Webinars vs. Virtual Events

by | Monday 26th July

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A webinar is a type of virtual event. Given the development of technology, virtual events now offer a lot more than just a simple one-sided digital presentation. A physical event is now being replicated online! This means that numerous sessions with various elements such as networking rooms, virtual booths, and information desks are available. 

Webinars are still a staple in the industry, they form one element of modern virtual events. This can often make it challenging to distinguish between a webinar and a virtual event. Let’s outline the differences between the two.

To begin, here are the definitions:

Webinars

Short for web-based presentations or seminars, a webinar is an interactive way for you to connect with your attendees in a private setting that emphasises learning. The normal procedure is for a host to be joined by one or more presenters to discuss a topic for a set period of time.

Virtual events

A fully encompassing virtual event goes beyond providing just one element. It offers multiple components and sessions over a much longer time frame.

This can be anything from tutorials and networking, to product launches and conferences. Every event will have its own identity, it is important for you to identify which components will provide you with maximum engagement.

Now that we’ve got an understanding of the concepts of a webinar and a virtual event, it’s time to dive into the main differences between the two. 

Webinars aren’t events that we are accustomed to 

A webinar is a virtual event as it involves people interacting in an online environment. Virtual events are multi-dimensional, and whilst they will most likely involve plenty of webinars, their scope goes beyond that. The scope of a webinar is much narrower than that of a virtual event, and that’s why marketers use them for more specific purposes from product training to classes.

Webinars have a much narrower scope

Yes, the size of a webinar can be in the hundreds but when we compare this to a virtual event there is a big difference. Because the latter has a much bigger bandwidth, and with that comes a bigger audience. Virtual event attendees are going to be attending the event for multiple reasons compared to webinar attendees who have one specific need in mind.

Whether that’s for networking or virtual booths, the diversity that comes with virtual events opens it up to a lot more attendees.

It’s harder to express your narrative with a webinar

The different elements of virtual events make it a lot easier to express your narrative both for the brand and the event itself. Compared to a webinar which is just going to be a presentation with a speaker and some interaction from whiteboards and surveys, virtual events allow you to go further.

The different components of a virtual event provide a lot more opportunities to portray yourself and in turn, your attendees will get a full brand experience of everything that you have to offer.

Webinars give attendees less freedom

When it comes to virtual events, attendees can pick and choose what content they want to experience. Maybe they’re there for the networking, or maybe they’re there for the exhibitor booths. Whilst webinars are always popular, there are plenty of other reasons as to why attendees want to attend events.

For marketers that means greater engagement, and for attendees that means the freedom to attend what interests them the most. It’s also worth noting that a lot of virtual events offer webinar recordings on-demand during, and after the event.

Webinars don’t have the same amount of engagement

Ensuring that your attendees are always engaged is a lot tougher when it comes to virtual events. That’s why it’s about giving them different options. What we see with webinars is that their rigid structure is often a deterrent for attendee engagement. Options are limited and with this, it becomes much harder for attendees to interact and communicate.

Now compare this to a virtual event, which also offers live questions, concepts, and experiences, you can see how and why it’s a lot easier for attendees to immerse themselves in the virtual event.

Beyond the basics, webinar platforms will also offer visual elements including live streams, presentation sharing, surveys, and live chat. The presentation is usually followed by a Q&A session where the audience can ask questions like these:

Do I need a recent computer to listen to a webinar?

No, it is not required. However, be sure to close any applications that are open on your computer. Of course, Internet access is also required.

What if I have a problem reaching you?

A phone number for technical problems will be provided to you along with your link. You will also be able to get direct assistance from the technical support of the webinar service we use.

Can I connect with my tablet or smartphone?

Yes, as long as the internet is accessible on your devices.

 

Types of webinars and objectives

There is a wide range of possible topics for webinars. The important thing is that the content should add value to the participants and not be a sales pitch in disguise. Topics can be divided into several types, each related to different areas of expertise and objectives.

