50 Things to Do to Produce a Great Webinar
Planning and producing a great webinar requires effective project management and time management. Once you’ve committed to broadcasting to a live audience on a particular date and time, you can’t let any of your milestones slip, or you’ll find yourself unprepared when the time comes to click the “Start” button.
Here are the things you need to do, in the order you need to do them.
One month ahead of broadcast
1. Choose a date and time. In general, B2B webinars should be held on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. If you’re expecting a coast-to-coast audience, schedule for sometime between 12:00 Noon and 4:00 PM Eastern Time, which will allow your west coast attendees to view between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM Pacific Time. Alternately, you could choose to broadcast two or three separate live webcasts and schedule any time of day within local times (lunchtime and early afternoon are best), or you could schedule for a live broadcast at a convenient time in one time zone and promote a recorded version to the other time zones.
2. Choose a topic and a title. You’ll be promoting the webcast just one week after this, so you’ll need to have a final topic and title at this time.
3. Choose your speakers. The best combination of speakers for maximizing registrations is one person from your company, one customer, and one third-party expert. We strongly recommend that you do not use anyone from your sales organization. (There are two reasons for this:  Sales people can’t resist selling and B2B lead generation webinars should never sound like sales pitches, and  effective selling is all about the productive use of time, and the hours spent participating in a webinar are hours that are not spent selling.)
a. Company speaker: Choose someone who can speak in detail about your industry, the reasons for choosing products or services like yours, and, if you’re in a technology industry, how specific technologies support the benefits your listeners might derive. The usual source within an organization for in-house speakers is the product management or product marketing organization.
b. Customer speaker: The people that you want to sell to do not want to be sold to. They do want to hear how other people with the same problems or challenges solved them. Having one or more of your customers speak on your webinar in a “birds of a feather” forum will attract the most registrants and will give them what they’re looking for from the webinar.
c. Third-party expert speaker: If you are a subscriber to one or more industry analysts, we recommend that you look into having a “name brand” analyst or consultant be one of your speakers. Having a speaker from a big name firm such as Gartner, IDC, or Yankee Group will significantly increase interest in registering and attending from among your targets. The downside is that industry analysts charge a fee — typically thousands of dollars — for their time.
Make sure to choose speakers who have some life and personality in them. Spending 45 to 60 minutes listening to a dreary, monotonous speaker is not something that you want your prospective customers to need to do.
4. Choose your host (or “master of ceremonies”). Webinars sound much more professional when someone other than the speakers acts as the host. The host will greet the attendees, do the quick introductions and thank-yous, and act as the seamless transition voice between speakers.
5. Create an outline for what is to be presented.
6. Write an abstract to describe what will be presented.
7. Get headshots and bios of your speakers to use in the email invitations and the landing page. Keep bios very short.
Three weeks ahead of broadcast
The steps to take at this point will require the use of marketing automation and mass email software. If you’re not using marketing automation and you do not have a mass email platform, it is still possible to create email invitations, mailing lists, and registration forms. But it is cumbersome. For the sake of this guide, we will assume that you are using marketing automation, mass email and CRM systems.
8. Create your invitations — email, social, advertisements. You’ll need to create emails in both HTML and plain text versions.
9. Create landing page with registration form.
10. Create your emailing list.
11. Set up auto-emails to be sent on the following schedule:
- First invitation emails – 3 weeks ahead
- Second wave of invitations — 1 week ahead
- Registration confirmations with login instructions — in real time as people register.
- Reminders to registrants — 1 day ahead
- Third wave of invites — 1 day ahead
- Final reminders to registrants — 2 to 4 hours ahead of broadcast
12, Send first wave of invitation emails.
13. Begin to create the presentation slide deck (and any audio or video you may wish to use).
Two weeks ahead of broadcast
14. Complete a near-final draft of the presentation slides (and audio/video if you plan to use them).
15. Complete a written script or speakers’ notes.
16. Create a set of staged questions to be used in the Q&A session
(if you’re planning on doing live Q&A)
17. Send the presentation and speakers’ notes to the speakers for review.
One week ahead of broadcast
18. Send logistics and housekeeping to all speakers and participants.
- Dial-in and connection information
- Instructions to use only a land-line telephone (No mobile phones, no computer headphone/microphones). A high-quality speakerphone connected to a land-line is acceptable
- Conference room (or other room) from which the broadcast will be done. It’s best to have all speakers in a single room. If they cannot be, then remind all speakers to be in a quiet area for the broadcast
- Instruct all participants to join the conference at least 10 minutes ahead of broadcast.
19. Send second wave of invitations. (This should happen automatically if you’re using marketing automation software and set up your auto-send as noted in #11 above.)
20. Complete the final version of the presentation (slides, video, audio) and email it in both Microsoft PowerPoint® and PDF formats to speakers and organizers.
One Day Before Broadcast
21. Do a full scale dress rehearsal. It’s preferable to have everyone participate fully in the dress rehearsal from the exact facilities and telephones/computers from which they’ll be doing the live broadcast. The best time to do this is exactly 24 hours ahead of live broadcast in order to identify any time-of-day issues with noise, Internet connectivity, network latency, etc. Set up at least 2 computers with full speaker/moderator/organizer rights. Computers still break or hang.
