8 Ways Panel Webinars Provide Marketing Power

This post was originally published on heinzmarketing.com. Syndicated with permission.

With a panel webinar in your tool belt, you can give your prospects, leads and customers an authentic experience while engaging them far more meaningfully than with traditional assets. And, all while demonstrating your organization’s thought leadership with the added bonus of third-party endorsements from your panelists.

So, why should you care about panel webinars?

To Stand Out

Webinars have been done the same way for a long, long time, essentially comprised of one-sided PowerPoints, linear presentations, and a feeling of being lectured at. With a panel webinar, however, you’re able to foster much more fluid conversations not just between your panelists, but with the audience as well.

To Drive Authenticity

With a panel webinar, you become more approachable, more interactive, and more conversational. And these, in turn, highlight the more human, the more authentic, side of your organization.

To Gain Actionable Insights

Panel webinars allow you to engage leads in a much more powerful way — to make them a part of the conversation. And the more you involve them, the better you’re able to qualify them based on questions they ask and polls they respond to.

Through their interaction on the webinar, you are able learn more about them and move them through the funnel more effectively. And with this data, you’ll also have an easier time handing these leads to sales.

To Save Time and Resources

Most experts find panel discussions much easier than presentations. They’re more conversational, require less prep, and aren’t nearly as demanding as more traditional webinars are. Because of this, it will likely be much easier to get speakers to participate.

When Should You Use Panel Webinars?

As Mark Bornstein, VP of Marketing at ON24 says, “No matter where a lead is in the buyer’s journey, a conversation can be just as effective as a presentation.”

Top of Funnel

At the top of funnel, panel webinars can be used in a number of ways:

  • To establish your organization as a thought leader and trusted adviser
  • To generate net new leads with value-added content
  • To generate demand for and awareness of your organization’s expertise and focus areas
  • To drive deeper, more meaningful engagement amongst top of funnel leads

Middle of Funnel

In the middle of the funnel, panel webinars should be used to further qualify lead intent with more technical, educational topics that work to differentiate your brand. You can also use them to address use cases and scenarios by hosting a panel of customers who speak about their experiences with your product.

Bottom of Funnel

And at the bottom of the funnel, panel webinars can be used to speak to your core product capabilities with a panel of engineers or product managers, up-sell or cross-sell by promoting new features and product launches, and validate your organization with customers speaking to your expertise.

How Much Time Do You Need to Prepare a Panel Webinar?

When planning a panel webinar, you should give yourself between 6-8 weeks to prepare. This will ensure you have your resources planned, promotions mapped out, and topics and speakers confirmed.

Like most webinars, a panel webinar should be between 30-60 minutes. This will help ensure the audience stays engaged the entire length of the session and reduces the possibility of drop-off.

Who Are the Key Stakeholders Involved in a Panel Webinar?

Who’s responsible for what in a panel webinar?  Here’s a quick view of the roles and responsibilities:

  • Marketing: Strategy, Planning, Production, Promotion
  • Sales: Promotion, Lead Engagement, Follow-Up
  • Moderator: Discussion Guide, Time Management, Audience Input Management
  • Panelists: Subject Matter Experts, Strong Speakers, Engaging Perspectives

How Do You Produce a Panel Webinar?

Now that you know the principles of producing a panel webinar, it’s time to put it all together. To learn how to do this and much, much more, join us at ON24’s Webinar World 2019 from March 11-13 in San Francisco, CA! PLUS save $500 and get free tickets using the code “Heinz_VIP” at checkout!

Watch keynote presentations, join breakout sessions, and participate in interactive labs all designed to help you utilize webinars and engage for action.

We’ll see you there!

Can’t make it to Webinar World? Join Matt Heinz and a panel of experts from ON24, Netline, Sketchdeck, and DemandBase for our panel webinar, “Cut Thorugh the B2B Noise: Drive Engagement, Action, Conversion, and Loyalty.”

How Infopro Digital Rocks its Webinars

Some companies work in industries that require a polished, professional presentation every time they talk to a client or potential customer. The insurance industry, not one for taking risks, is one of them. For Infopro Digital, keeping its audience informed means crafting a professional experience every time. So the publisher, through its UK-based magazine, Insurance Age, took the time to craft a better webinar. And did they ever rock it.

The Why Behind the Webinar

Insurance practices change fast. So to keep its audience up-to-speed on the latest developments, Insurance Age needs its experts to update and inform its audience as soon as news break. In 2018, that news pretty much revolved around Europe’s new privacy law, the General Data Privacy Regulation, or GDPR.

To keep its audience up-to-date on the latest interpretations of the law, and to let its broker-centric audience know what they need to do, Infopro Digital, in association with Applied Systems, produced the webinar, “GDPR — What Brokers Need to Know.

The Expert Panel

But Infopro Digital’s audience is looking for expert content, not good console layout. At first glance, the publisher’s webinar seems shockingly devoid of typical webinar content. There’s no resource list, no direct links to Insurance Age’s website and no slides to speak of. In short, the webinar is perfect for what it needs to do: draw attention to its five panelists and Insurance Age’s expertise.

Less, for this webinar, is a lot more.

Here’s why. Adding additional content to its panel — which featured experts from several brokers firms and associations — would’ve detracted from the overall presentation by offering its audience the opportunity to distract themselves, tune the panel out and avoid participating in the webinar through its Q&A panel. By removing the temptation for distraction — at least through the webinar console — Infopro Digital did its audience a service by providing focus.

What Infopro Digital did — restraint in service of its subject and audience — is hard. The publisher could’ve easily put in a dozen resources or given viewers a massive slide deck to download. And you should offer educational content — but only if the event calls for it and doesn’t distract from your main message.

