How to Host a Webinar Guide (2020)
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This post is all about practical advice on how to host a webinar successfully.
There are tons of articles out there about “How to Host a Webinar” and build your business and brand and make sales and whatnot.
But, most of the articles I’ve come across are way too surface-level and lacking in real help.
And now especially, with COVID-19 / Coronavirus, many businesses are exploring hosting webinars for the first time.
So, I wanted to go in-depth here, sharing practical advice on how to host a webinar for your business.
Whether you’ve hosted 0 or 100 webinars before, I have some tips that can help you host more successful webinars.
I’ve lost count of how many webinars I’ve hosted over the years, on all sorts of platforms (and a few platforms that don’t exist anymore).
Here’s what tips you’re going to get:
- How to get people to actually register for and attend your webinar
- How to not screw up your webinar registration
- Ensuring good quality audio and video
- How to avoid losing your presenter’s connection and the webinar shutting down mid-presentation
- How to present your content well
- How to get attendee engagement
- Following up after the webinar to ensure better success
Also, we put together this video breaking down how to put together a webinar:
TL;DR (summary of some of the good stuff)
- First, figure out your webinar’s goal whether it’s to get sales or educate your audience
- For your first webinar, choose a topic in your wheelhouse (instead of having a guest presenter) that you present
- You don’t need to use the webinar software for every aspect of your webinar (eg: use your own landing pages)
- Your first webinar will likely take 5x the time of future webinars to prepare, but every future webinar will be much easier to do
- The most important aspects of your chosen webinar platform are going to be integrations with your existing software, and price
- Use Offsprout for building landing pages
- Draft all your content ahead of time, starting with a text outline and ending with your slides
- Make your slides visually interesting and use polls to engage your audience because many attendees will not be looking at your slides; they will be passively listening to your voice that’s coming from another tab on their web browser
- The best day / time to present is Tuesday – Thursday in the middle of the day
- If you are advertising, Facebook ads will likely work best
- For equipment, invest in an affordable USB mic like a Blue Snowball
- Never present while calling in on a telephone
- Use wired internet over wifi if you can on your presenting computer
- Always do a practice run before the real webinar to test out your equipment
- Present from an area where there won’t be disturbances (e.g. no co-workers)
- Ask a poll at the end of your webinar “Should we contact you after this webinar to discuss our services?” if you are trying to use the webinar to make sales
- After your webinar, immediately enter and work on your sales leads
- Save the webinar recording and upload it to YouTube to have additional content for your audience, and share it with all registrants
First Thing – Why Are You Doing a Webinar?
Webinars can be a “shiny object” for marketers.
Marketers can see other businesses hosting webinars, so they think “Maybe I should do a webinar.”
The same reasoning is used to haphazardly dive into other marketing endeavors like trying out new social media channels like Tiktok or whatnot.
I know, because I’ve done that sort of thing before.
And it’s great to be experimenting and trying new things, but you don’t want to waste your limited time and effort.
So, maybe I can save you some time.
You should start planning your webinar coming from the question, “What is the goal for my webinar and my audience?”
With this question in mind, here are the two main things I’ve found useful using webinars for business:
- To engage with potential customers at the top of the sales funnel (and eventually make them customers) by presenting content that is somewhat relevant to your product / service to educate them and build a relationship (but this is not a ‘hard sell’ of your product/service)
- To educate warmer leads by demoing your service or expertise and ultimately convert them to paying customers
Obviously you can do whatever you want with a webinar, but, I’ve found that coming at it with the question “What is my goal?” helps me think clearly and frame my webinar.
It’s helped me avoid wasting time putting on webinars irrelevant to my audience, but I wanted to do it because I had an idea that I thought I could create good content for.
Aside from those two main opportunities, I’ve also gotten creative with webinars. As an example, I’ve used them as opportunities to build relationships and partnerships with speakers and other vendors.
What Are You Going to Talk About?
So, now that you have your goal, your webinar content should help you reach your goal.
