What Exactly Is a Webinar?
During the lockdowns and quarantines that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies, schools and other groups began hosting webinars much more frequently. These events gave businesses the opportunity to host large meetings or talks while keeping attendees safe. But while they increased in popularity in recent years due to their accessibility, webinars have actually been around for quite some time. Now, the convenience of attending a virtual presentation or conference has caught on considerably.
Webinars can be very helpful for companies and individuals looking to drum up business or educate others on specific topics. Let’s take a look at what a webinar is, how they work and how you can successfully host or attend one.
What Happens at a Webinar?
A webinar is simply a seminar that’s hosted online — “webinar” is a combination of the words “web” and “seminar.” Webinars give companies and individuals the opportunity to deliver a presentation to a virtual audience. They can share slides, video, audio and different documents to fully engage audiences on a given topic. In turn, attendees can engage in discussions and ask the presenters questions about the topics at hand, all via an online platform.
A few of the popular webinar platforms today include Zoom, GoToMeeting and WebEx. They provide high-definition video and quick, secure access to meetings and other tools that help webinars run smoothly. Some presenters who are comfortable with social media choose to present on Facebook Live or YouTube Live, which are free alternatives.
Why Do Individuals or Companies Host Webinars?
Individuals and companies often host webinars on topics pertaining to their products or work. They may even give demonstrations on the products they offer. This is a great way for them to promote their work and gain new leads on potential customers. However, webinars are also helpful for those potential clients. Webinars can center around learning and development topics that help people grow in their respective fields. Companies may also offer employee training and onboarding via webinars.
Following the jump in webinar use during the pandemic, companies and individuals have found that webinars are not only safer, but are also more convenient for attendees. Attendees can join from all over the world, rather than having to potentially travel to attend in-person meetings, courses and conferences.
Sometimes webinars are used for events beyond business presentations. For example, during the pandemic, fitness instructors began using webinar platforms to host virtual training sessions. Using webinars became a way to expand their reach and gain new clients.
How Do Webinars Really Work?
A webinar is typically hosted by one speaker or multiple speakers who present on a topic. Companies may also choose an interview format led by a moderator or a panel discussion with a moderator. The length of a webinar is really dependent on the event, but most run for about 30 to 60 minutes. Many webinars are free to attend, but some may have fees or registration requirements.
Webinars should always have a specific topic. It’s important for a webinar to have clear goals for both the audience and the speaker. When a moderator is presenting a topic, attendees should feel like they’re receiving valuable information that they can use later. Speakers should also consider their objective for the meeting. That could mean increased sales on products or new leads on potential customers. It could also mean that attendees are completing a requirement for compliance in a role, class or program.
During the webinar, speakers may include visuals on their topic, such as slideshows, photos or videos. These media can keep attendees engaged. Providing visuals also helps some viewers better understand the main points of the webinar discussion.
Key Tips for Hosting and Attending a Webinar
Webinars can be tricky to host and promote. However, because they’ve recently grown in popularity, there’s now better access to tricks and tips on how to host a successful online event.
One of the most important tips is to host webinars on a day and at a time when more people are likely to attend. Research has found that webinars get higher attendance when they’re held on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. It’s also a good idea to host a webinar around 11 a.m., 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Participants will likely decline a webinar that happens too early in the morning or late in the evening.
Another tip for companies hosting a webinar is to choose qualified speakers. You want people who can present well on their given topic. They should be engaging, thoughtful and, most importantly, experts on the topics at hand. Speakers should be prepared to discuss key points in depth and engage attendees in “eye contact” by looking at the camera instead of the screen. Ideally, a speaker should avoid reading from a script. They should also practice with the webinar platform they’re using to avoid any technical issues.
Statistics show that around 82% of people enjoy having live question-and-answer sessions during webinars. A Q&A allows people to ask questions about the presentation, which can be especially helpful if they’re curious about a company’s product or services. A speaker should be prepared to answer any questions that come up about the topic of the presentation.
Hosts should begin promoting their webinar about a month ahead of the actual event date. They should also set automatic reminders to go out to attendees a few days and even a few hours before the webinar is set to start; many platforms allow for this. Keep in mind that when it comes to attendance, only about 40-50% of people who register actually attend. Presenters shouldn’t be surprised if attendance is lower than expected.
If you’re an attendee, know that you don’t have to be on camera if that option is available. In many cases, webinar hosts may turn that option off from the beginning. With multiple attendees, even during a small webinar, allowing everyone to have the option to be on camera can feel chaotic. Remaining off camera allows others to focus on the speaker and the webinar’s information.