Presented by Cvent
Audience expectations for webinars have changed. Are you keeping up? Catch up now as industry experts bring to light ten actionable and practical ways to reinvigorate your programs for success, and drive deeper audience engagement and participation.
In a conversation about why webinars have come to the forefront during the pandemic, and how to make your webinar buzzworthy in a sea of contenders, Laura Grandi-Hill, event marketing manager at Airbase, Hayley Haggarty, GM of events at VentureBeat, and Patrick Smith, chief marketing officer at Cvent, joined Stewart Rogers, event moderator at VentureBeat.
Along with the growing importance of virtual events, attendee expectations have grown. They want multiple ways to engage when they attend a virtual event, and options to network as well, which has changed the way webinars look and feel.
“Now there are so many in the market it’s important to stand out,” said Haggarty. “I like to say content is queen. But you have to understand what your audience’s needs are, then build the content, and then build a robust platform around it. It’s a win-win when you do that.”
It’s definitely about the content, agreed Grandi-Hill. In their case, they focused on targeting finance professionals. Realizing these folks don’t have many avenues to get advice and suggestions from experts on how to build their careers, Airbase decided to host a career growth webinar.
“It was not product-based at all, but about the needs of our prospects,” Grandi-Hill said. “We get really good response, because we’re providing value around a needed topic that isn’t really around in the space. That’s one way that we could stand out amid the noise. It’s about having a great conversation.”
Experimenting with webinar formats
“Depending on what kind of content you’re presenting, there’s a format that’s right for you, whether it’s a straight interview, a fireside chat, or something more formal,” she said. “We’ve found that we have to match the format to the content and what makes the most sense to deliver it.”
During the pandemic they had the space to be very specific and thoughtful about how to shape the webinar series they wanted to offer. They started by considering where in the funnel each webinar should be targeting people. They tried to set up cadences, with each series offering new content on a regular basis, and each series having its own flavor, being specific to either a funnel stage, or a certain persona of prospects.
“We’ve found that if the content is too general, people aren’t engaged, but if we say, hey, we’re going to talk about the Treasury function and how you can use the CARES Act, people come to that, because it’s specific,” Grandi-Hill said. “It’s speaking to their needs.”
Shorter sessions are also in much greater demand, dropping from 45 minutes or an hour to 20 to 30 minute webinars, with 20 minutes of content and 10 minutes of Q&A, Smith added.
“It’s bite-sized, hard-hitting, and I’m getting a lot of value when I attend,” Smith said.
Another of their successful formats is offering 20 minutes of content, and then facilitating a virtual networking with topics assigned in a video conference experience where you can talk live to the panelists.
Keeping viewers engaged
“The key is, webinars shouldn’t just be droning over top of slides anymore,” Smith said. “It’s the networking aspect, the chat you can have, and this in-person networking virtually, where you see each other on screen. That’s been effective from our side. The expectation to meet and network at webinars, I’m not sure that was there a couple of years ago.”
Think TV show, not presentation, he adds. Instead of just pointing the camera at some talking heads, think about adding dynamic screen layouts and graphics that capture a user’s interest.
“The good thing about most of these platforms, including Cvent, is you can do it yourself — you don’t necessarily have to have a production team,” Haggarty said. “That’s important for people to know. It’s just about trial and error to some extent, but for me personally, do it all. Try it all. No one is going to say, oh, my eyes hurt, it was too eye-catching, too buzzworthy.”
Smith also suggested using videos in creative ways, before or during a webinar. For instance, for viewers in the waiting room before the webinar begins, they might play an ad package promoting their user conference, or in the middle of a webinar, they’ll often play videos to spike the attendees’ interest, because if they’re watching something, and the screen is changing, they’re less likely to zone out.
“A couple of times we’ve experimented with, get this, puppy videos, because everybody loves puppies,” he added. “Sometimes we’ll just play something like that, just to get people’s attention back. Even if it’s not related to the content. You can get fun and creative at times with some of these ideas.”
Rogers noted that attendees also respond to things like the online conference bingo cards he’s leveraged for some events.
“For example, you can tick it off if a pet runs on screen,” he said. “We love it when pets run on screen. It really livens up the webinar, makes it much more human. Totally endorse that. If you have pets at home, make sure they jump in front of the camera.”
Making webinars interactive is another way to capture attendee interest and keeping it from flagging. If you’re using an event platform that has the ability to do break-outs, Grandi-Hill suggested adding a very short one at the beginning of the webinar with a prompt in order to set the expectation that there will be interactive elements throughout the webinar. They’ve had good luck with polls from testing knowledge to soliciting opinions, since it’s not that big an ask to click and answer a poll.
Smith agreed about the importance of chat. After Cvent’s virtual sales kickoff, many attendees said they got more out of it than the live event of previous years, he said, because they could focus on the content in the screen and could chat with anyone in attendance.
“It created this very dynamic, funny, interactive element where you’re watching content, chatting about the content, asking questions, and people are making jokes,” he said. “It created this interesting community of interaction and engagement that was not what you get in an in-person event. I would not underestimate chat. It creates such a great way to congratulate winners, to ask key questions, to comment on things, to have some fun.”
For more insights on how to make webinars more engaging, how to measure success and keep moving the needle, leveraging your content after the webinar ends, doing great market research, and more, don’t miss this VB Live event, free on demand.
- Tips to ensure your webinars are audience-centric
- Innovate ideas to engage with a virtual attendee
- Best practices for cohesively weaving webinars into your event channel
- Laura Grandi-Hill, Event Marketing Manager, Airbase
- Hayley Haggarty, GM of Events, VentureBeat
- Patrick Smith, SVP and CMO, Cvent
- Stewart Rogers, Moderator, VentureBeat