I can’t imagine that anyone reading this is new to the idea of webinars. You may not have folded them into your marketing plan, but as a lifelong learner, I have to think you’ve attended a few.  My guess is that you’ve enjoyed some well-done webinars and suffered through some poorly executed ones. This is one of those marketing tactics where your attention (or lack thereof) to detail is very evident and will affect your outcomes.

According to a 2016 Content Marketing Institute study, 66 percent of B2B businesses are now using webinars as a lead generation tool. And they’re working! In the same study, webinars were ranked second in effectiveness, with only in-person events topping them.

The trick to creating a webinar that your audience truly values and shares with others is to focus on teaching, not selling. A sales video or web-based presentation is a very different animal. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to assume you are seeing the webinar as part of your content strategy and you are zeroing in on the teaching side.

Like a live event, hosting a webinar is packed with decisions and details. There is plenty of opportunity to mix and match the details, as long as you give yourself enough time to think through the ramifications and plan accordingly. Here are some of the elements you need to consider as you explore this marketing tactic.

Content: No one is attending a webinar because they’re bored. They are looking to learn something. That’s on you. Pick a single topic or main point you’d like to teach.

The biggest mistake you can make when working on the content is to try to pack 5 pounds of learning into a 1-pound bag. You don’t want to rush, and ideally, you want to leave plenty of time for questions. Pick a single topic and then build your support, examples and recommendations (if you’re going to make any) around that topic.

Be sure that your promotional messaging is spot-on with your content. Nothing is more annoying to an attendee than to find that you’ve shifted the focus of the content between them signing up and the actual webinar. By defining the takeaways in your marketing, you’ll create boundaries that you need to honor when you start mapping out the content itself.

Length: There have been a million studies done to determine the best length for webinars.  We’ve done 15-minute webinars and 90-minute webinars and every length in between. The truth is, the content drives the value. People will stick around if you’re giving them something they need or want. But having said that, you’ll get people to sign up if the webinar is an hour or shorter. 

If the audience is familiar with you and knows that you over-deliver, they might sign up for a longer option, but remember that our most scarce resource is our time. But anything shorter than 30 minutes limits how much meat you can put on the bone. 

Live versus recorded: This is not a trick question. Everyone assumes you need to do a live webinar so the attendees can interact, ask questions, etc. And for most businesses, that might be the right choice. But don’t discount the idea of pre-recording the webinar if that makes more sense. 

Note that I am talking about the inaugural launch of the webinar. Of course, even if you do it live, you should record it and repurpose it. That’s a given. The question here is, what do you gain by having a “live” audience, and what does the audience gain?

Next week we’ll delve into the mechanics and elements of an effective webinar now that I’ve whetted your appetite!