The Presentation

First, and this is a recurring theme across all of 2018’s Webinars That Rocked, Infopro Digital uses a clean, well-designed console. Insurance Age’s brand colors and name are prominent and consistent across its background image, engagement tool screens and buttons. Infopro Digital’s attention to detail here pays dividends in presenting a unified professional brand.

Its console layout, too, is worth noting. From left to right, it offers its Speaker bios, the media player and the Q&A console, its subject (more on this later) and a refer-a-colleague form, a survey and a social “share this” engagement tool. Why does this matter? Because the essential content windows — the Media Player and the Q&A engagement tool — take the center of the console — where it belongs.

But these mission-critical windows are also surrounded by contextual information. Audience members can take a look to the left and find Speaker Bios, where they can find information on the webinar’s panelists. To the right, is one slide stating the title and subject of the webinar and the Refer a Colleague engagement tool. Extraneous windows, like its survey and social share engagement tool, are to the far right, tucked away from the webinar’s main content.

Quick, Easy Sharing

Infopro Digital published its webinar in early April, a month before GDPR took effect. Professionals were crunched for time to comply with the law and not everyone knew of the Insurance Age  So, to promote expert-led panel as it was going on, Infopro Digital offered two ways to share the webinar.

The first method Infopro Digital offered to share the webinar is through the Refer a Colleague engagement tool, located right below its title slide. It’s a handy means of direct messaging someone individually to put the event on their radar. For Infopro Digital, it’s also a convenient way of promoting its event to its target audience through a trusted source — a fellow broker.

Next, it gave its audience the opportunity to share the webinar with a broader audience through the Share This engagement tool. The engagement tool allows attendees to share the event over social channels, allowing Infopro Digital to reach a wider audience that may have a general interest in how GDPR impacts insurance.

By providing both options, the publisher can easily expand the event’s reach give it a longer life cycle — allowing brokers to reference it during the days and weeks before GDPR took effect.

And that’s it. Infopro Digital did a great job of crafting a restrained, informative webinar on one of 2018’s hottest topics of the year. It gave a clean presentation, knew when to hold back on content and made it easy to share with like-minded attendees.

Keep an eye on the ON24 blog for more insights and inspiration from the Webinars That Rocked 2018. Curious to see what a great webinar can do for you? Check out Webinars That Rocked on demand.

5 Tips for Better Panel Webinars

This article was originally published on JD Supra. Shared with permission.

Done right, panel discussions bringing together several experts are an excellent way to make your webinars stand out: they provide your audience with multiple perspectives on a single problem, they generate lively, in-depth dialog amongst peers and, with leading business and industry speakers on the slate, they enhance your credibility and authority.

But panels come with their own set of challenges. Here are five do’s and don’ts for ensuring the success of your panel discussion webinar.

1. Do: Organize a Practice Run

It’s always a good idea to do a dry run when you’re leading a panel discussion. With webinars it’s critical.

…participants should know each other and what to expect from the discussion

Of course participants should know each other and what to expect from the discussion: questions, answers, timing, speaking order, etc. But they also need to become comfortable with the webinar technology – like speaking to an invisible audience, identifying and eliminating noise issues, and changing slides.

Organize a practice run ahead of the event to make sure everyone’s up to speed and ready to go once the webinar starts.

2. Don’t: Ignore Diversity

Putting together the right panel can be at times more art than science. You want skills, experience, and personalities that complement each other, not cancel each other out.

You want skills, experience, and personalities that complement each other…

A panel that’s diverse – crossing gender, culture, race, or age lines, for example – makes for a better webinar, with richer discussions highlighting a wider range of experience and appealing to a broader audience. It may require you to cast a wider net when you’re looking for speakers, but your audience – and your speakers – will be glad you made the extra effort.

3. Do: Focus on Expertise

The most successful – and the most memorable – webinars are built around true experts who share their knowledge and experience with participants.

Your audience relies on you to bring them valid insight, credible expertise, and a meaningful perspective on the topics being discussed. And to ensure their satisfaction, as well as the success of future webinars, you need to deliver.

…include speakers with backgrounds that resonate with your intended audience.

Spend time getting speakers with backgrounds that resonate with your intended audience. If your webinar targets corporate counsel, for example, include an in-house lawyer who’s resolved the issues you’re discussing. If you’re aiming for attendees in a specific industry, bring in a thought leader from that sector. If you’re discussing government oversight, a federal or state regulator adds valuable authority.

4. Don’t: Offer Panelists a “Speaking Opportunity”

You may have experienced this yourself (I know I have): a conference organizer or discussion leader reaches out to you with a “great opportunity” to present at his event.

Don’t be that person. You’re asking an expert to participate on your panel. You’re asking them to share their knowledge with your audience. You’re not doing them a favor: they’re doing you one, and your request should make that clear.

There are several ways to say that – “we hope to bring together a group of leading experts, and hope that you can join us,” and “it would be an incredible honor if you were to speak on our webinar” come to mind – and none of them include the words “speaking opportunity.”

5. Do: Have a Contingency Plan

The best way to ensure that your webinars go off without a hitch? Expect the unexpected.

I encourage all of my clients to have a contingency plan that works in place before every webinar. This is particularly important when you’re leading a panel discussion with multiple presenters.

Expect the unexpected.

What could go wrong? Dropped calls, lost internet connections, power outages, computer crashes, missing panelists, etc. Chances are you’ll never need it, but if you do, a contingency plan will help you avoid an awkward and unpleasant webinar if anything should go wrong.