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Best Practices for Hosting Webinars

By: Kelsey Kottkamp, CMP, McDermott Will & Emery | Aug 4, 2020

WebinarThis year, the events industry has been faced with the challenge of how to pivot from hosting in-person events to hosting virtual events. Below is a list of best practices to help guide you through the event process, including establishing your event strategy, identifying and preparing the speakers, delivering content, fostering audience engagement and encouraging post-event participant engagement.

Establishing Event Strategy and Goals to Create Engaging Content

Before getting into the finer details of planning your webinar, it’s important for your team and key stakeholders to agree on the event’s strategy and goals. Are you looking to generate new leads? Move existing prospects further down the sales pipeline? Educate your audience? Once you have your top goals outlined, create a written business plan that details measurable goals. Determining your goals early in the planning process will also allow you to identify your target audience and leads you to define the format for the webinar.

We’re all experiencing webinar fatigue, so it’s important to choose an appropriate format to deliver the information to your audience. Ask yourself: Could the message be delivered in a written format, checklist or other document? Can the topic be addressed in a single webinar, or should it be a multi-part series with updates as rules change? Identifying a series up front will allow your audience to engage longer term.

Identifying & Preparing the Speakers

When considering who to invite to speak at your webinar, review your objectives to identify speakers who align with the webinar goals. You can also choose to build a webinar around a field expert or keynote speaker. It is important to confirm the speakers as early as possible to allow time for them to prepare their presentation. Once all of your speakers are confirmed, host a preparation call with all speaker(s), moderator(s), webinar host(s) or emcee present. This will allow you to introduce the speakers and build rapport throughout the group, provide tips and best practices on presenting, review the webinar objectives, organize the flow of the presentation to ensure the content flows properly, and test and address any technology issues.

Delivering Compelling and Effective Content

The delivery of the content is key to keeping your audience engaged. Hook your audience early with a strong and compelling open—this could range from an intro session with a DJ, hiring an emcee to host the webinar or providing pre-event engagement opportunities (i.e., asking the audience what they want to get from the webinar) to drive participation. Don’t forget to promote your company’s brand with creative backgrounds, graphics or promo video clips. Video is one of the most effective forms of content as it is proven to increase viewing time and audience engagement. Two easy ways to include video into your webinar are to play intro videos for your speakers instead of reading bios or roll a video introduction for a sponsor or your company before introducing the panelists.

Driving Audience Engagement

One of the most difficult things to accomplish during a webinar is keeping your audience engaged. A few ways to create an interactive, engaging experience include encouraging those who are not attending to take part by using social media (hashtags, speaker handles, create caption contests); uploading content and highlights in real time on social media to create buzz; continuously tapping into participants (gamification, Q&A, polls); and using in-event announcements to easily share content without having the attendees to leave the experience.

Boosting Post-Event Participant Engagement

After the event, be sure to reinforce your virtual event several times and several ways. Direct registrants who were no-shows (as well as key contacts who did not register) to view the archived event. Let your audience know you appreciate them and what is coming up next, such as future events or the next webinar in the series. Send out feedback surveys with both quantitative and qualitative questions (deliver numeric ratings on key elements of the event, ask for comments and ask what topics they would like to see covered in future events). Finally, build a relationship with your audience. You can send personal messages to thank people who asked questions or shared insights, identify highly engaged participants to connect them with your sales team for their specific needs and post key takeaways and videos on the web, social media and blogs.

About the Author

Kelsey is the Event Marketing Specialist at McDermott Will & Emery based in Chicago. She plans all in-person and virtual events for the Firm, around 125+ per year. Prior to McDermott Will & Emery, she has held various industry roles over her career including hotels, association, and restaurant sales.




Kelsey Kottkamp, CMP, McDermott Will & Emery
CMP at McDermott Will & Emery

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