How To Plan Your First Webinar: A Timeline
Are you ready to plan a webinar?
Whether you are running a webinar as a presentation, discussion, instructional session or a demonstration, you have the flexibility to deliver your content and interact with your audience in a variety of ways including: video conference, a PowerPoint presentation, a record and call-in event, desktop sharing, white boarding, instant polls, chats, and/or instant messaging. Proper planning can ensure your webinar is a success so follow this timeline to go through the process from start to finish, and ensure everything gets done in a timely manner. “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Poor planning leads to poor performance so make sure you give yourself adequate time to prep for the event.
8 weeks out: PLAN
First things first, what are you going to be talking about? You want to catch the attention of your target audience, leading them to register for your event. Pick a topic that can easily be delivered in a virtual setting, and if you are going with a topic that has been done before, how will your presentation be different? Picking a topic and headline that has awesome search potential is also key.
Once you have that figured out, set the date and time of your event. The best days are Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday (people tend to take extended weekends on Monday or Fridays). The best times are 10-11am PST (1-2pm EST) as it will neither be too early nor too late in the day for North American attendees.
Generally, there are 3 main roles in a webinar: the organizer, the presenter and the assistant(s). You will either want to assemble a team to help you run the webinar, or maybe you plan to fulfill all three roles yourself. It is not uncommon to go solo, however, we recommend hosting on your own only if you have experience hosting webinars and are presenting to a small audience.
Next, choose a tool for running the webinar. There are lots of web conferencing tools available. Take your time with this decision and give yourself enough time to review and research several different web conferencing platforms. (We like GoToWebinar!) Choosing one that has an option to record the event is good to keep in mind. About 50% of your registrants will not attend the webinar but would love to receive a copy of the recording.
6 weeks out: DESIGN
By now, you should have finalized the event topic, title, date, time and speaker(s), as well as the tool you will be using to run your webinar. It’s now time to create your content. Determine the content and outline of your presentation, then create your presentation in a slide-show presentation program. When designing your presentation, keep in mind how things will run on the day of the webinar. Using a program such as powerpoint will allow your participants to easily follow you by watching your slides flip by on their computers while you are speaking. Webinars use audio and visuals to get your message across to attendees so ensure both are engaging. Your slides should contain interesting visuals that illustrate the topic you are discussing.
During your presentation, if you need to reference a website, you can simply bring your browser into view, that way everyone can watch as you navigate your way to your point. You can also share documents or even share your entire desktop with the audience. The possibilities are endless!
4 weeks out: MARKET
Create the event and start thinking about the ways you are going to advertise your event. Different content will need to be created for different platforms so finalize how you are going to market and prepare everything to go out. Ideas to consider are: writing a blog for your website, scheduling social media posts, setting up a search engine ad campaign, including an “invite a friend” feature in your email invites, and using online event calendars.
Start your marketing by creating a compelling invitation that will catch the attention of your target audience. Your invitation should include an interesting subject line. Think about how many emails you get in a day that you delete... you need it to be something that will draw people in and lead them to register for your event. Make sure to include your webinar title, a brief description of the event, the date and time of the webinar and information about the speakers. Next, create a registration landing page and make sure you include a direct link to the registration landing page in your invitation.
2 weeks out: REVISE
Halfway through your registration period is a good time to analyze your webinar registration to see where registrants are coming from, and revise your marketing plan as necessary.
This is also the time to get familiar with the webinar platform and have a dry run/rehearsal. This will prepare your presenters by enabling them to mirror the actual event to see how their presentation flows through the timeline allotted for the event, allowing time at the end for an overview of the Q&A portion. This is a time where you can create and save poll questions for the live event if you are choosing to run a poll in your event.
1 week out: PREPARE
Prepare your follow-up email that gives a summary of what was presented during the presentation, and also consider providing the attendees with a copy of the recording.
If you have chosen to do a blog about your event, the blog should go up on your site this week to generate some last minute registrants.
day before the event: REMIND
Send a reminder email to the registrants. Be sure to include instructions for joining the web and audio portion of the event.
Day of the event: RUN
A large percentage of attendees will register for a webinar within 24 hours of the live event. Sending a final email invitation several hours before the event with “today” in the subject line is bound to bring in more attendees.
Log in to the webinar about 30 min before you are scheduled to broadcast to get you and your team set up and ready to present. Check audio and presentation slides and ensure that your screen is visible to attendees. Another thing to watch for it that all attendees are set on mute--unless you are giving them the option to speak.
A minute or two before your webinar is scheduled to start is a good time to send out a quick message to anyone in attendance that you will be starting shortly. Be sure to begin with a quick meet and greet where you thank attendees for joining, provide instructions for anyone with technical difficulties and introduce speakers. Also, be sure you encourage attendees to tweet during the webinar and give them the custom hashtag to use (have this viewable on slides and message out on the webinar tool as well). This introduction is important to address and also ensures last minute joiners don’t miss the meat of the presentation if they’re a couple minutes late.
Follow along on social media using the event hashtag to see what people are saying and engage with them directly and immediately. This makes terrific content for you to re-share! People may tweet questions as well, so you will be able to pass these on to speakers and answer them live during the webinar. (If you don’t have the resources on your team to do this, we can help!)
Day after the event: FOLLOW UP
It’s good to send a thank-you email to the registrants who attended the webinar, summarizing the presentation. You will also want to send a follow-up email to the registrants who did not attend the webinar and include a copy of the webinar recording for them to view. Including a survey in both of these email is a great way to find out info from the people who attended and the people who couldn't make it so you can learn valuable lessons for your next webinar!
Do you have any helpful tips for planning and running a webinar?
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