What is a Webinar and How Do They Work? (Sales Guide 2021)

Webinars are amazing tools for educating, engaging, and captivating target audiences.

No wonder then that over 60% of marketers use webinars as a content marketing tool for driving greater conversions.

At the same time, webinars work to improve brand awareness and convert leads into paying customers. All this ultimately results in increased revenue for your business and greater reach for your brand.

However, hosting a successful webinar is not as easy as it sounds. There are multiple aspects to consider when creating webinars and hurdles to overcome during distribution.

Thankfully, these hurdles aren’t anything that can’t be overcome with a bit of webinar know-how.

To help you get started with webinars, this guide covers:

  • What webinars are
  • How to create webinars
  • The best webinar software to be successful
  • Steps to create successful webinars
  • Where they fall into the marketing mix

Disclosure: I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no cost to you. However, these are the best tools that I have used when conducting a webinar. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy.

Let’s get started.

What is a Webinar?

Webinar is the short form of “Web Seminar,” i.e., a meeting or conference held in a virtual environment. Webinars can be hosted as video presentations, workshops, or even training classes delivered via webinar software.

Usually, webinars are hosted and shared with the audience in real-time, also known as live webinars.

In special cases, they can be pre-recorded and then shared with the viewers at a particular date and time, or even uploaded on social media sites for distribution.

The reason webinars are so very effective is that unlike regular videos, here there’s a concept of live interaction between the hosts and the attendees. Whether the webinar is live or not, it usually has a means by which the attendees can ask questions and collaborate with the hosts.

Most webinars are usually business-related and are used to share ideas and updates with a target audience. Webinars are also great for nurturing meaningful relationships, creating and spreading brand authority, and launching new products or services.

In short, you can use a webinar to replace any regular, face-to-face interaction and place it in a virtual environment. All one needs to create a webinar is an internet connection, a computer, and webinar software tools such as GoToWebinar.

What makes webinars unique is that unlike a physical seminar where the organizers book a venue and the attendees have to visit there, a webinar is virtual. So, audiences from any corner of the world can attend these meetings and derive value.

What Makes Webinars Such Important Marketing Tools?

In the age of social media, digital interactions are replacing face to face meetings in the business world. In such a situation, webinars have emerged as a great marketing tool. Especially for B2B marketing, webinars play an essential role in the entire lead generation and conversion process.

Using webinars, your business can get to the same marketing and sales targets as with physical seminars and conferences.

Here are some of the many reasons why webinars are such useful marketing tools:

  • They help create a relationship with existing as well as potential clients
  • They enable clear communication with prospects, business partners, and industry peers
  • Through capturing contact details of attendees, webinars help grow your lead list
  • They allow you to spread the word about your brand across the world
  • The webinar platform allows you to build human connections that last in the long run

As a direct result of the above, webinars are being adopted by major corporations as critical marketing tools.

Purpose of a Webinar

The primary purpose of webinars is to be used as a marketing channel. However, that’s not the only purpose for which you can use them. The following are some of the different types of webinars that you can usually spot on the internet.

1. Marketing Webinars

Marketing webinars are the most common type of webinar and are mainly used for lead generation purposes. Successful webinars also open the doors for strategic collaborations and give you access to a broader market. They also help to improve your credibility as an industry leader in your niche.

2. Educational Webinars

The next popular webinar type you can find is educational webinar presentations. Businesses are increasingly using webinars to train and upskill employees. Webinars are also excellent tools for colleges and universities to cater to an international student base.

3. Product Demo Webinars

Webinars are great for launching and demonstrating new products. Through webinars, businesses can gauge customer interest in a product before actually launching it. They also allow customers to get a first-hand experience of the product in question.

4. Onboarding Webinars

The onboarding of new employees or customers plays a significant role in maintaining business relationships. In general, it’s 5x more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. A great webinar can go a long way towards making the onboarding and retention process easier.

Apart from the above, you can use webinars for other purposes, such as holding question and answer sessions and interviews. They can also serve as live events where you can discuss common queries and how-tos regarding your products or services. You can even address customer complaints and queries directly through a webinar.

That’s not all, however, since you need not always host webinars with a plan. They can be used as online events for sharing PowerPoint presentations, whiteboard discussions and for brainstorming in general.

Such interactivity is the essence of web conferencing and allows the alleviation of multiple pain points, a major one being the need to be physically present for a meeting. In the next section, we’ll take a brief look at how webinars achieve this.

How Do Webinars work?

Now that we know about the different types of webinars, it’s time to understand how webinars work. Like a physical seminar, a web seminar should also be held at a particular date and time. And as for the venue, it can be webcast on your website, or through social media live streams.

