Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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Webinars: Are they worth it?

eagle_globeOr, is the ROI from webinars high enough to make them worth organizing?


A seminar on the web – this is not really a seminar, right?


I asked myself this question a couple of years ago, when I heard about webinars for the first time. Sitting at my laptop and listening to someone speaking to me as a part of an audience, without eye-contact – it seemed more than strange. But then I thought: how is the Skype conversation with my relatives at the other end of the world any different? So I attended my first webinar… and a lot more after that. But then I thought, what about organizing a webinar for your business? Could you benefit from that? In this article we’ll go through the main aspects of conducting a webinar, what to expect from it, and how to deal with possible failure.


Let’s start with the webinar itself – what exactly is it? A webinar is a way of organizing a presentation, meeting or training course over the Internet. In other words, a web-based seminar. For example, you can invite potential customers to attend so they can learn more about your products or understand why they should work with your company. Webinars allow people from different locations around the world to attend the presentation, ask questions and answer polls. And all this without travelling and other additional expenses. If used correctly, webinars can generate leads and work for your customer satisfaction. They can support your online marketing strategy and bring traffic and value to your website.


Ask yourself: what are users doing on my website? The answer: they want to know more about your products and services, your company, and in the end, understand what the benefits are if they buy your product. The customary way of telling them all of this is by using text, but not everybody likes to read. Video is the new way of presenting stuff that users like, and webinars are very useful from this point of view. When you conduct a webinar, you can record it and upload it onto your website and then users will be able to watch it. Depending on how good your webinar is, and the market you’re working on, your business can generate a lot of quality leads.


How to conduct a webinar


Well, you’ve decided to conduct your very first webinar, so now you need to decide if it’s going to be free or paid. Both options have their pros and cons, so it basically depends on your goals. Free webinars are more appealing to users and you can gather a larger audience, which will lead to a larger contact list. Paid webinars are attended only by quality leads, and people who are willing to pay are more likely to buy afterwards. They understand the value of your webinar and are making an investment in something that they believe will be helpful to them.


The format of the webinar is something you need to figure out next. Sharing your screen in real time is the most widely used type of webinar today and maybe the most effective at the moment. The attendees see what’s happening on the presenter’s screen and can ask questions in a chat window. Go for this format – users are used to it and feel comfortable attending this kind of webinar.


After that you’ll need to choose a webinar hosting system. There are a number of services that have been specially designed for conducting a webinar – you can easily share your desktop, broadcast video, have a live chat, keep track of the attendees, etc. Do your research to choose the software that suits you best. There are also free solutions that’ll be great for you if you’re not planning a large number of attendees and don’t mind some ads running during your webinar.


Organizing a webinar with just a few attendees is not really worth it, so invest some time in popularizing the event. Write a blog post, send LinkedIn messages, create a Facebook event. Make your registration page compelling – think about it as a landing page. Create a call-to-action and give people a reason to attend the webinar. Use every social media channel that you have. Remind your registered attendees ahead of time and send them interesting information related to your topic. You don’t want them to skip your event, so keep them interested.


Content is one of the most important factors that determines whether your webinar will be successful or not. People will want to hear something that’s worth their time. Create your content with one single thought in mind – what exactly do you want the attendees to do after the webinar is over? Lead them to this desired action. Include statistics, graphics and figures – this will make your presentation more trustworthy.


What to expect from your first webinar


Everything’s ready, attendees are online, you’re about to start. And here, eventually, come some challenges. During your presentation you have to sound confident and comfortable with your content. That’s the only way people will believe in your products and business. If you get nervous, they’ll feel it, so don’t give in to panic. Speaking to a lot of people in front of your screen, without seeing them, is a lot easier than speaking in front of them in a conference hall. But practise beforehand until you’re sure everything will go right on your side of the screen. Try to engage the audience, not just read the prepared material. Invest some time in improving your presentation skills.


And what about questions during the webinar? In most cases there will be attendees that will ask annoying questions. Be prepared and answer all of them, but never be rude. If you don’t have enough time to answer all the questions, promise to answer them by e-mailing the person, and actually do it. There’s nothing more disappointing for users who participated in your webinar than not getting the information they’re interested in.


And be prepared – some of your attendees may leave your webinar before its end. They can get bored, they could think you’re wasting their time or something urgent could grab their attention. Don’t be desperate, just finish your presentation like nothing happened and don’t forget your conclusion. If you want your attendees to do something after the webinar, say it clearly and explain the exact way they must do it.


OK, you’ve failed – what next?


The webinar is over, you think that everything went well, but there are no new sales and no effect from it. Now you have two options: either to give up webinars or to analyze what parts went right and what parts went wrong and plan to perform better next time. Giving up is easy, but analysis will give you the opportunity to make the next webinar better and, in the end, achieve good results from this part of your online marketing.


In most cases only a few people will buy directly after their first contact with you – and this can be exactly the case following your webinar. Contact all of your participants on a regular basis and try to convert them into customers with special offers. Customize your offer according to the needs of each attendee – what works for one group of them may not work for others. A good option is to send a survey to your participants, asking them to review your webinar. The feedback will help you organize better content in the future, content that can generate leads for your business.


It takes time and a lot of effort to create compelling webinars and engage your audience. That’s why you need to look at webinars as a long-term investment that can make your potential customers real and loyal clients.


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About Lili Petkova

Enthusiastic young online marketing professional. Fully engaged in the way how people communicate and react on different situations – both online, and offline. Living in Bulgaria - a country of contrast, where life is somewhere in the middle of Western countries and Asia. Love to travel, meet new cultures and friends. Blogging about how online tools, social networks and internet advertising can help small businesses to benefit from their online marketing.