Podcast: How to run stress-free webinars

By Alexander Evjenth

Podcast: How to run stress-free webinars

Webinars are a fantastic way to reach a wide audience and explaining your company's unique offering. They're not a new invention, but the pandemic has led to an explosion in webinars, often from companies who don't have any experience of organising them. In this episode, I spoke to Doug about his advice for companies looking to put together a webinar for the first time.

Webinars can be stressful events for companies. If you make a mistake in an article or on your website, it's easily fixed. But making a mistake during a live webinar with possibly hundreds of attendees who have set aside time to be there is much worse.

Careful preparation is essential if you want to avoid screw-ups during your live broadcast. In this episode of The Onlinification Pod, I got some tips from Doug, who has been involved in organising Zooma's webinars. He had plenty of advice for companies who want to make their first webinar as stress-free as possible - detailed planning, reliable webinar tools and pre-recording were some of the main recommendations.

Hopefully, his tips will come in handy as your company continues to adapt to your customers' changing expectations and preferences. You can listen to this episode on the podcast platform of your choice using the links below, or watch the video episode either here or on our YouTube channel. The full episode transcription is also available at the bottom if you're in a rush. Enjoy!

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AE: [00:00:00] So, Doug, how is the weather?

DB: [00:00:03] You're trying to make me jealous now? Yeah, no, it's as you would expect in Gothenburg in autumn, it rained all day yesterday and it was raining sideways for a bit and blowing a gale. But let's not talk about the weather in Spain. Let's just move on.

AE: [00:00:19] It's pretty good. But how are you, first of all?

DB: [00:00:25] Yeah, I'm good, it's a busy time at Zooma at the moment, I would say, which is always good. It feels like everyone's got full up, high energy.

AE: [00:00:36] So today I was thinking that we could talk a bit about the webinars and you have actually arranged a couple of webinars during this year for Zooma. How many are they?

DB: [00:00:50] Three or four, I would say. And I think really webinars, I suppose you could say, are still fairly new for Zooma. I think the first ones we did, I might be wrong here, but at least for customers were at the end of 2020, and that was not a typical webinar like a presentation, but training sessions. We did a three-part training session for our customers in email marketing, if I remember right. And then we did a similar training series of webinars at the start of 2021, which were about ABM, account-based marketing, speaking about the concept and the method, and also a bit about HubSpot and what kind of tools you can use to do ABM with HubSpot. And then we moved away from the training setup and had a webinar with Martin Ray, our colleague, which was a Digital Outlook webinar. So Martin is, you know, very knowledgeable and a good analyst and knows a lot about trends and where things are going when it comes to online digital. So that was kind of a 20-minute presentation about what's going on online, basically, and how companies need to change to adapt to it. So yeah, what was that three, three or four? And then also we have another one coming soon, which again isn't so much a training, but we're basically going to show how we work with sales and CRM because, over the last few years, there's been a bit of a journey at Zooma, where we've changed how we work with CRM and how we approach sales and stuff like that, which we think works quite well. So the idea of this webinar is to basically show what we do and encourage the people standing to do the same thing basically.

AE: [00:02:39] And what is your role in these webinars? What have you done?

DB: [00:02:45] My role for the people watching, I've been the kind of glamorous host, you know, like at the beginning, you come in and you wait in the webinar and there's someone there saying, "Hi, welcome," and giving an introduction and explaining what the setup is, what the schedule is and things like that. So that's what I've done live during the webinars, and then again at the end been a bit of a moderator because we usually have a Q&A session where people send in their questions and then we answer them with whoever's presenting. So that's kind of the role I have during the actual webinar. But then before that, I've worked a lot with actually setting the whole thing up. So, you know, creating the webinar, choosing a webinar platform, first of all, and, you know, doing all the technical setup and then making the invitations and, you know, figuring out how the registration should work and that kind of thing, which is quite a lot of work.

AE: [00:03:43] Yeah. Could we go through like a timeline from the first idea of the webinar until it's finished? What what are the different steps there?

