Webinars are a top tool for getting prospective customers engaged with your small business.
For one, webinars make it easy to showcase your team’s expertise online. But they offer an easy and cost-effective way to educate on the topics they might not know much about. All while building your rapport, providing insane value, and developing strong leads for your brand.
But, with that being said, not all webinars are created equal. Some are engaging and exciting, while others (a-hem, most of them) fall flat. And if you want to make sure your investment turns into profits, you’ll definitely want your webinars to be hyper-engaging.
What is a webinar?
A webinar is an online presentation or lecture that is hosted on webinar software (like Zoom). Marrying the “web” and “seminars,” webinars are often used to build a brand’s authority, educate on new offerings, and nurture relationships with leads slash customers.
And they’re super effective at what they do. In 2017, 73% of B2B business leaders said webinars are one of the best ways to generate high-quality leads. I couldn’t find an updated version of the study since the pandemic. But I’m willing to bet that the number has only increased, and webinars have only gotten more effective since going remote.
There’s only one problem…
The problem with webinars
The biggest problem with webinars is that most of them suck. Yeah, I said it! That’s because most webinars fail to engage attendees. They leave people confused or wanting more (but not in a good way). And in a lot of cases, they feel like a complete waste of time. But why are they like this?
Sucky webinars can be caused by any number of factors. But the most common are:
- Boring subject matter
- A snooze-worthy facilitator
- Text-heavy slides with endless bullets
- Little interaction
- No lasting value
- [Insert any other reason you hate webinars]
Here’s the worst part: Most folks have seen so many suckish webinars that they sign up expecting them to suck. As a result, they’re disengaged from the beginning. The facilitators are already behind before they utter the first word. And if they don’t prove that this won’t be just another wimpy webinar quick, everyone walks away losing.
That’s because the audience doesn’t take away any real value, so they can’t build an affinity for your brand and probably won’t develop into a promising lead. As for the business that hosted the webinar, it ends up being a complete waste of time.
How to host webinars that don’t suck
Luckily, your webinars don’t have to suck! You just need to understand the #1 rule of creating engaging webinars: Be intentional. In other words:
- Share your passion
- Use visually interesting slides
- Let participants participate
- Provide immediate value
Since 2006, I’ve probably hosted 2,000+ webinars (70 or so this year alone). That includes short 30-minute one-off sessions, on-demand webinars, and day-long virtual events. And these are the 4 tactics I use to ensure all my webinars are a hit!
1. Share your passion
When looking at impact, your excitement for the topic (as the facilitator) is as important as the content itself. And because you’re likely the first face, they see when they join the webinar, you set the tone.
In fact, 32% of webinar attendees feel more engaged when the webinar host is passionate and energetic from the get-go. So, what’s this look like?
I’m not saying you need to dance around on camera to keep folks logged in. But you do need to show them from the moment they hop on the link that you’re pumped about whatever it is you’re talking about. And keep that energy up along the way!
As soon as the webinar kicks off, I like to:
- Look right into the camera, smile, and say “hello.” In other words, I make digital “eye contact” with whoever’s watching.
- Read the participant list and welcome as many as I can by name. This shows attendees that you’re aware of them personally.
- Say things like, “I’m super excited that you’re here” or “I’m glad we get to talk about this topic together.” That way, it feels like we’re all in the same physical space together – even if that space is online.
By doing little things like this, your enthusiasm for your content and your attendees shines through. And people are hooked before you even get into the good stuff!
2. Use visually interesting slides
We’ve all seen webinar decks that are basically one big block of ugly, bulleted text. In fact, it’s criminal how often we have to sit through boring PowerPoint presentations like this.
But here’s the ironic part. The original description of Microsoft PowerPoint was: “Presentation Graphics for Overhead Projection.” The keyword here being “graphics.”
But somehow, we’ve come to associate webinars and presentations with wordy slides. And we’re left with “death by Powerpoint.” AKA the phenomenon where audience members fully disengaged because the webinar host decided to read 30+ slides aloud, and none of those slides are easy on the eyes. (Don’t let the name fool you – this phenomenon can happen with any webinar software.)
What your webinar participants see on-screen contributes heavily to their willingness (or lack of) to engage with the session. And when your slides look like literal blocks of text, you can bet people will spend more time watching the clock than paying attention to you.
To keep your audience engaged, create slides that visually enhance whatever it is you’re talking about. Meaning, focus on making your slides:
- Clear and simple, not convoluted and confusing
- Aesthetically pleasing, as opposed to ugly
- Visually interesting, rather than bullet-ridden and wordy
For example, imagine I’m hosting a webinar on employee training. And I’m talking about how handing out employee handbooks isn’t the same as training your team. An old-school webinar slide might look like a static compare and contrast table. (Gross!)
