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Going Big: How to Host a Major Webinar Event

November 28th, 2017 Phillip Angerhofer

This is a guest post from Phillip Angerhofer, Campaign and Digital Event Manager at Qualtrics.

Creating a positive experience is core to any successful webinar event, but for major Qualtrics digital events, it’s especially important. As an experienced management platform, providing webinars in a way that serves and delights our community isn’t just about leads (although it’s definitely about leads!) — it also shows we can walk the walk. But how do you cram dozens of webinars into a week-long event, drive your marketing pipeline, and maximize lead generation, all without driving your team crazy? Here’s how (and why) we do it.

Why have major webinar events?

Qualtrics runs up to three major digital webinar events every year. Each event runs four days, with about 30 webinars. That’s a lot of speakers, and although we draw about one-third of them from inside Qualtrics, the rest come from thought leaders, partners, and other groups outside of our organization.

There are some obvious challenges and drawbacks to an event like this. Think about all the work that goes into a webinar, from planning to finding the right presenter, to creating a slide deck, to promotion and follow through. Now, think about all the things that can go wrong with a webinar. Presenters can reject slide decks or opt-out at the last minute, hosts can get sick on the day of the big event, technical issues can make a good event flop. Now, multiply all of that by 30.

There’s also the risk of diminishing returns — at least by certain metrics. With one-off presentations, our attendance is about 35% of registration; but with our webinar events, it drops to around 25%. And if your webinar promotion strategies flop, you’ve lost a lot more than you would with a single webinar.

So why do we do it? Because it’s big, and we can market the hell out of it for a fantastic ROI! Your leads won’t appreciate a barrage of emails for a single presentation, but if you’ve got 30 different exciting presentations, demos, and roundtables from speakers in different segments, each point of contact is a chance to build excitement. That drives leads down the marketing pipeline like you wouldn’t believe. And, for people who are curious, but haven’t really had a chance to research it, it’s a fantastic lead generation opportunity. And those drawbacks above? It turns out they’re not a problem if you know how to use your team effectively.

How to host a webinar event

Like with any process, scaling up your webinar program requires refinement. We operate on a 10-to-1 rule, which means that for every 10 webinars, we leave one week for recording and editing. For companies with a slower webinar cadence, that might sound impressive, but we manage to do do it while keeping our team happy — and you can too. Here’s what you need to do:

    • Build the right team. You need a strong team, representing all stakeholders. For a major webinar event, we recruit people from product marketing, digital marketing, sales, our client success team, and the campaigns team to create a project that serves everyone’s goals. Coordinating all those teams requires strong leadership — in our case, it’s the head of marketing who brings everyone together. Your webinar program might be organized differently, but it’s important that you have someone with the enthusiasm and leadership skills to coordinate all your members.
    • Get everyone on board. A major webinar event is a company-wide project. It’s something everyone can contribute to in some way, even if it’s just promotion. At our company-wide meetings, we make sure to get everyone excited about the event and share relevant details. We talk about how much of the marketing pipeline will be in attendance, and what opportunities the webinar presents for their departments and the company as a whole. We also get into the nitty-gritty of our registration strategy, and how both marketing and sales can fit in. Getting marketing and sales to work together to promote the event can be tricky in some organizations, but it’s worth the work.
    • Make things easy for yourself. Simulive is your friend. Your mileage may vary, but we’ve found it’s just not worth the hassle to wrangle 30 speakers on the day of the event unless there’s an in-person audience. Using live webinar hosts and subject-matters experts (SMEs) to introduce speakers and answer questions after the presentation is much more manageable than having entire live presentations, and it means that, even if there’s an issue like a bad mic, your webinar event will still go off more or less as planned. And make sure your webinar hosts have scripts and alternates, in case someone can’t make it for some reason. Even if you can’t field a second expert host for a particular topic, you’ll still have a host to introduce the event and refer questions to someone in your company who can answer them.

Make your webinar event a big deal

A major digital event is a chance for you to strut your stuff, show your leadership, and let the industry know-how great your company is. If you can engage your team and give your whole organization a stake in the outcome, your webinar event will be legendary.