How to Host a Successful Webinar
What makes a good webinar and why you should hold one

Business people around the world are looking for cost-effective and productive ways to interact with customers, prospects and staff. Webinars are a great way to reach that goal.

David Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer at WebEx Communications explains, “Our customers use webinars to roll out a new software product, or a new drug if they’re a pharmaceutical company or they might have a large gathering of sales people to be briefed by the marketing people on a new marketing program.”

Thompson says webinars are popular marketing tools, but they are also used for briefings, training and sales meetings.

Why Host a Webinar?
Presenting information or meeting online cuts expenses and makes meeting and collaborating easier for presenters and attendees.

Compared to the cost of traditional meetings, which can include travel, hotels, facility rentals and catering, webinars are low-cost events for the host and the attendees. Hosts pay for the webinar software and sometimes for a presenter, while in most cases attendees join in for free.
Webinars help marketers reach a large audience instantly, in an effective and low-cost manner.
Intuitive software allows presenters and attendees to interact and collaborate through live polls, question and answer periods, and document sharing, making it easy for attendees to participate in and learn from the event.
Webinars also allow geographically dispersed colleagues to collaborate and work as a team. For example, you can make announcements to all employees at the same time no matter where they are, instead of making the same announcement to four or five groups.

Choosing a Service Provider
Important qualities to look for when hiring a vendor or purchasing software to host your webinar:
Easy access for attendees – If people can’t attend your webinar because the login process is difficult, then you’re wasting time and money.
Polling capabilities – If you want feedback or to measure attendee interest, polling is an invaluable tool. Because they are interactive, polls can be an effective way to help attendees feel ‘plugged in’ to the meeting.
Audio and data sharing capabilities – Thompson stresses that spontaneity is a great way to keep people interested in your webinar. Select a service provider that allows you to grab relevant information that may not be part of your original presentation. For example, if an attendee has a question that relates to a Web site you know of – you want to be able to visit that site on the fly and show it to attendees.
Video – Look for this function in your webinar service provider if a live image of the presenter is necessary for your audience to understand the content.
Simple user interface – No matter how meaningful your message is or how many features the software offers, attendees won’t ‘get it’ without a simple interface. If it’s difficult to use the interactive features or access your presentation and supporting documents, attendees will simply log out.
Pricing – Pricing is available to suit just about everyone’s needs. So determine your budget, and then shop around. Well-known vendors such as WebEx and Centra offer a few payment options such as by-the-minute, hourly, quarterly, annual or one-time usage pricing. Prices vary widely ranging from US$.35 a minute to US$750 a month and up. Watch for free 30-minute trials too.

Before you make a decision, ask for a demonstration of all features. A vendor may offer a feature, but that doesn’t mean it works effectively. Watch out for choppy or slow video, poor audio and delays when sharing documents.

Your Role in the Webinar
Thompson stresses that presenters and organizers should treat webinars like any other seminar or event. “Think about this as a real event because it is. Prepare for it as if you were going to be standing in a room in front of your audience,” he explains. And most importantly, create content that will engage your audience, meet their expectations and clearly relate your key messages.

It’s also a good idea to create an agenda and have supporting materials that you can easily incorporate into your presentation and share with attendees if needed. Being ready to share a video, spreadsheet, or Web site will keep your webinar interactive and help you better answer questions.

And don’t forget to follow up with leads. Whether it’s with an e-mail, mail package or phone call, touch these leads again just as you would with any other marketing activity.

With so many companies offering webinar services, look around and find one with the features that are most relevant to your goals. Even if you choose a vendor who will plan and deliver your webinar from start to finish, remember a big part of the event’s success depends on your content, delivery and follow-up.

Webinars are causing a buzz in the business world. Why not host one and find out what all the excitement is about?

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