Before the actual event, you need to set up a landing page for the webinar and inform the target audience to register. Then, at the designated date and time, you simply webcast the event via webinar tools.

As a general rule, webinars can serve any one or a combination of the purposes outlined above. The target outcome of the webinar can be improved brand awareness, increased conversions, or a greater number of leads collected. Ideally, it should be a combination of it all.

I’ve already mentioned that a webinar is usually a live virtual event. However, webinar hosts almost always make it a point to record them. This has a twofold purpose, the first being that you can use the recording for future reference.

The second purpose is in terms of content marketing. Webinar content can be repurposed and shared as evergreen content. You can distribute the event through social media, where it can be a continued source of value for your target audience.

Common Webinar Features

The features that your webinar will have ultimately depends on the purpose you’re hosting the event for. However, there are some standard features that all webinars incorporate to engage audiences. In the following sections, I’ll take you through some of them.

1. Text-based Chat

No matter your webinar audience’s size, one of the simplest yet most effective methods of engaging them is text chats. Such chats help the audience quickly ask questions and also answer any queries you might pose to them.

Text chats act as useful tools for capturing audience attention and interacting with them. What’s more, the attendees can attract the presenter’s attention using this feature as well. Such Q/A based interaction helps to build trust and establish authority among the audience.

2. Presentations

Like in any regular meeting, webinars can also make fair use of PowerPoint presentations. Especially for educational webinars or online meetings, high-quality slides can leave a lasting impact.

Using a slide-based presentation also makes your intentions clear to the audience. You can even provide the slides as downloadable, gated content. Such marketing strategies can go a long way towards increasing your email lists’ length and providing quality leads.

3. Screen-sharing

For webinars that demonstrate a product or a process, it’s often essential to share the presenter’s point-of-view with the audience. In such a situation, screen-sharing features can be useful as they allow the audience to see exactly what you’re seeing.

Doing so has multiple advantages. For one, when you’re demonstrating how to use a product, the users can understand and follow along. Screen-sharing is definitely a more effective tool than using static screenshots.

4. Whiteboards

When you’re explaining a complex topic or idea through a live, on-demand webinar, taking notes or jotting down points can become a hassle. To overcome this problem, many webinar tools include a whiteboard feature that allows writing text and drawing images.

Such a feature gives audiences the feeling that they are right there in a classroom with you. Not only does this give them a clearer idea of the topic, but it also helps you to articulate your thoughts better.

5. Polls and Surveys

While using text chats to answer questions is a good idea, it can get chaotic if your audience is massive. In such a situation, involving the audience members in polls and surveys can be a good idea.

These tools allow audience members to express their opinions freely and fairly. Also, analyzing the data from polls and surveys allows you to draw interesting insights regarding customer opinions.

Steps to Creating a Successful Webinar

Anyone can set up, host, and record a webinar; the trouble is, not all webinars are created equal. In the following sections, I’ll provide you with a short, ten-step process to creating webinars that resonate with the audience.

1. Lay Down a Clear Webinar Strategy

Before you even begin to work on the webinar itself, the first thing you need to do is create a clear plan of action for your webinar. Any such strategy needs to involve multiple aspects, such as your target audience persona and your end goals. To better understand this, consider asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of this webinar?
  • What KPIs can I use to measure this webinar’s success?
  • How long should the webinar be?
  • What should be the core features of this webinar?
  • How should I distribute the webinar to the target audience?

Answering the above questions will clearly define what you intend to accomplish with the webinar. Through effective strategizing, you’ll also be able to derive your audience’s size and what tools you need to host the webinar.

2. Scope out the Competition

Once you’ve planned the end-goals of your webinar, now it’s time to take a peek at what the competitors are doing. You’re not the only business trying to leverage this marketing tool, so it makes sense to see how the others are using it.

Attend a few webinars held by your competitors, and see how they are faring. As you do so, make sure to keep a watch on points such as the following:

  • Are the audiences being properly engaged?
  • What are the elements that make the webinar a success?
  • What questions are audiences asking at these events?
  • Are these questions being adequately answered?
  • Can you answer these questions better?
  • How can you improve upon the content that’s being served?

Knowing the above should help you to replicate the successful webinars while avoiding any pitfalls. It can also help decide the type of content you should be serving to your audiences. After all, hundreds of webinars are being held daily: yours need to have the material to stand out.

3. Select the Webinar Duration and Date with Care

For executing your webinar successfully, you should start preparing at least a month before the actual date of the event. This way, you’ll get enough time to curate content that resonates with your audience. It’ll also be beneficial in deciding the webinar’s duration.