DB: [00:03:54] It does take quite a lot of preparation, which isn't surprising, I suppose. But because really, once you've sent out the invitation to everyone, then the pressure's on, you know, you can't send out an invitation to a bunch of customers or something and then send another email a week later saying, "Oh, sorry, no, we haven't really had time to sort this out. So it's cancelled." So, we haven't made quite that big of a mistake, you know, but I think we've learned over time just the importance of preparation. So, yeah, anyway, you know, the first thing is to kind of decide that you want to have a webinar. And then what we've done, certainly for the most recent one, is focused on getting all the content or at least ninety-five percent of the content, so the actual presentation, the thing you're going to show during this webinar. Getting all that ready or very close to ready first, before you send out the invitations and start promoting it and get people to sign up, because that just makes your life a lot easier. You know, we generally send out the invitations two or three weeks before the actual date, and it can happen that stuff comes up. You know, you send out the invitation and in those two weeks you think "Great, I've got two weeks to do the presentation for this webinar," but then something happens. You have to change your priorities. And you know, there's always a mad rush in the last few days to get everything ready. And that's not what you want because you want the content to be good. So, yeah, we finalize all the content first, and then send out the invitations. Generally, what we've done in the past for our webinars is to have two different sessions on the same presentation, the same topic, but one of them is for customers and the other is for everyone else. The content is generally the same, but when it's for customers, perhaps in the q&a session, then we can focus on different areas because we know what their priorities are and what they're focusing on. So you send out the invitations, then the actual webinar happens.

AE: [00:05:53] And is that live, the webinar, or?

DB: [00:05:56] Yeah, that's a good question. Because I mean, generally, when you join webinars, they are live. But more recently, in the past couple of webinars we've done, we've actually pre-recorded the presentation bit. So it's kind of a hybrid webinar, I suppose. So there are elements that are live, the introduction that I mentioned is live, it's me, you know, welcoming everyone. The Q&A has to be live, obviously, because people write their questions right then during the webinar, and we need to be able to respond. But the main parts of the actual presentation or whatever the main part of the webinar is, we've recorded that in advance and we've just switched between the live bit, started playing this pre-recorded video, and then switched back to live again at the end.

AE: [00:06:41] Exactly, like Kalle Anka on Christmas. You're the Christmas host, welcoming everyone, and you put it on. But we don't do the same video every time.

DB: [00:06:52] No, it's not the same one every year. Although I am sat on a rocking chair in front of a fireplace, welcoming everyone, I light a candle and then we start the presentation.

AE: [00:07:02] Yeah, yeah. But I noticed we started to elaborate a bit with that pre-recording, what are your thoughts so far with it? Is it better, or?

DB: [00:07:15] You can't really argue with the fact that it's better for the people hosting the webinar. Because you know, when you record the main part, say, like a week in advance, you have time to edit it a little bit. If you're recording it and someone says something wrong and they want to just start that sentence over, then you can cut that out. Although, you know, it doesn't need to be totally without any mistakes. But that's reassuring, that you have the opportunity to kind of check and edit and make small changes and make it look nice. And another very important thing is when you record it, you know how much time it's going to take. You know, if you have the presentation video and it's 20 minutes long, you know that you're not going to go over time. You're just playing a video, which is very good because it's stressful if you have a webinar on the schedule from three to half-past three and it gets to twenty-eight minutes past three and you're not even three-quarters of the way through the presentation, you know it's not good for you, and it's not good for the people watching, either. So certainly from our internal perspective and what is comfortable and less stressful for us, it's much, much better to prerecord. But the thing is, you know, I was concerned the first time we did it about how were people going to react to this, you know, because you expect a webinar to be live.

AE: [00:08:34] But do you notice as a viewer that it's pre-recorded?

DB: [00:08:38] Yeah, you do. You do. And I think that is kind of important to mention as the host of the webinar, to mention that this presentation is pre-recorded, it's, you know, it's not live, but we're going to come back live at the end, because that was my worry the first time, that people were going to feel cheated or tricked or something, you know, because you expect a webinar to be live and no matter how smoothly you do it, I think people will notice the difference between the live part and when the video starts, you know, so I think it's best just to be transparent and what we've said the first time is, you know, we're just experimenting. We're trying this out, we've pre-recorded the presentation. We've done it since then, both in the sessions where our customers have been joining and on the other sessions where we've had, you know, people who know Zooma or maybe even people who, you know, just saw the promotion for the webinar on social media or something have joined. We've got good feedback. You know, we haven't had any comment saying, "this was rubbish, it was pre-recorded," you know, but I mean, if you do pre-record it, there needs to be something extra, because if you're just showing a video and nothing else, then why have you made people register and set aside half an hour of their time? You know, you could have just sent a link to a video or something. So it's good to also have the kind of live, more interactive element. So maybe like a poll or something, even then you can question, you know, how valuable they are if it was just the video, but really the Q&A at the end where people have the chance to get answers to the questions that have come up during the presentation is essential really, if you're going to pre-record it. So yeah, I went away on a big tangent there. But yeah, pre-recording is better for us as the hosts and the people who were actually creating this webinar. And certainly in our experience, and I mean my personal experience when I've joined webinars that have had pre-recorded elements, it's good for the viewers as well, for the participants.

AE: [00:10:34] Yeah. So that's the webinar step, and what's happening after?

