This topic is near and dear to my heart. Slides. Do we need them? Absolutely not.
We have been thinking about webinar formats a lot lately, and one thing that we consistently come back to is video-only webinars. Slideless webinars — what a thought.
A few weeks back we decided to take the leap, and put together a very exciting video-only webinar called “MINDSHIFT.” The feedback we received was extremely positive, and we will definitely be revisiting this format more in the future!
Here are the benefits of video only webinars:
They stand out. Whether presenting or watching, we have all participated in a million webinars with a presenter going over slides. With the increased reliance on webinars due to COVID-19 standing out is more important than ever.
Console real estate. Nixing the slide widget allows more room for the media player and makes the video front and center.
Higher production value. With the time and effort taken off of creating a deck, energy can be focused on really upping the quality of the video that will be playing during the webinar.
Here’s the best part: they’re super-easy to do. All you have to do is disable the slide widget. That’s it. As always, have fun and get creative!
One of the biggest challenges of running a virtual summit is emulating the interactions that happen at in-person events. They’re usually organic and causal and can be a powerful resource for attendees.
But just because an event is taking place online doesn’t mean you can’t replicate that in-person feeling. Here are a few things to consider if you want to add a more in-person element to your virtual events:
Group chat is the tried and true method of getting strangers on the internet to interact with one another. In virtual business settings, like webinars, it’s a pretty pleasant experience and a great way to get folks to network as they would in person.
There are a few ways you can do this. First, if you’re an ON24 customer, you can simply enable the chat engagement tool when setting up your event. Second, if you’re a fan of Slack, you can create a free slack group with specific channels aligned to presentations and breakout sessions.
Let’s be honest: if people are attending a virtual event, they likely have at least a half dozen browser tabs open to various social media networks. That’s an opportunity to engage! Assess the various social channels where your audiences live and identify the top two or three. Then, during the run-up to your event, share the hashtags, pages and channels where your event will be active with your audience.
If you want to take things to the next level, set up social media pushes like Twitter chats ahead of specific sessions. Keynote speeches are a good candidate for these. All you have to do is communicate a hashtag to your audience over time and, at the appointed time, use the hashtag as the presenter works their way through their session.
Virtual Happy Hours
One of the nicer things about in-person events is the opportunity to relax and share a conversation over a drink or two at an appointed happy hour. But if hosting an in-person happy hour isn’t in the cards, a virtual one will have to suffice. Fortunately, it’s really easy to organize.
One of the best methods is to set up a room in a group conferencing tool like Zoom. All you have to do is share the room name and passcode ahead of time. Oh, and let folks know that it’s BYOB.
Virtual events, webinars and other digital tools are simply mediums for your message. Meaning, if you want to associate an “in-person” feel to your virtual event, all you have to do is get creative!
Drift’s recent virtual summit, RevGrowth, is a great example. During this event, Drift brought the physical experience to virtual events with lunch workout classes and even an afterparty featuring a live DJ.
Replicating the feeling of an in-person event during a virtual summit isn’t easy. But it does provide attendees with a much-needed opportunity to relax and get the most out of the virtual events in a way that’s familiar to them. So, when you’re planning for your next virtual summit, take the time to identify opportunities to replicate that in-person feeling.
At this point, I am sure we are all familiar with the famous Zoom call potato. Well, it turns out that that is not only possible in video calls, it is also possible in webinars! I present to you, the webinar pickle:
It’s a pretty fun way to add some levity to your webinars. Best of all: it’s very easy to do. Here is a quick guide to having some extra fun in your webinars:
So, it’s certainly possible to move your event online. All it takes is a bit of planning.
Scope What You Need
First, get an idea of what you’re doing with your virtual event. Are you replacing a single session from a lunch-and-learn? A full day of sessions? A multi-day conference? The first thing you need to do is to decide what is needed to adequately replace your physical event.
Need helping pivoting from an in-person summit to a virtual event? Tune in to PivotFH to learn how you can turn physical events into digital experiences from home.
Sit down with the folks who were involved — either over the phone or through a collaboration tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams — and map out what was planned for the physical event, and what can be transferred online. Don’t drop any planned interactive activities — you can still incorporate them into your virtual event.
Take the time to decide how you’ll promote your event virtually. If you had partners lined up, ask for their help. Don’t forget to plot out a plan for your social and email campaigns. If you’re lucky enough to have an in-house designer, ask them to update your physical designs to accommodate a virtual environment like webinars.
Build Your Experience
Now that you have a plan, you need to build out the webinars. Work with your team to assign roles and responsibilities. Likely, these roles will likely correlate with responsibilities for your physical events. The lift here shouldn’t be too heavy if you already had the majority of your work done for your physical event — it’s likely simply updating copy, creating slides and weaving in interactive opportunities — like polls and surveys — into your presentation.
Work with Your Speaker(s)
The switch from physical to digital is a change, but luckily it isn’t a hard one. Work with your speaker on what format they want to use. Do they want to present live? Have polls? Prerecord? Make sure to work these logistics out as early as possible to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Personally, I recommend using simulive for any virtual summit or conference. It brings together the best elements of live and on-demand webinars and reduces the likelihood of something going wrong on the day of your event.