For your first webinar, choose a topic that is very much within your wheelhouse, where you can educate your audience as an authority.
Here are some tips for coming up with topics for your first webinars:
- Turn a successful blog post you’ve published into a webinar, where you can add more details and info
- A demo of your service (one warning: unless you have a large email list and are actively working to nurture and qualify your contacts into becoming sales leads, you will not likely get many signups or attendance)
To find your “successful” blog posts, take a look at your Google Analytics on your website. Which posts get the most traffic?
Also, for your first webinar, I’d recommend presenting it yourself (or someone at your company), rather than having a guest speaker.
Don’t have your first webinar feature a guest presenter. If you make some mistakes on your first one, it’ll be better that it happens to you rather than a guest speaker.
Tools to Host a Webinar
At first glance, webinars can seem simple to put together because webinar software exists.
And they seem to do everything, from hosting your webinar to signing up registrants and sending out emails.
But, don’t be fooled.
You should probably not use the webinar software for every aspect of your webinar.
There’s a lot to unpack here, and it’s based on my experience having run a lot of webinars.
The typical webinar platforms do a lot of things fine, but not great.
For example, most webinar platforms will help you:
- Create landing pages to sign up registrants
- Create “thank you pages” to direct confirmed registrations
- Send confirmation and reminder emails to registrants
- Manage your registrants and attendees
- Host and record your webinar
- Send follow-up emails to attendees and registrants with the webinar recording
And with all of that, here are the issues I’ve come across:
- The landing and confirmation pages aren’t great, they’re not hosted on my website, and I get no data on their traffic or conversion rates
- The email sequences are just OK, but they’re not coming from my email marketing software so I don’t get great analytics
- The registration form doesn’t easily hook into my existing email marketing software so I can know who’s registered and reading my emails
- The follow-up emails aren’t great
The trade-off is, it’s a good amount of extra manual work to do things like make your own landing pages and emails for registrants.
But, if you’re going to invest your time in webinars, I say do it as you best possibly can.
So, for me, that means things like:
- Creating my own landing and confirmation pages on my website, tracked with my analytics tools
- Connecting my email marketing software with the webinar platform so I can track and segment all registrants and attendees
- Making all webinar related emails come from my email marketing software
And after you’ve done these once, you have a template you can use over and over again.
As you get underway, it’s going to dawn on you that this is a lot of work.
The first webinar you work on will likely take 5x the amount of time to put together as any subsequent webinar you ever do.
But, they get much easier once you have your template pages and content to work from.
So, keep that all in mind when weighing whether or not to invest the time in building your own landing pages.
Aside from all that, you need a platform to host your webinar!
There are a lot of platforms to choose from. You have tools like:
And we’ve barely scratched the surface.
The thing is, I don’t have one particular app to recommend…
GoToWebinar is reliable, even if its UI looks a bit dated.
Zoom is solid.
The reason I don’t recommend one over the other is because they all do basically the same things.
The real differentiators for you are going to be:
- Does the platform integrate with my existing marketing tools: email marketing, contact forms, landing pages, etc.
I would personally recommend that you go with whichever app works best with your business’s existing software, at the best price point.
And as far as price goes, there’s a lot of variability.
If you’re reading this article in early 2020, some webinar platforms are having Coronavirus-related promotions to help you out.
Webex, for example, has an especially generous free tier right now (Up to 100 attendees for free with no time limit).
With pricing, most platforms are doing pricing based on number of attendees, with “Up to 100 attendees” being the entry point, charging based on the number of host accounts you have, costing anywhere from $20 – $100 / month per host.
I would also recommend testing out at least 3 webinar platforms. You might find you like one better than the other for its interface, quality, or features.
And whichever platform you choose – before you have your first webinar, do a test run.
Pretend it’s a real webinar, setting up all the pages and integrations. Actually run a brief fake webinar to get acquainted with the platform.
