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How do I host a webinar? 10 top tips for virtual and hybrid events

Hosting a successful webinar doesn’t have to be painful.

In fact, if you or your organisation have produced successful in-person events in the past—many of the principles that you already know still apply. They simply need to be updated to fit the virtual or hybrid event model.

If you’re unsure how to move a physical event online, don’t be discouraged. The following 10 tips will put you on the right track towards hosting your own successful webinar.

1. Start with your goals

Just like any professional event, the first step in planning a webinar is to have a clearly defined set of goals that align with the needs of your organisation. This will help shape the rest of your strategy, including which format will work best for your audience and the webinar tools you’ll need to help reach those goals. Here’s a simple process you can work through to discover the best goals for your webinar.

  • Write a list of the high-level business goals you want to achieve
  • Brainstorm which of these goals could be supported by a webinar
  • Identify which target audience your webinar will aim to reach
  • Write down how your audience will reach these goals
  • Create objectives for each of these goals

2. Your webinar format is important

When we talk about the format of a webinar, we’re talking about how your message is delivered to your audience through content. For example, if your goal is to gather 100 new email subscribers, your webinar format could be a ‘How-to series’ that encourages attendees to sign up to an ongoing email series that dives deeper into the topic after the webinar is complete.

Some webinar formats to consider are:

  • Online trainings
  • Workshops
  • Q&A with an expert
  • Product demonstrations
  • Presentations

3. Hybrid vs virtual

Hybrid events are an increasingly popular choice for organisations that have seen success with their in-person seminars but also want to reap the benefits of moving things online.

You’ll still hire a venue and have speakers and an audience on-site, but with some nifty modern technology and the help of a professional webinar provider, you also broadcast your event to a virtual audience. 

With the right webinar platform, your virtual audience doesn’t even have to miss out on interacting with your presenters. Look for a provider with features such as moderated Q&A sessions, live polling, and an engaging event host who knows how to keep both a virtual and live audience engaged with your content.

4. Find the right speakers

Finding speakers for your event that have authority on your topic and can pull a crowd to your event is essential.

However, this doesn’t mean you’re limited to speakers who have massive followings or star power. Some of the best speakers are simply people with an interesting story or behind-the-scenes knowledge on a topic. The best webinars are those that educate, and often that means bringing a fresh perspective to a mainstream area of interest. Best practice is to have a mix of prominent speakers and those who are less known but have a unique idea or insight into your industry.

5. Promote your event at least a month in advance

Even if you put together a fantastic webinar program filled with wonderful speakers and great content— if you don’t have your target audience in attendance, it’s going to be hard to achieve any of your objectives. That’s why it’s important to get started on your promotional plan as early as possible. If possible, diversify your promotion strategy between social media, email marketing, and display advertising. This will help you cast a wide net and reach new, highly targeted audiences.

  • Promote the event on your website
  • Send personalised invitations to your existing customer database and external network (with a link to your registration page)
  • Create a timely email marketing sequence to remind attendees of your event
  • Post a series of event teasers on your social media channels and consider paid advertising to promote those posts
  • Use display advertising to reach new audiences
  • Ask your speakers to promote the event through their networks
  • Optimise your registration page for desktop and mobile and the most popular web browsers

6. Choose the right space

Whether you’re holding a webinar or hybrid event, make sure you choose a suitable space that will enhance rather than detract from your content. This means choosing a room that can be soundproofed, has good acoustics, a clear background or space for a white backdrop or 'green screen', and space for any of the tools you require to make your webinar a success.

7. Include visual aids

One of the downsides of a webinar is that you do have to work harder at keeping the audience engaged than if they were there in person. 

Even if your speakers are fantastic, virtual audiences require more visual stimulation since they can’t soak in the atmosphere of the crowd and have the presentation physically in front of them. To help keep your virtual audience actively engaged, ask that your speakers include visual aids in their presentations. Video snippets, graphs, memes—anything that can help them get their point across with minimal words.

8. Interactive sessions are your best friend

Just as visual aids will help keep your audience engaged, breaking up speaking sessions with interactive sessions will help keep your agenda moving but without weighing down attendees with back-to-back speakers. 

Interactive sessions aren’t as difficult to pull off online as you may think. Good webinar providers will help you set up Q&A sessions, where the audience can ask speakers questions about their presentation. These sessions come with a Q&A moderator who can vet questions before handing them to the speaker. 

Live polling is another great feature that allows you to gauge audience sentiment, and have them interact with each other and you. Also, look for a webinar provider who offers a live chat feature to keep the virtual conversation flowing throughout your event.

9. Have the right tools

One of the major benefits of webinars is that not only are they cost-effective because you can either downsize or completely eliminate the need for event hire and catering—but you also hardly need any tools to get started. While your webinar provider will give you a more detailed list of what you require for your unique situation, in most cases you’ll only need the following to get going:

  • A quality webinar platform
  • A computer/tablet/mobile phone
  • A webcam or smartphone camera
  • A microphone or headset
  • Some basic lighting equipment (this can be hired if you don’t have any on-hand)

10. Rehearse, then rehearse again

Rehearsing before any event is important. But when you have speakers tuning in remotely or are catering to a virtual or hybrid audience, testing your equipment, internet connection, content and the flow between speakers is absolutely essential. Use the following checklist in your rehearsals to make sure you have everything covered:

  • Have each speaker practice their content, including any visual presentations, in order of the agenda
  • On the day before your webinar, practice setting up and packing down your lighting and any sound or other equipment
  • Anticipate the types of questions that may be asked in your moderated/facilitated Q&A sessions so that you’re prepared with quality answers
  • Discuss potential technical difficulties and how they’ll be handled by your provider
  • For the most seamless experience, work with a managed webinar provider who offers personal technical support for you and your participants even if your event is outside business hours, and who will monitor and manage the technical aspects of your webinar from start to finish

11. Choose the right webinar platform

At the end of the day, choosing a webinar platform that has the right features and technical support is the most important decision you’ll make. Get this part wrong and the professionalism of your event will suffer, making it almost impossible to reach your goals. While there are free DIY platforms out there, resting the fate of your organisation's reputation in one is not advisable. As well as the audiovisual quality being unpredictable, providing zero technical support, and the lack of features, some of these platforms have been the target of security breaches, putting both your business and attendee's data at risk.

Instead, choose a webinar provider who offers managed webinars. The quality, professionalism, and technical support you receive are guaranteed, as well as having many great features to support.

  • They have interactive features such as live polling and Q&A
  • The option to include event moderators to run your webinar for you
  • HD video and audio quality
  • Custom branding capabilities so that your logo and colours are front and centre
  • Capacity for thousands of event participants
  • The ability to live stream and create on-demand webinars
  • Customised event registration
  • Optional recording and transcription
  • Pre-event support and dress rehearsal
  • Post-event reporting
  • Post-event participant feedback survey
  • Hybrid event management, if required

The takeaway

At Express Virtual Meetings, our experienced webinar team is ready to take the hard work and stress out of your next webinar or virtual event. As well as planning and delivering effective webinars, we can take your next in-person event and turn it into an engaging hybrid event.

If you want a seamless and professional webinar or consistent webinar series, get in contact with Express Virtual Meetings today, or call 1300 849 300 between 6 am and 9 pm Monday to Friday (excluding Australian national public holidays). Our team helps you focus on what you do best, while we take care of the technology and strategy that will help you reach your goals.

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