How to Run an Effective and Engaging B2B Webinar
June 4, 2019 | David Cunningham
A report by GoToWebinar found 73 percent of B2B marketers think webinars are the best way to generate high-quality leads—which is why 57 percent admit to planning more webinars within the next year.
If you’re one of them, you might be wondering how you can maximize the results you get. I don’t blame you. Webinars can take hours to plan, run and promote. That’s not to mention the hours you’ll spend following-up with attendees to take them from viewer to customer.
So, we teamed up with the research team at Databox and asked 27 marketers to share their best tip for running engaging B2B webinars—starting from planning your topic, to promoting the event. Ready? Let’s dive in.
1. Choose a relevant webinar topic
You take a look at your launch calendar, notice you have a new feature launching in four weeks, and put together a webinar strategy that helps spread the word.
PrimePay’s Rachel Fausnaught shares why that might be a problem: “Often when a new product or an update comes along, we’re eager to get the word out in as many ways as possible (and that includes webinars). But webinars in the B2B space should absolutely lead with education and not focus on product until a plug at the very end.”
Rachel believes the topic of your webinar should be based on your audience’s interest, instead. She says you can find this out by, “survey[ing] your audience to see what topics they’re actually interested in learning more about”.
She also expresses that, “timeliness is also key”—discovering whether the topic is in-demand at the time you’re planning to present:
“For example, the new overtime rule is expected to be announced in March, so my company is planning to do a webinar on the outcome later in the month. It’s newsworthy and will certainly cause some buzz with our audience. How do we know? An eBook we produced on the topic that was released a few years ago is one of our most downloaded pieces to date.”
2. Have a defined audience
The number of attendees viewing your webinar is important. You can’t nurture people, nor convert them into customers in the long-run, without having anyone to present to. The majority of our respondents conduct webinars with 51-250 attendees.
But Julia Payne of Incisive Edge thinks the type of people attending your webinar is just as (if not, more) important than the number.
She recommends to, “ensure that your audience are all at the same stage in their buying and decision-making journey and experience. There is little point doing an introduction on your chosen area to a group of experts. Similarly, there is no point wowing people with your expertise, if they are at the very start of their buyer journey.”
You could do this by mapping your webinar strategy to your buyer’s journey. Ask yourself: What does someone at each stage want to learn? Once you’ve nailed that, Julia explains how to put it into practice:
“Adopting this approach can often require segmentation of your lists and therefore, preparation is key. Decide who your webinar is targeted at, together with the goal of the webinar—educational, action-oriented, for lead generation purposes or building your community. This will inform the actions you want your audience to take, the offer you make and the information you want to capture from your participants.”
3. Have multiple people steering the ship
Inviting another person to co-host your webinar is a surefire way to bring in more expertise and provide value for your attendees. But who should help you steer the ship? These five webinar pros have different recommendations.
a) The voice of your customer
“Get a customer on the panel,” says Christabelle Tani of Brand chemistry. “Whatever you’re talking about should be easy to tie back into your product, and having a customer speak about how they’ve achieved their goals with yours is the best way to gain trust (and, subsequently, leads) through your webinar.”
That’s a great way to encourage more sales—and target the 70 percent of consumers who look for product reviews before purchasing a product.
b) A third-party expert
Do you know an expert in your industry who has authority talking about the topic you’ve planned for your webinar? Cassandra Clemens of Square 2 recommends inviting them to co-host: “Always have a co-presenter that is an expert from outside of your organization”. An expert could be an influencer, happy customer, or someone with lots of expertise on the topic you’re planning to talk about.
Since adopting this approach with Square 2’s webinar strategy, Cassandra says, “We set a goal of one webinar a month, that we co-presented with another notable organization/company within the sales and marketing universe and that we would have topics that were relatable and that provided actionable items that could be easily implemented.”
The results she’s achieved speak for themselves:
- “Our webinar registration page bounce rate decrease by 28.99 percent
- Our conversion rate from visit to registration increase by 6.79 percent
- Our registrations increase by 74 percent”
Lola.com’s Emily Parker-Woodland also invites industry experts to co-host webinars: “The format we use for our webinars is with two speakers who are having a conversation instead of reading through certain points and going through a presentation.” She says this strategy of keeping things casual, “helps attendees relate to the material better and stay engaged”.
