Microphone and webinar microphone
Avoid these common webinar mistakes PHOTO: Shutterstock

Business marketers often use webinars in their content marketing playbook to offer thought leadership and, of course, generate quality leads for their sales agents. According to the Content Marketing Institute's B2B Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, 43 percent of marketers use webinars/online presentation platforms to manage content marketing efforts.

But do marketers always make the most of their webinars, turning them into engagement-driving marketing machines that lead to engaged audiences, willing to come back for more of your content or better yet sales conversations? Those are the important questions to ask when creating the checklist for your successful webinar, according to Mark Bornstein, vice president of content marketing for ON24, which produces webinar software. Bornstein spoke on the CMSWire-ON24 webinar, "10 Common Webinar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them."

"Webinars are increasingly the way we're having engaging conversations with prospects and customers," Bornstein said on the webinar. "We've all been doing webinars the same way for a long time. We need to rethink what a webinar can do for us. It's often the little things that determine failure and success."

Here are some common webinar mistakes to avoid, according to Bornstein:

Common Webinar Mistakes

Repeating Yourself

If you're promoting events the same way over and over, it's not productive. Don't send out the same email with the same literature. Maybe some emails are text and others are HTML-based. Hit them with different arguments, different pain points. Mix up your social media messages, too. And give yourself a nice, long runway to promote your webinar. Recognize that the week of the webinar may be your most productive conversion email, and make sure to send out a day-of email. "Everyone is always interested in seeing something come in that’s happening that day," Bornstein said.

The Vanilla Webinar Console

Use your console effectively and creatively. It can't be a still shot of one slide. Make it creative and fun. Mix up colors, images and keep the slides coming. It can't look like you're in an executive briefing room for one hour.

Click on this image to get access to the CMSWire-ON24 webinar, "10 Common Webinar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them."

Leaving Your Audience Out of the Conversation

Webinars shouldn't be lectures and a passive Q&A experience at the end is not enough. Create polls, live chats and/or administer some Q&A. Your audience wants to feel like a part of the conversation. It’s not a presentation. It’s a conversation. The best webinars include interactive experiences. You could even have audience members talking to other audience members. Consider adding Q&A throughout the show and adding some gamification aspects along with some fun trivia. The more engagement in your webinar the more actionable data you'll have in the end as you think about leads. 

Death By a Thousand Words

A lot of text is never good in webinars. Remember this point: the presenter is the story, not the slides. If you think the story is a slide deck, you’re wrong. They are an aid there to help you tell the story. Use images to help you tell the story. Use bullet points to help key points. Don’t read your slides and remember to talk to the audience and don’t talk at them.

Selling, Not Helping

Nobody wants to be pitched until it is time to be pitched. Unless you're talking to leads or customers deep within the funnel who expect and need to be educated on new products, webinars are usually not the time to pitch. Bornstein conducts thought-leadership and best-practice webinars. He said he rarely mentions the name of his company. He realizes that marketers use webinars for lead generation, but establishing yourself as a thought leader and trusted advisor can go a long way toward people wanting to buy from you. 

"Great webinars solve problems," Bornstein said. 

Being Anti-Social

Don't block access to social media. Encourage it. Your webinar listeners are going to want to tweet, post to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Let them. Make it easier by integrating social feeds into your webinar console. Don't make them leave the webinar if they don't have to. Promote social inside of your webinar platform. "You don’t want to stand in the way of them having that experience," Bornstein said.

The Cell Phone Presenter

Don't try doing your webinar from an airport terminal or The 8th Avenue in NYC. Set your environment up to ensure success. Find a nice, small room with a quality headset and landline from which to present. It's not always possible, but avoid noisy areas at all costs. Nothing turns away listeners from webinars more than poor audio quality. Here are some other tips to make sure your webinar doesn't suffer from noisy interference.

Screenshot from ON24-CMSWire webinar that lists audio best practices for quality marketing webinars.
Some best practices for producing quality marketing webinars.PHOTO: ON24

When the Webinar's the Final Destination

You can't have a webinar that ends with the final word of the actual webinar. Keep the conversation going. Keep promoting the webinar in on-demand format. Don't wait for sales people to make follow-up calls. Offer listeners multiple resources outside of the webinar and continue to engage with them in those channels. Drive the conversation to a sales engagement.

Build an On Demand Strategy 

Not everyone is going to listen to your live webinar. According to the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report, 2017, one third of listeners viewed webinars on-demand vs. live. Do not just send an on-demand link to registrants who didn't make the live show. Go beyond by marketing the on-demand show in a new marketing program looking for new registrants.

Screenshot from ON24-CMSWire webinar that lists on-demand strategies for marketing webinars.
On-demand strategies for marketing webinars.PHOTO: ON24

Treating All Leads Equally

Think everyone should get the same follow-up attention for your webinars? They should not. Those that engage with your webinar through polls, Q&A, downloading resources and listening to the full webinar are more than likely your target, quality leads. Provide your sales teams with engagement metrics that demonstrate your most engaged leads. Provide engagement scoring for leads that go beyond demographics. 

"Engagement data," Bornstein said, "will change everything for you."

Editor's note: This article is a based off the recent CMSWire-On24 webinar, 10 Common Webinar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.