However, the date and time you hold the event are just as important as the duration itself. The latest reports suggest that Tuesdays are the best time to hold successful webinars.

That said, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and you need to experiment and figure out the best time for your target audience. To do this, you need to perform a demographic analysis of your audience type and ask some of the following:

  • What type of webinars are they most interested in?
  • When is the time they are most likely to invest in learning about your business?
  • In the case of a global audience, what’s the difference in time zones?
  • What length of content are they most likely to respond to?

Often, you won’t be able to answer all these questions based on the available data alone. In such a case, you need to conduct split testing routines at different times and see what appeals to your audience.

The one KPI that you need to focus on here is the dwell time. Dwell time indicates the average time your registrants spend on the test material. From here, you should be able to gauge audience interest in the content.

4. Create Conversion-Optimized Landing Pages

Now that you know about your webinar’s content, date, and time, it’s time to tell the world about it. And the best way to do that is by setting up a smashing landing page. A well-designed landing page can help capture massive leads.

When designing the webinar registration form, be sure to include fields for capturing important lead data, such as name, email, and phone number. However, don’t make too many of the fields mandatory, as this might put people off due to privacy concerns.

Another aspect that you need to take care of is the landing page content. Make sure you use a tone and language that appeals to your target audience. Include all the essential information about the webinar clearly and concisely.

Finally, I suggest you make the date and time of the webinar as prominent on the landing page as you can. Also, consider using a countdown timer to the webinar launch to give registrants a sense of urgency. You can always use a webinar landing page template to get all the above features.

5. Set up a Webinar Marketing Plan

Just creating a webinar landing page isn’t enough; you need to attract enough people to it to fill your webinar’s virtual seats. That’s where a suitable webinar marketing plan comes into play. After all, even a brilliant webinar that has only a few viewers is headed towards failure.

That’s why promoting your webinar is as essential as spending time preparing it. To do this, adopt a multi-channel approach and rope in social media experts, influencers, and prominent personalities in your niche. Industry thought-leaders with a large social following can also help your cause.

Your personal network has a significant role to play here as well. Spread the word among your social followers, and also use paid ads and partnerships to boost awareness. This way, your webinar will have a full house before long.

6. Create the Actual Content

While you’re spending time on the above steps, you should also focus on creating your webinar content. Doing so will allow you to tie-in the content to your landing page and marketing plans.

When creating content, it’s essential to focus on the visual aspects more. Visual content is widely known to be more effective in capturing audience attention. Just be careful that you don’t come across as too salesy or pushy when promoting your products or services.

The primary purpose of any webinar should be to deliver value to the audience. So, when conducting the webinar, let that take center stage. When you provide genuine value to the audience, your business promotion takes care of itself automatically.

7. Run a Test

Before you record or stream your webinar, it’s important to test it out a bit. To do this, find a location and time when you’ll be free of interruptions, get a small audience, and practice your presentation.

If you’re co-hosting the webinar, you need to rehearse with the co-hosts and establish a smooth flow. In case everyone can’t get together physically, you can always use software such as Zoom to practice virtually.

8. Choose Your Tools Wisely

Hosting a webinar successfully depends on several factors. Among them, the most important is the equipment and tools you’re using to stream the webinar. While a good webcam and a stable internet connection are necessary, it’s not sufficient.

To host your webinar, I recommend you use specialized webinar software. Also, since most viewers will be using apps such as GoToWebinar to attend via mobile devices, make sure your webcast is suited for the small screen.

9. Setup the Ground Rules Clearly

As the host, you don’t want to be interrupted in the middle of your webinar. So, set up and explain the ground rules to your audience at the very outset. You should also explain the webinar format, Q/A rules, and poll/surveys before beginning.

In case you’d like your audience to take part in a hashtag campaign, this is the right time to mention it. You can also use this time to tease the audience with a freebie that you can offer at the end of the webinar.

10. Be Sure to Follow-up

After the webinar, it’s vital that you follow-up with attendees who showed interest in your services and products. Personalized follow-up emails can work to convert leads into customers fast and increase your business.

Advantages of Creating and Hosting Webinars

Webinars are a great way of reaching out to a massive audience at once and engaging them. The marketing and business benefits of webinars are obvious. Still, in this section, I’ll take some time to elaborate on them.

1. Achieve Global Reach

Physical seminars restrict you to a local audience and also require them to travel to the venue. The travel requirement itself can lead to a sizable portion of registrants not attending the event.