However, her tip comes with an extra nugget of advice: “When working with two speakers, it’s important to designate one as the leader, so that it’s one person’s job to keep the webinar moving forward. They are steering the ship. But throughout the webinar, they will both speak and ask each other what they think about the topic being discussed.”
c) An in-house moderator
Clwyd Probert of Whitehat SEO Ltd echoes this advice, and says, “Don’t run it alone.” He recommends to, “assign a dedicated team member to manage questions from the attendees. Really effective webinars are not one-way presentations. They involve the sharing of knowledge but also the interactions of the audience is key to delivering value.”
The secondary team member could be a moderator that deals with the admin side of hosting a webinar. “The support person should prepare a file with document and resource links that may be needed, in advance. This saves a lot of time during a live presentation. Keep them reading in a plain text file so that they can be copied and pasted into the chat pane,” Clwyd says.
Questioning exactly what a moderator should take control over? HQdigital’s Meghan Hultquist shares a handy checklist:
- “How long the presentation will be
- When the webinar will start
- Speaker introductions
- A reminder that the webinar will be recorded
- Information on the Q&A rules – will it be live? Will all questions be answered at the end? What happens if you run out of time?
- Whether there will be any live polls and how to participate
- What to expect after the presentation – will the session be recorded? Will it be sent by email? What about the slides?”
4. Practice before going live
You’ve nailed your topic, and double-checked you’re giving a presentation that’s useful for a group of specific people. Before you press ‘Go Live’ on your webinar, Spot On’s Rebecca Graves has some advice: “Practice multiple times and record the sessions”.
She recommends this for three reasons:
- “Works out any technical glitches ahead of time–knowing how to manage the questions panel versus chat, making sure everyone knows how (and when) to use cameras, etc, is something you do not want to do at the start of the live webinar.
- Everyone can get comfortable. If there are multiple panelists who will be presenting or fielding questions, work out ahead of time how this will be handled, especially if everyone is not in the same room at the time of the webinar. Nothing is worse than having presenters talking over each other.
- Provides valuable feedback. Have as many people as possible listen to the run-through. Practice answering questions both live and in the Q&A window. Record the session so you can listen to it later. Most people don’t like hearing their own voice on a recording, but it’s important to hear for yourself when you’re speaking too fast, pausing in odd places, etc.”
“Most webinar platforms give you the option of running practice sessions,” Rebecca explains.
She’s not the only one doing practice runs, though. James Boston of Krafthaus always does “technology checks 24 hours before on location,” because, “quite often you are dealing with new tech teams who aren’t used to setting up for webinars (camera location, lighting, microphone set-up) so we always do a run through.”
5. Introduce yourself (and your co-hosts)
“Nothing is more painful than awkward or uncomfortable webinar conversation,” says Julia Woodward of VTS. I’ll bet you can relate. You’ve tuned into a webinar, only for the first few minutes to be extremely shaky. The host is lingering around waiting for people to tune-in, and you don’t actually know whether the webinar will be of value to you.
You don’t want your attendees to feel that way, which is why Julia recommends to, “introduce everyone who is participating in the webinar before the live event. Whether it’s a group phone call or video chat, it’s a great way to get everyone involved on the same page about the webinar topic and objective, and to start breaking the ice between them—including the person who is hosting the event from your team!”
6. State your value in plain terms
“B2B users are sophisticated and usually technical,” EYEMAGINE’s Andy Etemadi explains. Research by Google backs this up: 64 percent of C-suite staff have final sign off in B2B purchasing decisions. You’ll need to win over high-level, sophisticated managers if you’re to stand a chance at converting them into customers.
Because of this, Andy recommends to, “focus on specific features that have been impactful for other B2B customers. They have more interest in return on investment than anything else. Highlight features that have directly impacted revenue or costs.”
But why does this approach to webinars work so well? Will Chou of WebMechanix thinks it’s because “attendees care about the bottom-line.” He says: “Don’t get too fancy or high-level with the goals and rewards you promise the webinar will teach. Stick to simple, goals and don’t over-promise, such as “How to increase your leads and cost-per-conversion by 10 percent.”
7. Focus on the visuals
Somewhere along the way, B2B gained a reputation for being boring. That’s no different with webinars, as Blogging.org’s Zac Johnson explains, “Everyone is used to webinars and many of them can get quite boring fast — especially when they are B2B focused.” While you might enjoy delivering the webinar, you need to make sure your audience are enjoying it.