22. Record the dress rehearsal. (If you want to use a recording of the live broadcast for archiving, you can edit parts of the dress rehearsal into the final cut of the broadcast if any mistakes are made.)
23. Send the third wave of invitations (This should happen automatically if you’re using marketing automation software and set up your auto-send as noted in #11 above.)
24. Send reminders to all registrants (This should happen automatically if you’re using marketing automation software and set up your auto-send as noted in #11 above.)
Day of Broadcast
25. Set up and test all computers, telephones, and other required equipment.
26. Send reminders to all registrants (This should happen automatically if you’re using marketing automation software and set up your auto-send as noted in #11 above.)
27. Log in to the webcast at least 30 minutes before broadcast time.
28. Load your presentation materials into the webcast system and run through all slides. Test any video or other embedded media. If you’re using a camera to show live shots of the speakers, test the camera.
29. Conduct a sound check for all speakers.
30. Have a scribe who can either write down questions as they come in online or through #socialmedia. Better yet, have a printer in the room for the scribe to print questions and comments to hand to the speakers.
31. At approximately 10 to 15 minutes before broadcast, put the broadcast into “Waiting Room” mode. Webcast systems allow you to customize what is shown to attendees before you go to the live presentation.
32. Almost every webinar has a few attendees who log in a few minutes early. At the -5:00 mark, the organizer or host should announce “For those of you who have already joined us for today’s webinar, we will begin the broadcast at two o’clock. Thank you for your patience.” Then mute all microphones (This should be done in the webcast system console by the organizer).
33. If you are recording the webinar (and you should be), click the “RECORD” button at the -5:00 mark. You’ll be able to edit out the five minutes of silence later. This ensures that the additional load on the computer created by recording doesn’t hang or slow down the primary computer used for broadcast. Best to use the secondary computer logged in as “organizer” to do the recording.
34. At each minute (-4:00, -3:00, -2:00, and -1:00), the host should again announce “For those of you who have already joined us for today’s webinar, we will begin the broadcast at two o’clock. Thank you for your patience.”
35. At precisely the broadcast time, click the button to start the broadcast. The host or organizer should announce “Welcome to today’s webinar…” along with the title.
36. Spend a minute or two to tell the attendees what to expect
- Today’s webinar is scheduled to be xx minutes long
- There will (or will not) be a live question and answer session at the conclusion.
- (If there is to be a Q&A) Please submit your questions to our speakers at any time through the “Question” or “Comment” box on your screen.
- All attendee lines have been muted
- There will (or will not) be a PDF version of today’s presentation mailed to all attendees.
- There will (or will not) be a recording of today’s webinar available.
37. The host should introduce all of the speakers and provide a one-sentence bio for each.
38. Hand it off to the first speaker. You are on the air!
39. Don’t sell. Inform. Educate. Interact if possible and practical. But don’t allow any sales pitches unless you have explicitly promoted your webcast as a sales promotion.
40. Try to complete the webinar in less time than what you’ve scheduled. Attendees appreciate a well-managed production and are happy to get those 10 minutes back.
41. If you’re doing a Q&A, have the host, organizer, or one of the speakers read each question that has come in. If no questions have been submitted, then use your pre-staged questions.
42. Shut down your webcast, save your recording, and thank everyone for their participation.
43. Post the recorded version to whatever video pages you use. If you don’t mind having it open to the general public, post it to YouTube. If you prefer to gate the access to it in order to collect registrations, you can archive it with your webcast hosting provider, usually for up to 12 months, and set up a registration page. You can also embed it on your own website.
44. Send emails to all attendees, thanking them for their interest, and include the PDF of the slides along with the URL for where the recording of the webcast will be. Use this email for a quick sales pitch and call-to-action. If you have other recorded webcasts and other assets (white papers, a blog) available on your website, put the URL for those into this email. Finish with something that says “If your interest in today’s topic is due to a current need for [product, service, help], we can help. Contact us at (xxx) nnn-nnnn or www.website.com” (These emails should have been set up for auto-delivery early in the planning process if you are using marketing automation.)
45. Send emails to any attendee who asked a question that did not get answered during the broadcast. (Leading webcast systems log questions and match them to the registrant who posts them.) Offer to have a one-on-one phone call to answer the question. Remember: anyone who attends your entire webinar and actively asks questions is most likely more interested in your subject matter and well down the path of research and evaluation. You can turn a “Sorry we didn’t answer your question,” email into a sales phone call.
46. Send emails to all registrants who did not attend. (These are also set up for auto-delivery early in the process if you’re using marketing automation.) Provide them with the URL for the recording, and invite them to check out your other webcasts and white papers.
47. Send a final invitation to the original complete list to invite them to view the recorded version of the webinar at their convenience. Make sure to point out that the recording allows viewers to use pause, rewind, and fast forward controls.
48. Post the slides to Slideshare.
49. Promote the recorded version through social media.