Webinar Best Practices Series: 5 Trends to Look Forward to in 2018

Looking for 2018’s webinar predictions? You can catch the on-demand version of the event right here. Happy webinerding. 

Hi there, folks! I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season and are getting back into the swing of things at work (I know it’s taking me some time).

Since it’s the beginning of the new year, and since we just produced a webinar on the subject, I figured it’s a worthwhile endeavor to take a quick look at what I think 2018 will have in store for webinars (hint: a lot of great developments).

But, just before we begin, a few house-keeping items. First, if you want to get the full webinar experience, head on over to our on-demand section to watch the very event this post is based on.

Second — and a bit more fun — I wanted to let you know our annual conference, Webinar World, is right around the corner! We’re hosting our second conference from March 5-7 at the Westin Saint Francis in downtown San Francisco. It’ll be here sooner than you realize, so head on over to our landing page to learn about who’ll be speaking (including yours truly) and to book your tickets. Can’t wait to see you there!

So, without further ado, here’s what’s in store for webinars in 2018:

Webinar success will be judged on lead quality

The original lead process for webinars was simple: collect as many names as possible and reach out for more. Effective, but this method is burdensome on SDRs. In 2018, marketers are going to use the engagement metrics they have to identifying better leads for sales and — hopefully — conversions. When executed with evaluation models, personas and easily accessible conversion forms, marketers can easily identify the low-hanging fruits for targeting.

Emerging marketing technologies will enhance webinar success

There are a lot of MarTech solutions out there and few ways to get them to talk to one another. In fact, a lot of marketers think of MarTech as independent spheres; They’re kinda related, but don’t always work with each other in mind. Webinars change that equation. Webinars can unite a great deal of MarTech capabilities around the webinar. For example, marketers can use predictive analytics to drive additional attendees or inform you of which nurture stream an attendee should be guided towards while they’re actively participating in a webinar. Expect to see a boost in trying different technologies and methods to the content around webinars.

Webinars will go Netflix

One of the best things about Netflix is binging. One of the best things about webinars is enabling on-demand. There’s no reason why marketers can’t build their own binge-worthy webinar libraries. This customer-centric approach helps marketers share content with their audience on their audience’s terms. Better yet, just like Netflix, webinars and related content can easily be sorted by topic and skill level, letting viewers sit back, relax and enjoy the webinars they want to consume in one sitting without the need to constantly search for relevant broadcasts. Think “webinars and binge” in 2018.

Demo webinars will replace static demos

The experience we deliver at the bottom of the funnel needs to change. Canned, static demos where viewers sit passively will no longer be enough to get people over the finish line. Instead, static demos will be phased out in favor of dynamic webinars where broadcasters can show their product off. In fact, they can demonstrate how customers use it, respond to questions in real-time and show how their product responds to customer cases on the fly. It’s time for demos that show, don’t tell.

Webinars will drive ABM success

Everyone does ABM, but not everyone does it well. Often, ABM goes off the rails towards the end of the process, where campaigns need to deliver actual engagement. Landing pages don’t deliver like they used to, but webinars — oh boy. I think 2018 will be the year of account-specific webinars, where easy-to-scale and easy-to-adapt presentations are used in a highly-interactive and highly-targeted method for driving prospects to specific locations. It’s a great way to bring together the prospects and the content they’re interested in one place.

Now, of course, these are only predictions. We’re going to have to wait a whole year to see what’s right and what’s a little off-base. If you have any predictions, sound-out in the comments below or tweet at us at @ON24 on Twitter.

Don’t forget to tune into our next webinar, An SMB Marketer’s Confession: Why I Blew My Budget On Webinars (And How I’m Still Employed).

How to Improve Audience Participation in Your Webinar

Each year when ON24 releases its annual Webinar Benchmarks Report I look for the most interesting or unexpected statistic in their data. This year the benchmark that particularly caught my eye was listed under Audience Engagement Metrics. ON24 reported the overall percentages of attendees across all webinars who performed certain actions within a webinar.

All three numbers improved from last year, which is encouraging. But the absolute figures are still far lower than they should be. If you find similar attendee interaction percentages in your webinars, you have room for improvement in the way that you stimulate interaction and make audience members want to take an active part in the proceedings.

Let’s look at each type of interaction in turn and see if we can find some best practices to improve response.

Downloading Content Resources

The most common mistake made by webinar administrators and presenters is to place too many documents in the resource folder. This leads to “option paralysis.” Attendees are unsure of which resources are most important and valuable. Faced with a selection choice and no obvious clues as to which choice is best, people tend to make the fall-through choice of “no action.” It is the fastest and easiest way to deal with the problem.

If you really want to improve the uptake on your reference information, pick one – and only one – document to make available for download. Now attendees can take an immediate action without any selection or discrimination process.

If you want to make multiple documents available, place links to the resources on a customized web page. Then in your webinar, give attendees the link to the resources page. This again lets them take a single, quick click-through action with no decision process involved.

Submitting Questions

There are several tricks for getting attendees to interact through the typed chat or questions interface in your webinar. In the interest of brevity I will just summarize a few of the most important techniques:

  • Get them used to using the interface with a simple direct response at the start of the session. “I want to make sure you can hear me and that I see your submissions. Would you just type your first name and hit Enter?”
  • Refer to comments or questions throughout your presentation. Just sprinkle in a few references here and there to prove that you are paying attention. “Rick just commented that he always uses this technique. That’s great. Thanks, Rick!” Or “Betty, I see your question about statistical accuracy. I’m going to address that in just a few minutes.”
  • Use first names. When you say the name of a questioner or commenter, other people feel encouraged to type and see if you will say their name on the air.
  • Ask for something specific. Don’t use a generic request like “So, are there any questions?” Instead, give them a guideline as to what to type. “What is the top difficulty you have had?” or “What functionality do you think still needs more explanation and detail?”

Responding To Polls

Low response to polls is usually caused by insufficiently framing the poll in terms of value to the attendee. Far too often, presenters introduce polls as an information-gathering tool for the benefit of the presenter or hosting company. If you find yourself using the following kinds of phrasing, you are setting yourself up for poor participation, as you are asking the audience to do work for your benefit:

  • “I would like you to answer this poll for me.”
  • “Here’s a poll we created to get a sense of how these products get used.”

Instead, try setting up the benefit that the attendee will get by contributing to the poll:

  • “Here’s a chance for you to see how you compare to your peers in the audience.”
  • “Now it’s your opportunity to guide me. Your response will tell me how much detail I should go into in the next section.”

In each of these three interactions, the key is to think from the perspective of the attendee, rather than the presenter. The fact that you are offering an opportunity to engage and interact is not enough. You need to give each participant a reason to take the action, with clear and unambiguous instruction as to what they should do and how they should do it. Following these guidelines will improve the participation you see in your live webinars.

is president and founder of Webinar Success, a consulting firm that assists companies in producing and delivering effective and compelling web seminars. Molay combines a technical background with experience in corporate marketing and public presentations. He is a prolific blogger on the subject of web conferencing and its applications and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and industry publications. He is a frequent public speaker on the topic of more effective webinars.