What Is a Webinar? A Guide to Getting Started
Learn how you can leverage webinars as an effective marketing tool for your business, and grab essential tips for getting started!
June 30, 2022
What’s a webinar? Great question! Simply put, a webinar is an interactive online video presentation that covers any topic. You can think of it like a conference or lecture, but it’s hosted online via a dedicated platform with a question and answer (Q&A) section — and it’s accessible to a worldwide audience.
If you want to learn more about webinars or if you’re thinking about adding them to your marketing strategy, you’re in luck. We’re going to break down the basics and benefits of webinars, provide essential tips for getting started, and show you how to leverage them as an effective marketing tool for your business.
Let’s dive in!
How do webinars work?
Short for web-based seminars, webinars can range from informative lectures to sales pitches to roundtable discussions. While topics and areas of focus vary, one thing all webinars have in common is they are interactive events as opposed to just long-form videos.
What goes on in a webinar
A webinar consists of a host, co-hosts, or panelists presenting to an online audience. The presentation is delivered via screen sharing, with the speaker on screen, or a mixture of both. At Wistia, we usually have a slideshow presentation on the screen with the speaker displayed in the top right corner.
The content for webinars can be live, pre-recorded, or a mixture of both. Presenting live is dynamic and engaging, but sometimes unexpected things can happen (just ask any cat owner). Using pre-recorded segments can take the pressure off the hosts and really turn up the production value.
It’s common practice for hosts to reserve a portion of time near the end of their webinar for a live Q&A session. Some hosts are happy to answer questions during the presentation. In other cases, hosts have their attendees submit their questions ahead of time.
“It’s common practice for hosts to reserve a portion of time near the end of their webinar for a live Q&A session.”
Regardless of which Q&A method the host chooses, they’ll get to interact and build rapport with their audience by answering questions. If the host is feeling a bit adventurous (and if their webinar platform allows it), they can offer surveys and polls for their audience to answer.
The power of on-demand webinars
Hosts can record their webinars and then offer them on demand after it’s over. This gives attendees two options: attend the webinars live or watch them at their own leisure.
Businesses can leverage their on-demand webinars as a powerful tool at every stage of the marketing funnel, from lead generation to conversion. Here are a few examples of how hosts can repurpose their webinar content and reap the benefits:
- Share a link to their on-demand webinar on social media to drive new visitors to their website
- Include a link to their on-demand webinar in their email newsletter to nurture subscribers’ interest and move them down the funnel
- Post their on-demand webinar right on their website and have visitors submit their information before they can watch it (this is what we do with our on-demand webinars!)
While on-demand viewers can’t engage with the host live, the host can offer easy access to the best point of contact for them — whether it’s the sales, support, or customer success team.
Why you should start hosting webinars
Webinars are a powerful tool for marketing and increasing product adoption. They help you hit several sales and marketing goals at once. By hosting a webinar, you can:
- Reach a global audience in real time
- Generate new leads into your sales funnel
- Develop personal relationships with your prospective and existing customers
- Demonstrate industry expertise and build brand awareness
At Wistia, we’ve hosted webinars that helped us meet our goals. For example:
- In February 2021, we hosted a webinar called Podcast Like a Pro: A Crash Course for Marketers. The topic followed the launch of our Podcast feature and the increased popularity of podcasting due to the pandemic. This webinar drove our highest number of registrations for last year, which ultimately put our sales team in touch with more people.
- In October 2021, we hosted a webinar titled Fire Up Your Funnel with Video, which was all about generating, nurturing, and scoring leads with video. We knew that this topic would resonate with our audience because it’s something they reach out to us for support and guidance on. It resulted in the highest number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) generated from any webinar since the program began.
Still not convinced? Webinars are a whole lot easier to plan and execute than in-person conferences or lectures. Since webinars take place online, thousands of people from all over the world can attend simultaneously without the expenses or complex logistics required to rent a venue or organize travel for your team.