DB: [00:10:44] We always send out the recording and the presentation afterwards, which is a fairly standard thing. You know, anyone who's joined a webinar, usually you get an email afterwards where you can access the recording or the presentation or some materials. We also always make that clear even before people register, you know, we say, even if you don't have time to join on the scheduled date show, you'll miss out on the Q&A or whatever, but you'll still get something, which is good, you know, because then you don't need to wait for people to have half an hour free on a particular day to actually, you know, get in contact with you and listen to what you have to say. So we do that. And then also for our own benefit, we send out a feedback survey afterwards, just a short NPS asking for some comments and feedback, which is also very useful because, you know, then you can improve for the next time. And it's kind of hard with anything that you produce, you know, to see yourself what could be improved. But it's especially the case with webinars, just because that kind of scheduling period is so long, you know, maybe by the time the webinar actually comes around, you've been working on the presentation for like a month and you know, you've been stressing over all the registrations and the automation to sort out the technical aspect of people signing up and the emails and things. So when it's over, you're not really in a position to assess how good it was. So yeah, that's what we do.

AE: [00:12:09] So the listeners who are about to have a webinar or are thinking about having a webinar, what challenges will they face during their planning? And during the webinar?

DB: [00:12:23] I think one of the challenges they'll face is choosing how to do it, what platform to do it on.

AE: [00:12:30] Have you tried different platforms?

DB: [00:12:31] Yeah, I've tried a few. I know certainly since, you know, since corona arrived, there's probably been an increase in the number of webinars that are broadcasted every day. And I know of a few companies or organizations that have tried to do a kind of webinar in like Teams or something, and just turn a regular group call into a webinar, but I would recommend actually choosing a proper webinar tool.

AE: [00:12:57] What tool have you used?

DB: [00:12:59] Yeah, well, we've used Zoom, which is good because we use Zoom every day at work, so, you know, I'm very familiar with Zoom. It works very well. We've also used a tool called WebinarGeek, which is also quite good. And then also I've been testing another tool, which is called TwentyThree, which is also quite good. But really, the important thing, if you're going to pre-record, is to choose a platform that allows you to do that, obviously in a good way. That was partly why we chose WebinarGeek for the first time, because they have a nice tool that allows you to switch between video and live. It's the same with TwentyThree. You can also share a video on Zoom, but when the video's up, the video's playing for the participants, the cameras are still on up at the top, the cameras of the people presenting. So it's a kind of slightly weird experience for the viewer because they're watching a video of the presentation where, like Anders or someone is presenting something, and then they can also see Anders just like staring into his camera up at the top. It's a small thing, but I think it's a bit odd. Yeah, but that's the thing. Like with all of these platforms, some of them have strengths, and some of them have weaknesses and features that you would like to have that are missing. So it's, even before you start with the content it's probably a good idea to just test a few of them out and see which one you like the best. Yeah, so that's one challenge. The second challenge is who's going to be presenting, which sounds a bit odd, but you know, for a lot of companies, and again, with corona and things, you know, webinars are a completely new thing for them. I associate webinars with kind of more modern or, you know, there's always been a lot of agencies and marketing companies that have done webinars. But when it comes to, you know, large traditional B2B companies, a lot of them have been a bit slower to adopt webinars. So, you know, it's not necessarily sure that you'll have someone in your team and your company that's really comfortable in front of the camera. And you know, "yeah, I would really love to be a presenter for this webinar." That's maybe even quite rare, you know. So yeah, that's the tricky thing, and that's also why I would probably encourage people to, at least if they're having their first webinar ever or if this is a new thing for them, to pre-record the presentation. Because then even if you have a presenter who's very knowledgeable about the topic, but maybe isn't super comfortable, you know, doing a live webinar to a large group of people, then it's a bit less nervous and you'll probably get a better presentation if they can just record it ahead of time in their own time without an audience, you know? So, yeah, those are probably the two biggest challenges, finding a platform and you know, the strange task of making a presentation just to a camera when you can't actually see your audience. The other things kind of sort themselves, you know, you need to do some technical things like, certainly in our case, we use HubSpot as our platform for everything related to online. So what we would like always like to do, if we can, is allow people to register for the webinar on our site with one of our own HubSpot forms that we've made, and then get their registration over to the webinar platform that we're using. So there needs to be an integration there, but those kinds of things, you know, you can figure it out. That's the easy part compared to everything else, really.

AE: [00:16:14] Well, great. Thank you very much for sharing your reflections and learnings so far.

DB: [00:16:19] No worries. Thank you.

AE: [00:16:20] Anything else you would like to mention about webinars before we end?

DB: [00:16:24] No, nothing else to add, apart from good luck with your webinars.

AE: [00:16:28] Great, thank you very much, Doug.

DB: [00:16:30] Thank you.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys even more is creating knowledge content.
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