Instead, drop the darn bullet points and pre-formatted templating. Then, let text and imagery help you tell the story one piece at a time. Going back to our example, I might share a story about how Wil really understands his training because he learned it alongside someone else. But rather than writing it out, I’ll share a picture of Wil so the audience has a face for the story.
Why is this the better way? Well, you tell me! If I had to guess, you probably thought, “Well, shoot! The second way is way more interesting than just a page full of words.”
And it’s true! Because when your slides are all words, you’re forcing your audience to choose between listening to you or jotting down the bullet points in a mad dash before the slide changes.
🔥 Tip: If you’re not exactly “graphically-inclined,” partner with a graphic designer (freelance or in-house). That way, you can create a visually powerful presentation without spinning your wheels.
3. Let participants participate
It’s the coach in me for sure, but I’m a huge fan of not just talking at people when I host webinars.
People log on to watch these things on a computer screen (or even a phone). Meaning, it’s super easy for them to log in, play it in the background, and tune out. (Let’s be real – we’ve all done it.)
So, you can call me selfish. But as a facilitator, I put a lot of time and energy into planning my webinars. And I don’t want people paying attention to something else if they were interested enough at one point to register. Nope, I want their full attention!
And despite what most facilitators seem to think, webinar engagement is a two-way street. Because humans engage with other humans, not at them.
So, give people opportunities to participate. For example, I’ll log in and launch the webinar roughly 10 minutes before the official start. That way, I can welcome attendees by name as they log in. I’ll even ask where everyone is calling in from and intentionally call out some of the answers.
Such as, “Looks like Lydia is logging in from Lafayette, Louisiana! I went there once and had some jambalaya at Bon Temps Grill. Ever been there?”
And chances are good that Lydia will respond in chat that she goes there with her kids. Then, I’ll acknowledge Lydia one more time, just so she knows that the interaction was sincere. “Super cool, Lydia! Maybe I’ll see you there sometime!”
It’s a little thing, but Lydia is already invested in the session because I interacted with her. And here’s the cool thing: I don’t have to interact with everyone to get everyone’s attention. The quick chat Lydia and I had will catch the attention of Javier, Kaneesha, and Spencer too! And they’ll all be more engaged in the webinar because the facilitator reached through the interwebs to build a connection with an attendee (like them).
It doesn’t stop there, though. Throughout the session, I’ll ask participants to share their thoughts, comments, and questions by raising their digital hands, commenting in the chat, or joining me live. And I’ll actually give them a minute or so to respond. As a result, they quickly become active contributors to the conversation.
So, whether it’s polling, chat responses, games, or something else, give your participants ample opportunities to engage with you throughout the session.
4. Provide immediate value
Webinars are kind of like hearing from a motivational speaker. And by that, I mean, you’ll go and hear these amazing stories, marvel at the mind-blowing ideas, and get all excited about what you’ve heard. Then, you leave and go… now what?
And if I’m being totally frank, not knowing what to do next probably has little to do with you as an attendee. Instead, the facilitator likely failed to provide actionable next steps.
To make sure you’re not that facilitator, set clear expectations at the beginning of your webinar, letting participants know what they’ll walk away knowing. Have a slide that highlights these outcomes. Just be sure to keep them simple.
In other words, don’t try to recap everything you said. That will leave your ending thoughts as long, overwhelming paragraphs. And by the time you cover the last point, your audience will have forgotten the first one.
Instead, only put top keyphrases that summarize your key point on the slide. Something concrete and repeatable. That way, your audience can recall it later and remember what else you covered.
Then, at the end of the webinar, recap the same outcomes, calling out how you accomplished them. That way, they see you actually delivered on the reasons they registered and showed up for in the first place!
You can take it even further by telling them what their next steps should be. That way, they can leave your session knowing exactly how to apply what they learned, which further reinforces the value. And that call out makes them more likely to join you again next time or recommend to a friend if it’s a recurring session.
Let’s recap real quick
What can I say? I practice what I preach. So, just as a quick reminder, the next time you host a webinar, be intentional. Meaning:
- Share your passion
- Use visually interesting slides
- Let participants participate
- Provide immediate value
If you do all four, you’ll turn your once-sucky webinars into lead-generating machines.
So, what now?
Pick at least one of these strategies to focus on in the next webinar you host. And hey, I’d love to hear how it goes! Share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.