Zac recommends making your B2B webinar more engaging using visuals: “One of the best ways to liven up such webinars, is to make sure you have a consistent flow of visuals through the presentation.”
But what visuals should you use? Images, infographics and GIFs are some ideas. But Zac says, “Also, when using stats, make sure they are also visual. The same holds true for any type of case studies or examples as well—use screenshots and mark them up so they are easy to follow.”
8. Make your webinar interactive
“Remember sitting in a lecture in college struggling to keep your eyes open? Webinars, if not done properly, can do the same. And if you have your phone or email, chances of you listening and getting out of it what you’d hoped drop drastically,” says Nili Zaharony of Penguin Strategies.
That’s why she recommends making your webinars interactive: “We’ve found that the more interactive a webinar is, the more engaged and valuable it is for everyone…both for the company hosting as they get immediate feedback, and for the participants who aren’t spacing out.”
Marguerita Cheng, who forms part of the team at Blue Ocean Global Wealth, says: “Take advantage of polling software and technology to make the discussion for lively and interactive. I do at least two webinars per month. In fact, you can also do this live with smartphones. Apps like PollEverywhere or KaHoot improve engagement.”
Summarizing, Spendesk’s Patrick Whatman thinks interactivity is a fantastic way to liven-up your B2B webinars, which he thinks have a “habit of becoming boring.”
“We always start by asking the audience to introduce themselves and tell us a bit about their challenges. We read out the names and responses as they come in, and it makes viewers feel like a part of the session. And then as the presentation goes on, it’s easy to refer back to these people and show them how we’re solving their issues.”
9. Ditch the hard-sell
Are you one of the 69 percent of marketers whose most common goal for creating webinars is to generate new leads?
You might assume a pitch-filled webinar is the best way to meet your goal. But Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray recommends the opposite:
“To run an effective B2B webinar, I recommend you give a lot of value during the webinar without being too salesy. I attended many webinars where the host gives very little value and then tries to sell their solution. I don’t think that’s the way to go. You should give your best content, best tips, best tactics during the webinar. If the attendees are impressed by the free advice you give, they’ll want more and will be pleased to pay for it.”
10. Show your enthusiasm
“One thing that can make or break a webinar is the presenter’s enthusiasm and energy,” says Sid Bharath of Sid Bharath Consulting Ltd. “Low energy presentations lead to less engaged audiences and higher drop-off rates.” It goes without saying that’s not something you’re aiming for. You want to keep attendees engaged right the way through.
That’s why Sid recommends to, “keep the energy up and keep the audience excited. Raise your speaking volume, change the tone and inflection of your sentences often, use hand motions and different facial expressions. Remember that you’re not having a face to face conversation so your normal self won’t work here.”
11. Stick to your timings
You’ve been presenting your webinar for 45 minutes, before you look at the time and realize you’ve only got 15 minutes left to cram-in another nine slides.
You’re not alone, as Storage Vault’s Kraig Martin explains: “If you’ve ever tried to host a webinar, you’ll know how easy it can be to fall into the trap of waiting for more people to arrive before you start. And you’ll soon find that five minutes waiting for more people to join soon turns into ten minutes and then 15 minutes. With each extra minute that you wait, your allotted time for the webinar quickly spirals out of control.”
That’s a huge no-go. Kraig advises webinar hosts to stick to their timings, because overruns “will make your business look really unprofessional”. He says: “If you’re delivering a webinar with the aim of establishing your brand as a key leader in the industry, appearing unprofessional is the last thing you want to happen. It’s far better to be professional and start and end exactly when you say will.”
12. Close with a Q&A session
Did you know that 92 percent of webinar attendees want a live question and answer session at the end of a webinar? Meghan Hultquist of HQdigital says this is a fantastic way to tie-in the interactive element: “Hosting an interactive, live Q&A session at the end of your webinar is a great way to engage attendees and showcase your company’s knowledge.”
But what happens if you leave a 15-minute window for questions, only for your attendees to sit there in silence? The answer isn’t to hope and pray that questions will filter through. “Always have some questions prepared in case nobody asks you any questions at the end,” says Nettly’s Thorstein Nordby.