Aside from the webinar platform, there are other components you will need to pull off this webinar. I’ll list the components, and note which ones you can do inside your webinar platform itself:
- Registration landing page (can be done using webinar software)
- Registration confirmation page (can be done using webinar software)
- Confirmation email (can be done using webinar software)
- Promotional emails (using your email marketing software)
- Social media promotion
- Blog post about the webinar (this is optional, but recommended, and should be on your website’s blog)
For landing pages, I personally prefer to use my own customized landing page. This way, it can integrate with my Google Analytics and I can run experiments like A/B tests.
One technical note here: If you are using your own website for landing / confirmation pages, you will need to either embed the platform’s registration form onto your page or use an integration with your preferred form tool (like Gravity Forms) or email platform with the webinar software.
For my landing pages, I use Offsprout.
It lets me easily create and style my pages, while also letting me save templates so I can create one landing page style and use it over again.
Creating Webinar Content
Let’s talk about how to put together your webinar content.
Generally, I like to create it as far in advance as possible, all at once. This keeps you from falling behind with a webinar coming up.
And it’s not just slides you need to think about. You will need content for different pieces like the emails to your list and landing pages.
Here is the order I would focus on for your content:
- Outline your webinar in text
- Write promotional emails to send to your list
- Write a blog post about the webinar
- Create landing pages
- Draft social media posts
- Ads (if you’re advertising)
- Create your webinar slides (if using slides)
You might be wondering, “Why is slides one of the last things you do?”
Well, once you have the other pieces of content created, you will have a much better sense of what the flow of the webinar is going to be like. This will help you create the slides quicker. Also, if you create the slides earlier in the process, you might find yourself revising them to match the other content you create.
You really don’t need the webinar slides until you are ready to start practicing for the webinar.
With all that said, let’s go through the steps.
Outlining The Webinar
First: outline your webinar topic in text.
Open a Google or Word doc and write bullet points of what you want to cover.
I do not recommend writing “word-for-word” what you are going to say because if you do, it will come off as robotic during the webinar.
Instead, have bullet points that contain all the essential talking points you want to cover.
During the actual webinar, you might want to have a print out of the outline next to you so you can make sure to hit every point. Another good reason for having a printed-out outline with you when you present is that, if you note which slides are coming up next, you can plan ahead if the webinar is going too fast or too slow.
Here’s a sample structure that I use for webinars:
- Welcome and Introduction / Title Slide
- People can ask questions in the Q&A tools on the webinar and you’ll get to them at the end
- “This webinar will (or will not) be recorded and shared later in case you miss something”
- Very brief introduction to the topic so people know they’re in the right place
- Thank people for coming
- Slide with your photo and a brief bio of you and your company
- Show your credentials to your audience for credibility
- Introduce the problem
- Poll question – who in the audience has this problem?
- Present a solution
- Poll question – something relevant to this
- Show a case study
- Pitch that’s relevant to your business
- Poll question – should we contact you after this webinar? Yes / No
One thing that is important for the webinar is a poll question that asks, “Should we contact you after this webinar to see if we can help you – Yes / No?”
Whoever says “Yes” to that poll is a sales lead for you and you should treat them like you would any warm inbound sales lead.
Adding that poll question to my webinars has been a real difference-maker for me.
And if people say “No” to that poll question, continue to treat them like you would your marketing leads who are not yet ready to buy.
Write Promotional Emails
You will need to email your list about the webinar to sell it to them and why they should attend.
Focus on the benefits of the webinar, not the features.
Why should they attend?
What will they get out of attending?
Write less about what material you are going to cover as opposed to what they are going to learn and how this will help them. You can of course talk about what you will cover, but I would lead with the reasons people should attend first.
And don’t forget the important details: Who, Where, When
Who is hosting and speaking?
Where can people register and attend?
When is this?
Usually, I end up using the promotional email copy as the text for the landing page, just slightly modified.
Write a Blog Post
Writing a blog post to promote the webinar is not a must-have, but I like including it because it allows you to say a bit more than what you would normally put into a landing page.
