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How Webinars Work

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We all know webinars are one of the most indispensable weapons in a marketer’s armory. But what is a webinar and how does a webinar work?

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of even the most basic webinar software. And, when it comes to a world-class solution like the ON24 platform, we rely on some of the best talent in the biz to make the experience of setting up and delivering a webinar seamless for you.

Let’s start with a simple definition:

A webinar is an engaging online event where a speaker, or small group of speakers, deliver a presentation to a large audience who participate by submitting questions, responding to polls and using other available interactive tools.

Webinars are different from meeting tools, which are designed to let small groups meet and collaborate in real-time. They’re also different from traditional streaming media like videos, which don’t give the audience any way to engage with the content.

Learn more about webinars:

Discover the five keys to creating amazing webinar content in this on-demand webinar.

Even the most bare-bones webinar has separate streams for slides and audio. But most modern webinars go far beyond that, with slides, presenter video, integrated social media and live attendee feedback in the form of questions, polls, idea storming and more.

So what are the most important factors of webinar technology? Let’s take a look:

Making the Webinar presenter successful

At ON24, we’ve spent years perfecting our presentation manager, PMXD. Obviously, we wanted to make it easy for you to upload, modify, manage and deliver your presentations. We quickly discovered that great webinar presentations take more than a well-uploaded presentation deck.

Most of our customers go into every webinar with at least two key players:

  1. The presenter, who delivers the webinar content.
  2. The producer, who takes care of all the behind-the-scenes work, like queuing video clips, managing guest speakers and routing questions from webinar attendees.

We knew delivering live webinars can be stressful, so we help the production team keep in touch with real-time chat and intuitive controls for controlling the flow of the webinar, pushing polls, and swapping out presentation content on the fly.

Providing an engaging webinar experience

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

Engagement is what really makes the ON24 platform stand apart. And we take that very, very seriously.

When you’re asking people to stare at their computer screens for up to an hour you have to give them something interesting to stare at. It helps if you can also give them something interesting to do.

Most webinars these days include basics like a place to submit questions. But we don’t think that’s engaging enough. So, we’ve added to it with popular interactive tools like surveys, polls, downloadable assets and integrated social media. We’ve also created more niche widgets like idea storming, testing and certification tools and group chat.

Discover how you can make webinars more engaging and experiential with our free e-book.

But that isn’t where it ends. We also built a robust suite of integrations to make sure the data collected through all that interactivity is passed to your marketing automation and CRM platforms, creating a seamless marketing data environment.

Treating Always-on webinar audiences like live audiences

Webinerd on demand

If you only consider the live audience, though, you aren’t taking the full picture into account. According to our 2021 Webinar Benchmarks Report, more than 40% of webinar attendees only sign up for the on-demand event.

That presents an interesting challenge for those of us on the back end of webinar software. How are we going to treat all those people who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t make it to the live event?

Sure, it would have been easier to treat on-demand webinars like static videos, but then your audiences wouldn’t get the full webinar experience. When we think about webinar engagement, we always consider those additional viewers who watch webinars on-demand or simulive (that is, webinars that are pre-recorded, then broadcast to a live audience at a designated time).

Every ON24 webinar, no matter how it’s delivered or when it’s viewed, must have all the bi-directional interactivity of a live webinar, from moving windows around the console to the ability to submit questions — and actually get an answer.

Webinars have changed a lot over the past decade or so, and they’ll continue to evolve as new technologies emerge. But for those of us who build the platform, the mission is always the same: to give you everything you need to engage an audience and meet every one of your business goals.

How can a webinar drive more engagement for you? Learn how the ON24 platform makes it work with our 30-minute live demo