“Many people don’t always take the time to ask questions and some who register for the webinar to only watch the recording when they have time,” he explains. However, having a bank of preplanned questions helps people who watch the replay. Thorstein says: “My advice is to anticipate certain questions people will ask, and have these as backup in case there is little engagement at the end.”
If you’ve presented the webinar multiple times, you could take note of the questions which crop-up repeatedly, and use them as your spares.
13. Promote the webinar with plenty of time
“The tip which I consider to be the most useful while creating a webinar is to extensively promote it,” says Oksana Chyketa of Albacross, who recommends to, “start your promotion at least four weeks prior to the actual date.”
BrightBull B2B Marketing’s Ricardo Molina agrees with this advice: “You need to allow the right amount of time to promote a webinar. In our books the right amount of time is 6 weeks before the webinar takes place. On the flipside, more than six weeks, we’ve found has no direct link to increasing the registrations you receive.”
It seems like there’s a fine balance between over-promoting and under-promoting. But Nooria Khan of GigWorker has a handy calculation to determine how long you should spend on your webinar promotion: “If you spent 10 hours in creating the content of your presentation, you should spend 20 hours at least on promoting it to see great results.”
14. Encourage sign-ups with livestreams
Did you know that 80 percent of audiences would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog? Combine that with the 82 percent who prefer live video from a brand to social posts, and you’ll understand why Ledger Bennett’s Greg Dorban recommends livestreaming for webinar promotion.
He says: “One way we’ve found really successful in getting attendees to webinars is to promote them with a series of teaser livestreams. Plus, the engagement is great as it gives a more personal approach to webinars, rather than just a voice over slides.” An obvious benefit of livestream promotion is that it, “doesn’t have to cost much, a simple Facebook Live, YouTube Live or Periscope does the job.”
So, what should your livestream promotion include? You don’t want to give away the entire presentation through a livestream, but Greg says: “They’re an effective tactic pre-webinar with an introduction of topics that will be covered, during the webinar with a behind the scenes view and even post-webinar for an extended Q&A session.”
15. Write webinar teasers on your blog
You likely have a mix of content being published on your blog, ranging from case studies to how-to articles. AdEspresso’s Paul Fairbrother recommends adding webinar promotion to the mix. “Our number of webinar signups increased significantly when we started publishing a blog post with “spoilers” two weeks in advance, this blog was then promoted via our social channels and email newsletter.”
Paul did this recently before hosting his webinar on Facebook Business Manager. In a bid to raise awareness and encourage more sign-ups, he, “released a guide on how to use Business Manager a couple of weeks before.”
It’s worth noting that Paul doesn’t recommend publishing a blog post that covers everything you’re planning to talk about during your webinar. “It just needs to be a taster covering a few key points,” he says.
Why does this work so well? Paul thinks it’s because, “the most valuable commodity for any business professional these days is time, so asking them to attend a one hour webinar is a significant commitment. By proving to them in advance that you can deliver high quality content via a blog post they’ll be confident that it’s worth their while signing up for the webinar.”
16. Nurture attendees with follow-up emails
When we asked James from Influence Agents for his best webinar tip, his answer was simple: “Ensure there is a nurturing process in place for days after the webinar has finished.” It’s an awesome way to meet (or beat) the average webinar conversion rate of 44 percent.
Putting this into practice, James says: “Create an automated email listing to contact the attendee to gather feedback from the webinar, to send content they may find interesting, a recording of the webinar etc. These can be filtered through to the attendee for a week or two.”
17. Be consistent
“In my opinion, the best tip when it comes to B2B webinars is consistency. No matter what is your goal – to nurture customers, generate leads, support sales team—consistency will pay off,” explains Jakub Kliszczak of CrazyCall. “Some companies are well-known because they handle live webinars every week or month and provide the same quality over and over.”
Forty-four of our respondents run webinars on a monthly schedule—with a small minority hosting new webinars weekly.
But regardless of how frequently you commit to hosting a webinar, Jakub thinks the consistency is more important. “I’d say that having a set schedule for your B2B webinars can be a real game changer to how effective it is. With consistency, you will consistently (what a word-game) gain more viewers and convert more of them into paying customers,” he said.
As you can see, a successful B2B webinar is a mixture of moving parts. When you get them all aligned, webinars can become a huge driver of new email subscribers, leads, and customers. Learn how SnapApp can take your webinars to the next level, and help you qualify sales-ready leads that turn into deals.