The blog post should be kind of a combination of your outline and email text.
And that’s why I save writing the blog post until this point in the process.
The blog post should be less like a landing page (which is very much a “call to action” to get people to fill in the registration form) and more educational.
Share the details. Share what attendees will learn. But, feel free to go a bit in-depth into the material. Share a sneak peek into what attendees will learn and why it will interest them.
Create Landing Pages and Thank You Pages
I like waiting to create the landing pages until I am happy with the other promotional content so I can match it with the landing page text. I’ve found it makes writing the landing pages easier.
The landing page should be a giant call to action to entice readers to register.
The text should be similar to your promotional email, with some differences.
Here’s what I like to include in my landing page:
- A hero image at the top of the page with a graphic that represents something relevant to the webinar
- Large text heading of the webinar title
- A smaller tagline touting the main selling point of the webinar
- A register now button that takes people to the form on the page
- Bullet-points on what attendees will learn
- Date / Time logistics
- Brief speaker bio with a picture of them
- Form embedded at the bottom or sidebar area of the page
Here are a few landing pages I like for inspiration:
The “Thank You Page” is just a confirmation page, letting people know that their registration has been submitted.
But, it’s also an opportunity to share additional information.
What I usually do is I put on this page a big heading that says “Your registration for [webinar] is confirmed!” with a subheading inviting registrants to “check out these other resources.”
Below that, I will link to other pieces of content on my site that are somewhat-relevant to the webinar topic or would be interesting to an attendee.
Here’s a few sample confirmation pages I like:
Draft Social Media Posts
How are you going to engage people and let them know your webinar is coming up?
Write out a few different types of social media posts for different mediums.
For example, for Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, you can link to your landing page; for Instagram, you will need to ask readers to click a link placed in your bio.
Ads (if you’re Advertising)
If you are doing ads, next you should draft ad copy.
Find an appealing image (images are important).
Here are some great resources for free stock images.
Create Your Webinar Slides (if using slides)
It may seem crazy, but the last thing I do is put together my slides.
By the time I have the rest of my content ready to go, I know what material I am going to cover, how I am going to present it, and how I am going to sell the webinar to the audience – this is why I wait until the end to make my slides.
So, I can mold my slides around that.
You already have the content ready because you have an outline – the slides are just about how to best present that content.
Also, the slides are the last thing you need. You don’t really need them until you start practicing your webinar.
In a worst-case scenario, you could make your slides the day before your webinar if you had to.
Some tips for webinar slides:
- Don’t be text-heavy – you should not be reading off of your slides
- The slides should complement your presentation by backing it up with data, visuals, and simple text that shows attendees what you are talking about
- Seriously, less text is better
Here’s a hard truth of webinars:
Many attendees will not be looking at your slides. They will be passively listening to your voice that’s coming from another tab on their web browser while they do other things on their computers.
And for a lot of webinars, that doesn’t necessarily negatively affect the attendees’ experience. So many webinars have content on their slides that just parrots the presenter’s speech, so the webinar can work well as just audio.
Personally, I want more engagement from my webinars. I want my attendees to be actively listening and engaging because it makes for a better experience for them and makes them more likely to take the action I want them to take at the end.
To get attendees more engaged, I have a few tips for slides:
- Reference visuals on your slide if you can, like graphs and charts that show data – make people need to pay attention to both your voice and the visuals
- Have polls in your slides (most webinar apps have poll features) so you can ask your audience questions, get their feedback, and get them to take the action of clicking a button on your presentation)
- Create your slides as if you are presenting to a room with people in the audience who are falling asleep and you want to keep awake
Logistics: The Best Day / Time for Webinars
Let’s talk about setting up your webinar.
When is the best day / time to present a webinar?
These are two questions, and one is much easier to answer.
As far as “best day” goes – Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are best.
These days get the highest registration and attendance rates.
As for “best time:
Well, it depends…
It depends on your audience and when they are awake and working.