Tips for getting started
Adding webinars to your roster of marketing tools is easier than it sounds. And we’re here to help you get started! Just follow these steps:
1. Make sure you have all the necessary hardware and software
The hardware requirements for hosting a webinar are simple:
- A computer with a strong internet connection
- A decent built-in or external microphone
- A decent built-in or external webcam
Everyone who will be presenting or speaking during your webinar should follow this checklist.
Now, on to the software. There are dozens of video conferencing platforms to choose from, including Zoom, GoToWebinar, Webex, and many more. Just make sure the platform you choose will support the number of speakers and the size of your audience.
2. Choose your topic
The possibilities for webinar topics are endless. Maybe you want to introduce your latest product, interview an expert in your field, or teach your audience about a topic you’re passionate about. Whatever topic you choose, make sure it’s interesting to both you and your audience! And above all, make sure the speakers feel super comfortable presenting the content.
3. Decide what speaking format you want to use
Webinars come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s a ton of room for creativity when it comes to hosting one. Choosing the speaking format is a good place to start. Let’s discuss the most common ones:
A single speaker driving the presentation
This format is great if you have a product specialist or subject matter expert on your team who loves to teach. This is the person who’s already speaking at conferences or helping customers get the most value from your product. All you need is the person and a great presentation deck, and you’re ready to go!
Multiple team members offering different points of view
This format is similar to the first one, except you have multiple team members presenting. You’ll still need a great presentation to walk through, but bringing several team members together can help your business tell a better story. For example, you might have a representative from the marketing team and another one from product development as your presenters. The marketing expert can help put the presentation in context for your audience, while the product expert can offer a deep and compelling view of why and how a product was built to address a specific problem.
Sometimes the best way to attract an audience and provide a ton of value to viewers is to conduct a live interview with a category expert — or several! In this case, a presentation may not be necessary, but you’ll need a strong moderator to ask questions, facilitate conversation (if there’s more than one guest), and field inquiries from the audience. This can be more difficult to book, but you can generally do less preparation in terms of creating visuals for this format.
4. Plan the length of your webinar
The average webinar lasts 30 minutes to an hour, and Q&A sessions are generally reserved for the final 15 minutes. Consider the content you will present, and the structure you will follow. What’s a reasonable amount of time for you to deliver the information and answer your attendees’ questions without rushing through anything?
“The average webinar lasts 30 minutes to an hour, and Q&A sessions are generally reserved for the final 15 minutes.”
You don’t want your webinar to be too short — or too long! The content you present should be interesting and engaging enough to keep your audience until the end.
5. Do a practice run
Once you’ve finished planning the content and structure of your webinar, it’s time to rehearse. Set up your webcam and use a video conferencing platform like Zoom to record a practice run. This will help you identify any segments of your presentation that need improvement — and boost your confidence when it’s time to present in front of a live audience.
6. Record your webinar
Be sure to record your webinar so you can offer it on demand later. If your webinar platform doesn’t have a recording feature, use a screen recorder.
Need some inspiration?
One of the best ways to master a new marketing tactic is to study the best examples from industry leaders. Try searching for companies like yours that are hosting webinars, and attend one yourself. If none of your direct competitors are using webinars as a tactic, you might have just uncovered a potential strategic edge!
We rounded up a few webinars we liked. Although the subject matter may not be up your alley, pay attention to things like format, structure, presentation style, and production value. Check ‘em out:
- How to Buy Your First Home in 2022 by Opes Partners
- 5 Tips to Predict and Prevent Customer Escalations by SupportLogic
- How to Build an Expert Onboarding Strategy by Intercom
Resources, resources, and more resources
We hope this introduction to webinars gives you the confidence and motivation to consider hosting a webinar for your business. It’s important to note that like any new endeavor, practice makes perfect. The more webinars you create, the better they will be!
If you’d like a head start, we have a bunch of articles on hosting, repurposing, and promoting webinars. Check out our top picks:
- 6 Tips for Live Virtual Events to Awe Your Audience
- Maximize Video ROI: 11 Clever Ways to Repurpose Webinar Content
- 5 Places to Promote Your Webinar and Drive Registrations
Now you’re cooking!