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Optimize Your 2021 Webinar Strategy

This year, conferences, roundtables, trainings, and meet-and-greets have all gone online. In  2021, the importance of effective and engaging virtual events will remain the same. As we all contend with staying engaged through  “Zoom fatigue” and virtual events for the foreseeable future, how can you optimize your 2021 webinar strategy? 

In our recent webinar on Developing Effective and Engaging Webinars in 2021, we discussed how organizations can produce digital events that are more engaging for participants who join live and remain relevant and interesting for those who will watch the recording afterward and engage with follow-up content.

While webinars are not new, they have been quite suddenly thrown into a much busier ecosystem of online events. In the past, it wouldn’t have been nearly as hard to get people to tune into a webinar because it was likely the only online event they were attending that week—or that month. Now, people are attending virtual events and meetings every day. In 2020, the number of organizations planning a virtual event doubled, meaning that developing and creating webinars now requires a deliberate approach that is likely different from what’s been the norm.

The value of a webinar (instead of something else)

As you begin planning your event strategy for 2021, the first thing to ask yourself about your idea, topic, or initiative that you want to share more publicly is, “Would this make for a good webinar?”

There are a lot of different tactics when it comes to sharing information and educating your audience, so deciding to produce a webinar is the first step. There are many reasons why a webinar is valuable, especially in 2021.

  • No travel required. The value here has always been that webinars increase reach easily, generally within reasonable time zones, to attract people from near and far without a huge scheduling imposition.
  • Community dialogue. Rather than a recorded message or presentation, you can speak to an expert or engage with your audience. Attendees can receive valuable, free advice from an expert.
  • Brand awareness. It’s a great opportunity to inform people about your mission, what you are working on, and position you as a thought leader in your field.

The above benefits have not changed over the last year with the pandemic. The difference is that in addition to webinars, there are a lot of other virtual meetings and events going. Webinars have to compete much more for people’s time and attention, which is why a deliberate approach that focuses on providing value is especially important.

Ideas worth sharing and discussing

As the TED Talk slogan highlights ideas worth spreading, is your webinar idea one that’s worth sharing and discussing? Is your topic providing something new and relevant based on what’s going on in the world? How is it addressing an existing problem?

Second, is it something that you know your audience needs? However, don’t guess at your audience’s needs and don’t assume you and they are thinking the same thing. Do your research on existing trends and needs and, if possible, talk to your audiences about what interests them. You may have a topic to present that’s relevant to them but may be missing an angle that they think is the most important.

And finally, what is the impact of your webinar? Is it creating deeper connections between you and your audience, is it building trust and elevating you as a thought leader? Are audiences able to walk away with concrete next steps, whether that’s to share your research findings or start implementing a new approach?

These three elements need to connect, and they need to be clear to you in order to start developing your idea further. 2021 is going to remain a noisy virtual world with lots of competition, so the better you can define value from the onset, the better position you’ll be in to create a great webinar.

Developing your webinar idea

As you develop your webinar problem statement, what key areas are you going to focus on to help solve for it? Also, what is your goal, ultimately? Is it to share new information that participants can apply to their own work? Is it to get them involved in your mission and become an advocate? Is it to build your network and contacts? 

Thinking through the delivery of your webinar, determine who in your organization is best suited to lead the conversation. In our experience, two to three speakers is ideal to make the webinar more conversational and provide different perspectives. Having a guest speaker is also really valuable, and our reports from this year alone suggest that it contributes to higher attendance.

It is also essential to have a dedicated moderator to support the webinar on the back-end, manage the Q&A, and post on social media in real-time. In some cases, this is one person wearing multiple hats, or you may have the capacity to bring a few different people on board to manage these individually.

Finally, as you build out your content, decide on your approach, whether it’s a presentation, conversation, or activity-based format. The approach likely varies depending on your issue and target audience.

Connecting your webinar to the bigger picture

Keep in mind that your webinar shouldn’t stand alone. How does this webinar fit into your larger 2021 strategy? How does it create impact for your mission? How will you continue the conversation after the webinar? What type of content and outreach will you do after the webinar?

Knowing that things are in a constant state of change, it remains important to think about how you are going to measure success. In our How to Plan When Things Keep Changing webinar, we discuss the importance of thinking about your measurement plan early in your digital strategy planning process. 

Webinar key performance indicators (KPIs)

Establishing your key success metrics before the webinar will help you in the longer term to know what is working and where you can make changes. Here are some KPIs you can use to measure your webinar’s success: 

  • Registration: Total number of people registered or this can also be how many page views converted into a registration
  • Promotion: Email click-through rate and social media engagement and conversions
  • New contacts: Define a percentage of new contacts that could attend
  • Attendance: Attendance vs registration stats, numbers or target audience types, how long they stayed, and who followed calls-to-action
  • Engagement: Determine what rate you want people to respond to your prompts

2021 Pro-tip: Empathy

Finally, practice empathy when proposing, developing, and executing your webinar for:

Yourself: Set reasonable expectations for what you can achieve. The live webinar is just one part of a greater strategy that you can continue to build over time.

Your team: Everyone is juggling a lot. Even if someone on your team is an expert in a certain topic area, they still need to dedicate a lot of time to do the webinar, so be aware of this. 

Your speakers: Same goes for your speakers. In both cases, we also recommend following up with a personalized thank you gift to show your appreciation. It goes a long way.

Audience: They may not be able to focus 100% on the webinar, so don’t put too much on them. Also, they are signing up because they either need your help or believe in your mission. Be respectful of their time and don’t overwhelm them.

We can’t want to see what you produce in 2021!

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