Flipping The Webinar Script: Five Rules To Break In 2021 And Beyond

Flipping The Webinar Script: Five Rules To Break In 2021 And Beyond
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The global pandemic changed everything we understood and expected of how marketing should operate.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the impact on how we communicate when in-person is no longer an option. Sticking with the old rulebook could have you missing out on some novel opportunities to engage with your audiences.

Where we’re at vs. where we were one year ago

Much of 2020 was spent bridging the gap between the way things were and the way we needed them to be in order to stay connected with colleagues, customers and prospects while dispersed from the office.

But while we were forced almost overnight to deal with a new reality – both personally and professionally – we found ways to maintain genuine, human interaction in a digital world.

Digital transformations that, pre-pandemic, would have taken months or years were activated in weeks, sometimes days. Many businesses quickly launched digital technologies that helped to reduce face-to-face interactions, safeguarding customer and employee health and wellbeing.

Now, more than a year in, businesses have begun to recognise the opportunities that come with a work-from-anywhere approach and are pivoting to reap the benefits.

We’re seeing a shift toward primarily digital interactions and experiences, from the day-to-day team meeting all the way up to virtual conferences, sales kick-offs, executive summits and more. And, it’s not showing any sign of slowing. In fact, according to Gartner research, 80 per cent of B2B sales interactions will happen via digital channels by 2025.

Stop doing webinars the old way

It’s time to evolve your webinar marketing program. Let’s take a look at five generally accepted aspects of webinars and recommendations for how you can flip the script to build more authentic virtual experiences.

#1 rule to break: webinars should be delivered at the same date and time

Pre-pandemic, the best days for webinars were traditionally Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. But we saw a slight change in April 2020, with the tide shifting to Thursday and Friday, before shifting back to midweek.

Why this short-lived shift? Well, work habits changed.

Today, the majority of our communications are conducted over virtual channels. When interacting with a screen for most of the day, there simply isn’t the time to view a webinar during normal business hours.

There is value in planning around the needs of our audiences, keeping in mind that they have other pulls on their schedules and attention: the demands of family, friends, pets, children, volunteering, exercise, etc.

#2 rule to break: webinars are slide presentations

Repeat this one until it sticks: you don’t need a slide deck in order to run a successful webinar.

The presentation is not the webinar; it’s a tool. In fact, the most successful virtual events are those that create distinctive experiences where audiences can interact and gather knowledge, share learnings, ask questions and stay engaged – PowerPoint optional.

The world is a blank palette when it comes to your webinar marketing approach.

No slides, no problem! Reach out to a few subject matter experts and set up an organic, scriptless chat on a preferred topic. There doesn’t even have to be an agenda. Just keep the conversation rolling and make it engaging.

We’ve seen a number of examples of this over the last year, including but not limited to the following virtual experiences:

    • Cocktails hours
    • College campus tours
    • Awards shows
    • Branding events
    • And more!

Successful approaches to each of the above share a number of components, including self-selective, interactive areas where attendees can ask questions, watch an additional video or connect to other virtual content.

When it comes to an agenda for your virtual event, try mixing things up a bit. For instance, you don’t need to wait until the end of your webinar to hold a Q&A. Why not open with one?

#3 rule to break: webinars must be live events

On-demand events can still be interactive. Whether live, simu-live or on-demand, if you put the viewer in control of when they consume content, and provide the same interactive functionality as a live event, you will get them engaged.

With the right on-demand strategy, you can have your cake and eat it too. Host a live webcast, record it, and then convert to on-demand for live audiences to revisit, or for customers and prospects who were unable to attend to engage at their convenience. These on-demand assets can be great tools to repurpose and populate across your site.

#4 rule to break: webinars need to be a certain length of time

To be or not to be [snackable], that is the question.

This is a great one to A/B test the length of your virtual events, as there’s no perfect answer. Sure, attention spans are shrinking, but the right content can keep modern audiences hooked for as long as you need them. Explore which types of virtual content perform best in a longer format versus shorter, snackable bites.

It’s a myth that everything must be more easily digestible these days. Our data at ON24 showed that the average webinar in 2020 was actually 56 minutes in length. In fact, you may find even greater success in hosting events that last multiple hours, or in some cases happen over the course of several days.

#5 rule to break: webinars should be gated to capture leads

This might be the most contentious point we raise here, and one that many of you will have difficulty taking up, but here it goes. You don’t need to capture leads from a webinar for it to be a profitable venture.

In fact, you will probably reach a larger audience with your content if you remove the form (or at least slim it down considerably) from your landing pages.

Ask yourself:

    • Is the form keeping you from engaging with vital viewers?
    • Can you simplify or remove fields for repeat customers?
    • How will you engage with your audience post-event?

Why not gate new leads, then make your web marketing content no more than a button-click away for return customers? You don’t want to scare off regular visitors with a new form at every pass. What’s the point of developing a library of great content if no one ever gets through to see it?

Finding your webinar stride takes time, and experimentation!

The right webinar marketing strategy pushes past the boundaries of what we have come to expect and creates something that speaks to what we need.

Remember that it’s okay to break the rules. Rules are there sometimes specifically to be tested, to stretch our creative muscles and help us respond to change occurring around us.

So much of marketing can be dictated by rules, but they are merely guidelines to help us accomplish something, not the only way to go about it. Rules are not static – they evolve. And that evolution is driven by rule breakers just like you.

To learn more about how to level up your webinar game, REGISTER NOW for ON24’s upcoming virtual event on Friday 15 September at 2pm (AEST), where the company’s VP of marketing, Mark Bornstein, will share his secrets for finding great webinar talent, as well as best practices to make your existing presenters more engaging and your presentations more fun.

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