A well thought-out webinar usually involves a special speaker. The organization is not a full expert on the subject and often calls on a third party who is an expert in his or her field. The target group consists of existing and potential new customers. In addition, the dissemination can include a case study. 

The participants can compare themselves to the given example and discover how a solution works in a practical case. According to Webattract, this method is very effective and is a favorite among marketing and sales webinars in America. “Know-how” are also popular types of webinars for marketing and sales. A marketing agency may in a webinar cover the basics of SEO or explain things about lead generation.

Webinars for training

Training is also increasingly done online, via a webinar, for several reasons. First, for professionals in different fields, they can easily get “personal training” (PT) points for their work. Training is also used for (software) demonstrations of products already purchased to support customers, such as a CRM system. 

There are also product demonstrations that are used as a marketing tool to encourage participants to buy or to maintain the relationship with the customer. Think for example of a stock market analysis for private investors or an explanation of the optimal use of an online job board.

Finally, webinars are also often used for internal communication. Especially for companies that are not geographically close to each other or that have several offices. A webinar is then an effective solution to communicate and retain knowledge. The topics are mainly topical, such as a periodic update on the company’s situation or new developments.

In addition, webinars also provide excellent training opportunities for employees. Remember, individual computer access is essential for internal communication.

Characteristics of choosing a good topic

A webinar presents a solution to a target group that has a specific problem and is looking for a particular (new) solution. If the webinar promises to solve the problem, this motivates them to participate in the webinar (the “What’s in it for me?” principle). So be sure to find out who belongs to this target group and what they are missing. 

This can be done by interviewing them regularly and/or by creating “buyer personas”. Research on social networks can also tell you a lot about the questions the target group has. In addition, a successful topic must meet the following conditions:

  • Enough content to talk about
  • Interesting to the target group
  • Relevant to the target group
  • Concrete and specific

To simplify the selection of an appropriate topic, it is also possible to use one of the topics suggested from a previous webinar survey or during registration. It is not uncommon for webinar content to be modified later based on feedback from registration forms. Finally, marketing and sales data on the interests and needs of the target group can also play a role in determining the topic.

When a topic meets the above conditions over a longer period of time, one may choose to repeat the same webinar (periodically). This is especially the case for (software) demonstrations and marketing topics. Repeating topics is effective and saves time and money on development.

Choosing the right platform to host your webinar

To begin, you’ll need to decide how you want to deliver your webinar. You and your team need to consider what the objectives of your webinar are: do you want to educate your customers, generate sales or develop leads? Your goal may be something else entirely. 

Here is what to consider before choosing a platform for your webinar, with different use cases.

– Recurring product demos and lead generation

If you want to generate leads and hold scheduled demos, you’ll need a platform that can schedule your webinars. Some platforms offer online hosting solutions that will allow you to run automated webinars, and even create a series of webinars to nurture your leads. In this case, opt for a webinar platform that has built-in analytics that can provide you with data that you can refer to later for your marketing strategy.

– Content marketing

Adding webinars to your content strategy is a great idea to attract and retain your target audience. Live streaming will benefit all participants, and you’ll want to make sure the platform you choose has real-time software to make your move.

– Customer training and Q&A

If you’re looking to train your customers and answer their questions, webinars are definitely a formidable solution. Your webinar platform will need to be equipped with features that allow you to submit questions so that your audience can engage with you directly. Another handy tool your platform should offer is screen sharing capabilities, especially for customer training. This way, you’ll be able to walk your customers through each of your actions, step by step.

– Education

Webinars can be a great way to educate your audience. The platform you’re looking for should be able to lock your courses behind a paywall and set up automatic redirects at the end of each session. This way, students will be able to register for the next course within minutes after each session. If you plan to host educational webinars, make sure your webinar platform allows for polls during your session. These can be a good way to measure understanding of your key learning points.

