insights and a range of tools to streamline the entire webinar process.

From customized branding and automated reminders to engagement features and detailed analytics, Demio empowers you to create webinar experiences that drive results. With a no-download interface, interactive features like polls, downloads, attendee spotlights, and strong integration capabilities, you’ll be able to create impactful events that integrate seamlessly into your workflow. 

Whether you're looking to educate, inspire, or convert, Demio has everything you need to boost registrations, engagement, lead generation, and end-to-end ROI, taking your marketing to the next level.

Frequently asked questions about webinars

How long should a webinar be? 

The ideal length of a webinar depends on the topic, format, and audience. However, as a general rule, most effective webinars are between 45-60 minutes long.

This time frame provides enough time to dive deep into the content — including interactive elements like Q&A, polls, and calls to action — while maintaining audience engagement. 

If your webinar is much shorter than 45 minutes, you may not have enough time to deliver value and make a lasting impact. If it's much longer than 60 minutes, you risk losing your audience's attention and engagement.

That said, there are some exceptions to this rule, including webinars for training or educational purposes that may need to be longer to cover the necessary material and virtual events featuring multiple speakers or panels that can run to 90 minutes or more. Webinars that are part of a series may be shorter, around 30 minutes each, to maintain momentum and anticipation.

Ultimately, the key is to be intentional about your webinar length. Consider your goals, content, and audience preferences. Test different lengths and formats to see what works best. And always prioritize delivering value over hitting a specific time target.

When is the best time to start promoting your webinars? 

The best time to start promoting your webinar is 2-3 weeks before the live event date. This timeframe allows for a multi-touch promotional campaign that builds awareness, interest, and registrations.

Here's what a typical webinar promotional timeline might look like:

3 weeks before: Announce the webinar to your email list, social media followers, and other relevant audiences. Include key details like the topic, speakers, date, and registration link.

2 weeks before: Send a follow-up email to your list, highlighting the benefits of attending and featuring a testimonial or preview of the content. Continue to promote on social media and other channels.

1 week before: Increase the frequency and urgency of your promotions. Send "last chance" emails, post countdown graphics on social media, and encourage speakers and partners to share with their networks.

1 day before: Send a final reminder email to registrants with login details and any pre-reading or resources. Encourage them to add the event to their calendar and block off the time.

Day of: Send a "see you soon" email to registrants, reminding them of the start time and any last-minute instructions. Continue to promote last-minute registrations.

Of course, you’ll need to adjust this timeline based on your goals, audience, industry, and promotional channels.

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