Webinar whiteboarding - Woman standing with arms crossed and looking at the camera

COVID-19 has sparked a sudden change in the events industry, as brands shift their conferences, trade shows and other in-person meetups to virtual alternatives. And in this new marketing environment, webinars are a cost-effective and convenient solution. In fact, a report by InsideSales.com found that 73% of sales and marketing leaders identified webinars as one of the best ways to generate qualified leads.

As webinars continue to grow as a marketing medium, there are some common mistakes brands often make, and some best-practices they should consider. That’s why we’ve turned to industry leaders to learn how to host more engaging webinars now and in the post-COVID-19 era.

Common Webinar Mistakes

Before we get to the best practices brands should follow when hosting webinars, there are two common mistakes to be aware of, and avoid.

Poor (or no) landing pages: “Many brands overlook the power of an effective landing page,” stated Kathleen Bisset, director of marketing and innovation at SSPR. Companies often use the GoToMeeting page or another default landing page, but lose out on the opportunity to increase web traffic to the brand website or track metrics for who’s visiting. “The landing page should be simple, informative and easy to locate on your website,” Bisset explained, and it “should only include the webinar name, what users will take away from the presentation, an engaging image and the sign-up form or outbound link to the webinar hosting platform.”

Selling too hard: Carmen Petro, director of product marketing at CGS says that she sees many brands pushing their products too much during webinars. “Webinars that focus on lessons learned, pain points and real-life examples help the audience to visualize how the product or solution can be applied in their worlds,” she explained. That means focusing on the needs of prospects or clients and offering a panel of experts with varying viewpoints is often more engaging for the audience than a direct sales pitch. “While a company may have a goal of selling more widgets,” Petro added, “don't lead with the product.”

Best Practices for Hosting Webinars

If your brand wants to get the most out of its webinars, consider these tips from the experts.

Plan Properly

“While there are various guidelines for administering a webinar,” Petro said, “to ensure its success, companies must thoroughly plan, execute and follow up.” She suggested sharing the webinar content with the panel early so that they have time to prepare. She even suggests doing a dress rehearsal to ensure the webinar goes smoothly.

Use Social Media & Email Marketing

Bisset believes social media is an inexpensive way to get further reach with your webinars. “Zoom allows brands to stream a webinar on Facebook Live,” she explained, “which is a great way to reach people who are on Facebook at the time and may have missed the signup.” But email marketing is also crucial for getting more signups, and reminding them to actually attend the event.

Stay Conversational

The most effective way to host more engaging webinars is to keep it conversational. “Although presentation decks are a great way to share information and visuals,” Bisset said, “they get stale and lose interest, fast.” In addition to presentations, brands should encourage the audience to interact using group chat features and be ready to shift the presentation towards topics the audience is most interested in learning about.

Avoid Filler Content

“Webinars should be right-sized, delivering actionable information in a reasonable amount of time without a lot of filler content,” suggested Tim Fitzgerald, vice president, head of global marketing for Kimble Applications. Long webinars with boring PowerPoint presentations will quickly lose the audiences’ interest, and engagement will plummet. “Companies should take a customer-centric approach to webinars,” he added, “think first about what value they can provide the audience, rather than how they’ll extract value from the audience.”

Get Feedback

“If you’re just starting out in the webinar game,” Bisset suggested, “it’s good practice to send a quick survey out after the webinar has ended to gauge your audience’s interest and thoughts on the webinar.” This will help improve future webinars and can offer insights into what worked and what didn’t. Brands should also ask their audience for topics they’d like to learn about in the next webinar.

“I foresee a future shift to move some of those budget-inflated in-person conferences,” Bisset concluded, “to more budget- and health-conscious webinars and video events as we enter this new phase of marketing post-COVID-19.” That means now is the time for brands to take their webinars to the next level.