You want to make the migration from physical to digital as easy as possible for anyone that was planning to attend your physical event. A great way to do this is to go ahead and register them for your digital event.
Notify Your Audience
For those who are interested in moving online, they’ll need to be kept up to date on what the plan is. Communicate the change of plans — to both those who have and have not registered — as soon as possible.
Let them know that they are already registered and ready to go, and include calendar invites. Make sure you set up an email series to drum up excitement and include any additions to your virtual event that weren’t planned for your physical meetup. Being able to offer something new and unique online is a great way to get people excited.
Keep in mind: if money is involved, you’ll still have people who want a refund for a canceled in-person event. Work with them to make it happen.
Since your event is now accessible to those that could not make it to a physical time and space, it will attract a new audience. Again, we recommend working with any partners or sponsors to widen your email net and connect with new, possibly interested audiences.
If you lack partners, or if your canceled event was a small one-off roadshow, look around and see if you can collaborate with a customer, partner or vendor. It’s always a good idea to have more perspectives and audiences involved.
Practice and Get Ready
Once you’ve put your plan into place, organized partners and set up promotions, it’s time to practice. If you’re broadcasting your presentation live, make sure your speaker and webinar producer run through the presentation ahead of time. That way, there’ll be no surprises on the day of the event.
If you’re going the simulive route, make sure you work with your team to anticipate questions audiences will likely ask through the Q&A engagement tool. Once you have a rehearsal down, get ready for the day of the event. Good luck!
Branding your webinars is great, but the FUN doesn’t need to stop there. Now that you have a library of beautiful on-demand webinars, it’s time to brand your content hub! It can be overwhelming, so here are some tips on where to start.
Beautify Your Thumbnails
For ON24 Engagement Hub, the most noticeable hub element is definitely going to be the thumbnail attached to each piece of content. So, it’s important to brand each thumbnail properly. You’ll want to avoid a strange hodgepodge of different styles. Work with your design team and develop one consistent style for Engagement Hub thumbnails. Then, use design for each piece of content.
Organize Your Content
You know what makes even the most carefully designed thumbnails look bad? Being dumped into a large unorganized hub. Ease of use not only offers a better user experience, but it also makes your content — and brand — look better. Break content out into categories or tracks to avoid clutter and make things easier to navigate. I am also very partial to using carousels, but you don’t have to.
Labels, Icons, and Other Accoutrements
It’s easy to want to turn on every option under the sun. Avoid that impulse, it is going to look too busy. The goal is to make navigating your content easy, and icon overload can muddy the waters in that regard. Pictured above is the combination that we use most often in our Engagement Hubs. We find that this works very well.
And that’s it! Setting up a content hub is a relatively straightforward process that will — hopefully — pay off in the long run and give your audience a great always-on brand experience.
Part of the fun of hosting a webinar is making it look good. Don’t settle for bland! Here are some quick tips to better brand your webinars.
Pick a Color Scheme
The first thing you need to do is pick a color scheme for your webinar. This can be as simple as using your brand colors, or you can get a bit more complicated.
One great way to pick a color scheme is to start with a primary color, in this case, we will use blue (#0000ff). Navigate to a color wheel tool, I like to use canva. Enter your primary color, and when you select a scheme it will give you a group of colors that work well together. Go science!
Change the Icons
Webinars with stock icons are one of my pet peeves. Not only do they not look the best, but they are so easy to change that it shows a lack of effort.
You don’t even need to create icons for each webinar. I suggest creating a standard set of icons whose colors can be easily changed. This way you are always ready to brand a webinar, no matter the time or place.
Use a Background Image
Please don’t just pick a background color and call it a day. A plain stock photo is not good either. Here is an example from one of our webinars, let’s look at some key factors.
Title – Including the title of your webinar in the background is a must. It is best placed in the top left for visibility.
Pattern – You want to avoid flat colors. Using patterns with different shades is the easiest way to do this, and it looks cool!
Size – Most people browse the internet on screens that are at least 1920×1080, so we use this size for all of our console backgrounds.
Busyness – Try not to make the console background too busy. You don’t want to distract from your content, you want to compliment it.
GIFs? Not just for Memes
One of the coolest ways to really spice up your webinar branding is by using GIFs. GIFs can be used as the background, as well as in the CTA and Image widgets. The key here is to not go overboard. Like I said above, you want to compliment the content, not distract from it.
Email is the biggest driver of webinar registration, and as such, I am very often asked about email strategies for driving registration. Let’s take a look at some different factors.
Promotional Sweet Spots
Whenever possible, I like to start promoting a webinar four weeks before the air date. According to our ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report, over a quarter of webinar registrations happen more than 15 days before a webinar. Dropping an email four weeks out, and another the next week can help to net these registrants.
Another quarter of registrants are found in the 8-14 days before the webinar. You should be ramping up your email cadence during this time.
