Q: I have listened to several webinars you have done with AT&T, Steve, and always find them interesting. It got me to thinking – how can I incorporate webinars into my business? Any tricks of the trade I should know of?
A: Thanks for the kind words, and like you, I very much enjoy listening to and watching online webinars. For the uninitiated, a webinar (or web-seminar) is an online interactive speech.
Generally, it works this way:
You learn of a webinar on some website and sign up to attend. On the date and time of the webinar, you surf over to the site and you will be instructed to click a link that will take you to the virtual “room” where the webinar takes place. You are also given a call-in telephone number. Enter the room and call the number. You will then be placed on a mass conference call where you listen to the lecture while following a PowerPoint online in the room.
Some webinars do not use PowerPoint, opting for a live video stream, while others have very little in the way of an online component, and as such may be better described as a tele-seminar. Either way, the typical webinar / teleseminar lasts about an hour or so. The ones I do generally consist of 45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes for online Q and A.
There are many reasons why you might want to add webinars to your business bag of tricks:
They are easy: Webinars are easy in two ways:
1. From a practical standpoint, offering a webinar requires only that you have a great subject, a PowerPoint presentation, and a host for the webinar. A simple Google search will yield a host of hosts who can help you put on and promote the event.
2. From the speaker’s perspective, presenting a webinar is fairly easy because 1) there is no travel involved, and 2) as you are speaking on a phone call only, you can have as many notes as you like in front of you.
They add value: Offering a webinar, either on your own site or someone else’s, creates value for the participant. I do webinars for many companies and often they offer the webinars as a free value-added bonus to their best small business customers. It is an affordable way to create goodwill and customer loyalty, add value, and to stay top-of-mind.
They can be a nice profit center: You can make money two ways with a webinar. First, you can charge people to attend. If your topic is compelling enough, that works. Second, because webinars can be recorded, by recording yours, you are creating a product that you can sell and sell for a long time.
For instance, over at my website we offer a webinar called Marketing on a Shoestring. Although I recorded that webinar a while ago, it remains relevant and popular. (See “webinars” on the blue tabs.)
They position you as the go-to expert: If you are the presenter of the webinar, you must be an expert, right? Another option is to bring in other experts onto your site and offer their expertise to your base.
For example, I have listened to many fantastic teleseminars over at SpeakerNet News – a resource for speakers, consultants, authors, etc. They have a cadre of great speakers. Similarly, artist Tara Reed brings in experts for her Teleseminar series, teaching other artists how to make money with their art via licensing, branding, etc..
You could do the same in your industry.
They capture email: Creating your own online list is important for marketing purposes. People who sign up for your webinar are opting-in, giving you their email address, and in the process, helping you grow your list.
They engage your audience: As I am wont to say, it is not enough these days to simply have a static website. People expect more. Webinars are a cool Web 2.0 tool that engage your audience and help you forge a closer connection to your customers.
If I were to give you any words of caution about putting on webinars, it would be these:
* Promote the heck out of it. Many more people will sign up for the webinar than will actually attend it, so promoting it will ensure that you get enough people to check in on the day of the event. Plug the webinar on your site, tweet it, and use plenty of follow up emails.
* Have a great subject: There is no shortage of competing ideas and options out there, especially online. So a great topic and name is a must.
* Over-prepare. Know your subject cold. Practice the PowerPoint, and then practice some more. Good luck!