With webinars, you can overcome this barrier and reach out to a global audience. Not only does this increase your business’s exposure, but it also works to increase the number of attendees.

2. Direct Audience Interaction

While you can interact with the audience in a physical seminar, it is often restricted only to the first few rows of attendees. That’s not the case with a webinar; here, any audience member can directly speak with the hosts. Such personal level interaction is not possible outside of the webinar format.

3. Reduced Costs

Just think a bit: hosting a physical seminar requires all the costs for creating content and marketing as with a webinar. On top of that, you have to spend a sizable amount on the venue, refreshments, and equipment. Often, you might be required to even pay for travel tickets.

With a webinar, all this extra cost vanishes, and you can focus on the webinar itself. In fact, with the right tools, you can even host a webinar for free!

4. Burgeoning Email Lists

For any business in the 21st century, long email lists are synonymous with better leads. And a webinar helps you get emails in droves. When users register on your webinar landing page, your email database gets updated. Then, even if they don’t attend, you can follow-up with them for future events.

5. Create a Content Repository

Finally, webinars are great for content marketing. You can repurpose webinar content into blogs, educational videos, and even infographics. Thus, a single webinar can provide you with enough content ideas to last a month or even more.

Hurdles to Creating a Webinar (And How to Overcome Them)

Till now, we’ve been focusing on the benefits and advantages of using webinars. However, they also come with multiple hurdles. Following are some of the common hurdles that you might face when hosting a webinar.

1. Technical Glitches

Since the entire process of hosting the webinar depends on communication technology, technical glitches can throw your efforts off course. Starting from the internet connection to webinar software, anything can malfunction.

To overcome this, always be sure to double-check your equipment before starting with the webcast.

2. Lack of Effective Promotion

I’ve already mentioned this before, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate: without promotion, your webinar is as good as not held at all. Even just promoting isn’t enough; you must run the promotions at the right time to attract the right audience.

The best way to ensure that news of your webinar reaches the intended crowd is to use a multi-channel promotion strategy. Channels such as email, social media, and even paid adverts can be helpful.

3. Proper Success Measurement

Generally, most webinars don’t directly sell products, nor are there tickets for attending. So, it can become tough to measure the webinar’s success. After all, if the webinar is not directly helping you make money, it can seem pointless.

For proper success measurement, I recommend you go back to the first step when setting out to create a webinar: your goals. The purpose for which you’re hosting the webinar should drive your benchmark for success. Based on these goals, set up KPIs such as increased website traffic or the number of attendees who converted.

Common Webinar Software

Webinar software refers to a set of online tools that offer complete support for webinar hosting. There is a wide selection of webinar software to choose from.

Here are some of the most common ones:

1. Livestorm

Livestorm homepage

Finally, I must mention Livestorm, which is an excellent webinar tool. It works on any device and browser and has options for hosting most webinar formats. Not to mention the fact that it’s also GDPR compliant and protects your data well.

2. Zoom

Zoom homepage

Zoom needs no introduction in today’s times of online meetings. The software provides users with high definition audio/video, along with live webcasting and detailed analytics.

What’s more, it even comes with the required tools for audience engagement, such as live chat and polls. Using Zoom’s paid plans, you can host any type of webinar.

However, it’s not best for everyone. You can look into different Zoom alternatives to see which tools might be better for your specific requirements.

3. GoToWebinar

GoToWebinar homepage

The GoToWebinar app helps make webinars simple; it takes care of all aspects, starting from planning, marketing, audience engagement, and even analytics. The tool provides multiple templates for webinars, offers custom registration features, and even has options for interactive surveys, tracking, and analytics.

4. EasyWebinar

EasyWebinar homepage

EasyWebinar is best suited for beginners and newcomers to the webinar fold. It provides a simple, five-step process for creating and promoting webinars.

It also includes tools for tracking customers, which allow you to understand your attendees better. And the best part is that it integrates with both YouTube and WordPress, thus expanding your reach.

5. ClickMeeting

ClickMeeting homepage

Whatever your webinar format, ClickMeeting makes it easy to stream it. The tool has options for both live and pre-recorded events. It even integrates with social media platforms to provide live streaming capabilities.

Wrap Up

Webinars are great tools for spreading the word about your business and educating audiences. And while it takes considerable work to host one, the returns can be massive if done successfully.

Just make sure you perform the required research, put in genuine effort, and provide actionable value to your audience.

With the right tools, hosting a webinar can become a simple and even free process. Just keep your business processes in mind, select the best webinar tools for the purpose, and you’re ready for web conferencing success.

Check out my guide to the best webinar software to get started today.

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