Nearly 46% of registrants register in the week leading up to the webinar, including the day of. By now your emails should be fully ramped up and firing on all cylinders. Make sure to include a day of email for the stragglers.*
What Days Work Best
Once again our yearly benchmarks report has some insight on the matter. Across thousands of webinars held on the ON24 Platform, 67% of registrants signed up Tuesday – Thursday. However, this is just a starting point. We, for example, see higher open rates and thus higher registration on Mondays. As with everything make sure to test, test and test again!
Number of Promotional Emails
This is where things get complicated. There is no universal answer here. In an ideal world, this is what promotions for a webinar would look like for my team.
The Blue items are emails, and the green item is the webinar itself. Notice that we combine what we talked about in the previous sections of this post, and start promotion four weeks out with it ramping up to the day of the webinar.
Of course, this is rarely possible. So how do we figure out how many emails to send? We work backward from the reg goal. Decide how many registrants are needed, then average out the number of registrants per email per thousand recipients from past webinars in the same series (or with similar topics). Once you have these numbers, you can allocate the appropriate number of emails across the different registration windows and you are up and running!
* For the day of the webinar, I have instituted what we call the “On the Fence Email.” Instead of sending an invite to the full email list, we only include those that have either opened a previous invite to the event or visited the landing page without registering.
It takes a lot of emails to get an audience in front of a webinar. Let’s take a look at the emails you need in your repertoire.
Confirmation Email (Operational)
The confirmation email is the most important email for a webinar. If you had to, you could survive with only the confirmation email. A confirmation email needs to include the title, time, date and link to access the webinar. I heavily encourage including outlook and google calendar links that allow registrants to add an event to their calendars. Confirmation emails are also a great chance to serve up related content that registrants can view “while they wait.”
Reminder Email(s) (Operational)
Like most things, reminder emails take some testing to hone in. What we have found to work the best is a note from the speaker a day or two before the webinar to remind registrants that they are registered and to attend the event.
We also send a second reminder at the start of the webinar announcing the event is underway. This reminder looks very operational. Take a look.
Pretty straight forward. Standard promotional email using your email template. I suggest having a link in the banner, at least two in the copy and, of course, a button.
We find that alternating between text and HTML promo emails seems to work the best. Different people respond to different types. Generally, text promos are sent from the speaker of the webinar and treated as a letter to the recipient.
Attendee Follow Up (Operational)
Since the recipient has already attended the webinar, the attendee follow-up email is your chance to offer a lot of related content. Make sure to thank them for attending and include a way to watch the webinar on-demand, but really focus on what they can do next.
No Show Follow Up (Operational)
I believe that the goal of the no show follow-up is to convince the recipient to attend the webinar that they missed. We like to remind them of they registered for the webinar and that it’s now accessible at any time. We also recommend including a recap of what the webinar is about. And, of course, a link to access the webinar. Keep it simple.
The Anatomy of a Webinar Program Template 09/13/2019
Note: We use Marketo here at ON24, but the principles of this post should be applicable across other platforms as well.
Here at ON24 we run a lot of webinars. A LOT. One of the keys to running a webinar program at scale is creating easy-to-use program templates that can be quickly cloned and set up with minimal work. There are three main components to a webinar program template: tokens, smart campaigns, and emails. I recently revisited one of our most used templates and made some changes, let’s take a look.
I am a huge proponent of tokenization. Tokens allow us to input information in one place and use it in many other places. Most of these tokens are fairly universal, but a few are designed for very specific uses.
I categorize our operational smart campaigns into two categories, Status Changes and Follow Ups. The status change campaigns maintain proper statuses (and everything that goes with them). The follow-up campaigns send follow-ups based on the statuses of program members.
We have two registration smart campaigns. One listens for registrations via the webinar landing page, the other listens for registrations coming through via external promotions like content syndication, online advertising and sponsored emails. Here is what the flow looks like in the registration campaign (notice the use of one of our tokens).
We also have three different follow-up campaigns. The first runs one day after the webinar airs and sends either a “thank you” or a “sorry we missed you” email depending on member status.
Once the webinar has switched over to on-demand, we still want people to receive follow-up emails. This is where “020 No Show – On-Demand – Follow Up” and “021 Attendee – On-Demand – Follow Up” come into play. We want on-demand attendees to receive an email one day after watching the webinar. For those that register for the on-demand webinar, but never attend, we want them to receive a reminder to watch a few days later.
To accomplish this I have set up two smart campaigns. The attendee campaign is triggered by a status change to “Attended On-Demand.” To ensure the email is delivered the next day during business hours, we utilize a wait step that must end at 8:00 AM PDT on a business day.
The no-show follow-up email is a little trickier. We want to give people a few days to attend, so rather than utilizing a trigger we instead set up a batch campaign to run once a week and send an email to anyone that still has a status of “No Show” or “Registered.” We also ensure they did not receive the initial no-show follow-up that went out the day after the original broadcast. We set the smart campaign so that leads can only run through it once to keep this email from being repeatedly sent to members.
Our webinar programs start out with the six emails seen above. They end up with a lot more since we clone the promo emails depending on need, but the operational emails do not change.
Things you can tokenize in your emails:
Landing page URL
Next webinar URL/related content URL
Our confirmation emails are great examples of this as there are six program tokens used in each one.