The top platforms for hosting webinars right now are Livestorm, ClickMeeting, Zoom, and GoToWebinar. Aside from the types of webinars you want to run, which we’ve seen above, there are other key factors to consider: how many participants are expected? What features are offered? Is the platform easy to use? And then there’s also the question of price, which is not to be overlooked.

Find your team

You may be the person in charge of planning the webinar, but you’ll need a team to fully implement your project. Generally, a webinar needs at least one presenter or facilitator, and at least one guest, which will bring more dynamism to your online conference.

Your presenters and guests should add value to the presentation. You can strategically select people based on their complementary skills. For example, if you’re hosting a customer training webinar, you may want to invite a member of your product team to inform your customers of a new feature. Adding quality members to your webinars can add undeniable value to your audience and help you build strong relationships with participants.

Always have your team of speakers do a dry run before the big day, to break the ice and make sure everyone is comfortable during the webinar.

Prepare your content

After you’ve chosen your team, it’s time to create content based on the type of webinar you want to host. Will it be a PowerPoint presentation and a presentation with just the main presenter in close-up? Or maybe you want to do a live Q&A panel? Either way, you’ll need to produce the right content with the best possible resources.

For example, if you are using PowerPoint, you will need to create your own presentation. Make sure the slides you choose focus on your key points, but do not include text. These slides should be visually appealing and include interesting graphics and images.

When planning your content, try to make it as engaging as possible, as the audience does not always pay close attention. Studies have shown that the average viewer only remembers an average of 4 out of 20 slides during a PowerPoint presentation!

If you’re hosting a discussion-style webinar, plan your speakers’ time and interventions and remember to leave time for questions from the audience. Once you have your PowerPoint, videos, and polls ready, you are ready to present your webinar.

Promote your webinar

Promoting your webinar is one of the most important things you’ll do. Today, you can easily reach your target audience by promoting your webinar on your social media accounts. In addition to that, planning to send promotional emails and integrating a registration form on your website will inevitably increase the number of participants.

To make sure as many people as possible have a chance to register, you need to let people know where to find your registration page. We recommend sending your registration link by email, along with a list of organizers, guests and participants. Adding banners to your main website and integrating your registration page into your website or other communications materials can be a useful way to generate interest. 

For example, the next newsletter you send out may contain a link to your webinar registration page. Better yet, if you’re planning a long-term webinar strategy, you can set up an influencer marketing program with industry experts. Building close relationships with these experts can be a great technique to get more registrants. This way, you can also promote your webinar on the influencers’ networks and media and benefit directly from their subscribers.

Prepare your technology equipment and materials

Setting up your equipment is the final step in your pre-webinar preparation process. Be sure to use a high quality microphone and video camera. A poor audio feed will cause the audience to tune out. Shotgun mics are great, as they focus on your voice while cutting out extraneous noise. 

You can control your recording settings by choosing a soundproof location away from ambient noise. Try to include plenty of natural light in your shot and invest in quality lamps to ensure good lighting. Do a final technical check of your webinar to make sure everything is working as it should, and always have a spare computer available in case of failure.

Conclusion

Key Takeaways

Webinars are great as either a marketing or information delivery tool, but they aren’t events in the classic sense of what we know an event to be. Virtual events offer a lot more flexibility and with that comes a greater opportunity to engage with your attendees and provide them with a better experience. Ultimately, it all boils down to your needs and your marketing objectives.

You’ve done everything you need to do to prepare the perfect webinar. You’ve got the best speakers, you’ve checked your materials, and you’ve completed the promotion process. All that’s left is to move on to the presentation.

After the webinar, don’t forget the follow-up. Webinars are obviously a great sales opportunity, and you don’t want people to forget about you once the webinar is over. That’s why it’s essential to keep in touch by sending a thank-you email, as well as collecting feedback from participants so you can organize better webinars in the future.

For more information, contact us at info@expertshare.live

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