Generally speaking, the middle of the day is the best time for a webinar.
I found a really great study of data from GoToWebinar showed that the best time for presenting webinars, looking at a ton of webinar data.
The times that get the most attendees are 10am and 11am local time.
And this advice works great if your attendees are all in one time zone.
However, if your audience is not all in one time zone, you’ll need to think a bit more strategically.
If your attendees are in different time zones, try to have your webinar in the “middle of the day” for as many people as you can.
For example, if your audience is based in different time zones in the United States, 1pm ET may be your best bet because you can get 10am attendees on the west coast and 1pm attendees on the east coast.
Another study by ON24, recommends 2pm ET if your audience is distributed across the United States.
And if your audience is international across many different time zones, that’s tougher.
One thing you could do, which some webinar platforms provide, is have your webinar recorded and rebroadcast at other times for other time zones.
Prepping Your Webinar
By this point, here’s what we have:
- Our topic and presenter
- Content for all our pages and materials
- Our day / time
Now, it’s time for us to set up the webinar.
And then, we’re going to test out the workflow to make sure our invitees can register.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Go into your webinar software and schedule the event – and make it live!
- Create your one-page landing page and confirmation page
- Set up your email software to tag registrants for your webinar once they register
- Create a confirmation email to send immediately to registrants (and a reminder email for 1 day before the event)
- Set up a Google Analytics goal for registration (using the destination: confirmation page as the goal)
- Test out the registration on the landing page and confirm that it works
- Review your email marketing software to ensure that your test registrant gets tagged as a webinar registrant
Okay, now your webinar registration is live…
Time to promote it!
Here’s what you are going to do to promote your webinar:
- Schedule posts for social media
- Publish a post on your blog about the webinar
- Email your subscribers
- If you have a budget – create advertisements
We discussed the content itself earlier, but here are a few additional tips for promotion:
That’s an easy one, it will save you time, allow you to share your message at different times to reach your audiences, and this way you can set it up ahead of time and not spend much more time thinking about it.
That being said, if you are getting comments or questions on social media about your webinar – be sure to respond to them promptly.
Next, let’s talk about ads:
(If you are looking to create ads, one thing you can do is create ads with QR codes, which you can do by learning Python.)
Of all ads for promoting your webinar, Facebook ads tend to work best.
In my experience marketing a B2B company, which is all I can personally speak to, Facebook ads tended to have the lowest cost per conversion.
LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Display ads, in my experience for B2B, tended to be significantly more expensive per lead.
For Facebook ads, you can do a few things:
First, there’s retargeting.
Retargeting entails going after people who have been to your website or are on your email list these have the highest conversion rates.
But, keep in mind that these are already people who generally know about you and might have heard about your webinar.
So, with retargeting, you are not reaching brand new prospects.
Then, there’s interest targeting.
Interest targeting entails going after people who are interested in your competitors or related topics.
This can get you exposure to a wider audience of people who might be interested in your webinar, but have never heard of you.
And last, there’s “Lookalike” audiences.
“Lookalikes” advertising involves advertising to people who show have similar characteristics to your existing users.
With lookalikes, you upload your email list to Facebook. Facebook then says with an algorithm, “Hm… we have identified certain common characteristics of the people on this list who have Facebook accounts. Let’s find more people like this and serve them ads.”
In my experience, these can be hit or miss…
Running Your Webinar
Here we are: game time.
Before your webinar, you should do a dry run of your webinar in full at least once.
With a practice run, you will likely realize what works and doesn’t work, and be able to hone your material better.
A practice run will help you realize what sections need more details, and what parts you might even want to drop.
For the actual webinar, you should also plan for a few interactive elements.
Use polls in your webinar.
In your webinar software, you can load in poll questions with answer options. You’ll need to do this all ahead of time before your webinar.
When you want to introduce a poll question, you should mention it on a slide (so you don’t forget it), and then open up the poll in your webinar software.
I like to have 3-5 poll questions to keep the webinar more interactive and keep attendees involved.
For the actual webinar, plan fake Q&A audience questions.
I know it might sound weird, but here’s the deal:
Some webinars don’t get great audience questions.
Sometimes attendees ask very specific questions that are only relevant to them but wouldn’t be helpful to the rest of your audience.
And sometimes there is material you want to address but can’t find a good opportunity in your presentation.
You can address that material in the audience Q&A.
You can also feed yourself softball questions that end up pitching your service.
With Q&A on webinar platforms, typically your audience will not see other people’s questions, so you can make up whatever questions you want.
Next, let’s talk about your webinar presentation setup.
Ideally, you should be using a wired Internet connection as opposed to wi-fi.
Wired tends to be more reliable than wireless, and you don’t want to drop your connection or have choppy audio with an audience of 100 people waiting on you.
As for audio, if you can, get a decent microphone. There are plenty of great-quality microphones that plug into your computer’s USB. Check out the Blue Snowball or Yeti. They’re very reliable and have great quality.
You don’t need a $200 or $300 studio microphone.
No matter what though, never “dial in” to your webinar with a telephone if you are a presenter.
Even though you might have that as an option, the audio quality with a telephone call-in is really bad. It sounds like a bad-quality phone call.
Speaking of audio issues:
One thing to think about – where are you going to record this webinar?
It wasn’t something I gave much thought about until I recorded a terrible-quality webinar.
I was working out of a WeWork, using a conference room that had glass walls.
The problem was, the sound bounces off the glass and creates a lot of echo with the microphone.
Even though everything else about my webinar was on-point, it sounded awful and attendees didn’t stay very long because it was unpleasant to listen to.
I’ve also had issues of recording webinars in an office when other people are nearby, talking or on phone calls.
The best thing you can do is record your webinar from a private space that won’t get disturbed.
You don’t want to be like this guy:
Here’s what you need to do to ensure no disturbances before your webinar:
- Restart your computer
- Have a “clean” desktop
- Turn off Slack and other internal team communication apps
- Silence your phone
- If you have a desk phone, put it on “do not disturb” so it doesn’t ring
For presenting the webinar, here is what I would do:
- Arrive to the webinar 5-10 minutes early
- Present your first title slide to the audience
- Make the webinar “live” 5 minutes early and periodically let early arrivals that they are in the right place and you will get started soon
- Start your webinar 1-2 minutes after the designated start time to allow for people who arrive slightly late (it always happens)
Oh, and for sharing your slides to your audience, here is a trick I picked up:
If you are using Powerpoint for your slides, set the slide show to present in its own window, and share that window with your audience.
This effectively makes it so you do not have to worry about your “setup view” or anything else showing on screen that you don’t mean to.
To do this, go to Slide Show > Set Up Show and then choose to display it in its own window.
And with that, you have everything you need to put together a great webinar!
But, there’s still more to do after your webinar is over…
We’re not done yet.
Your first priority after the webinar should be your sales leads. These are hot opportunities, don’t drop the ball!
Immediately after your webinar ends, look at your webinar stats and find out which attendees are going to be “sales leads” (who said “Yes” in your poll question, “Would you like us to contact you after this webinar?).
In your sales CRM, create opportunities and give them to your sales team.
Tag them in your email marketing software as sales opportunities or whatever you need to.
Then, save your webinar video and upload it to YouTube.
The day after the webinar is over, send an email to all registrants and share the recording with them.
In that email, thank them for registering and let them know that if they couldn’t make it that they can check out the recording.
One day after that, we’re going to send a follow-up email with a “soft sell” (if the situation calls for it)
You can share an offer, like “20% off for the next 72 hours on this service we have that is relevant to our webinar materials”
And that’s it.
Now you know how to not just create a webinar, but create an amazing webinar that engages your audience, best converts them to sales opportunities, and also avoid the common mistakes that people make when presenting webinars.
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