Last summer, we blogged about the State of Webinars in 2017. Since then, webinar audiences have grown in size, and webinar organizers are now thinking bigger. Here are some updated information and tips for planning your next webinar.
Stats & Trends
According to ReadyTalk1, a leading provider of webinar services:
- About 50% of webinars are one hour in length, with 53 minutes being the average time.
- Today’s webinars use chat questions to engage audiences 54% of the time and polls 34%.
- On average, 42% of registered participants attend a webinar.
- 94% of webinar hosts make the event available on-demand after the live event.
In addition, a 2018 Webinar Benchmarks Report [PDF, 2.4 MB] found that:
- 53% of registrants sign up either a week before (30%) or the day of the event (23%).
- The middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) is the most effective time to send a promotional email. Mid-week is also the best time to schedule the actual webinar (Wednesday and Thursday are the most effective days).
- The most effective time to run a webinar is 2pm Eastern Time (11am Pacific), because it avoids the most conflicts for the most people. 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific) and 3pm eastern (noon Pacific) are the next best time slots.
- Q&A is the most popular form of audience engagement, appearing in 82% of all webinars. Resource lists and surveys are the second and third most effective, respectively, appearing in 67% and 32% of all webinars.
Tip #1: Ask your stakeholders/audience if they want to use webinars.
Webinars can be an excellent tool to reach your audience and share information. Many of our colleagues have planned, promoted and executed webinars with very few participants because they did not check to see if their audience wanted information in this way or had the technology or opportunity to participate in webinars.
Tip #2: Explore all options, and choose the best platform for your event and audience.
There are many software options and meeting platforms from which to choose, depending on your budget and your specific needs. Here are some examples of features provided by a few different platforms:
- Cisco Webex allows you to host a small group and distribute meeting links through your Microsoft Outlook interface.
- Adobe Connect provides simultaneous webinar “break-out sessions” (the virtual equivalent of workshops taking place at the same time in different conference rooms) for a larger event.
- Citrix GoToMeeting will let you integrate your own conference line for the audio portion of the meeting, allowing you to use your own phone number and passcode.
Tip #3: Plan for Smartphone Users.
If you are conducting a public webinar and your data show that a large percentage of your expected attendees are “smartphone dependent,” you should choose an option that enables users to attend and participate from their mobile devices, instead of a method that requires users to log in from a desktop. Keep in mind that plan prices vary, and such features may cost more and/or require additional support staff.
Tip #4: Too much content for one webinar? Produce a series.
If you learn that your entire desired audience will not be available to attend a whole three-hour webinar, consider breaking the content into a series of webinars that each focus on more specific topics. This also makes it easier for attendees to choose events based on relevance and interest. For example, at HIV.gov, we recently conducted a two-part webinar series. Similarly, government IT solutions provider Carahsoft recently hosted a three-part webinar series on enhancing public health services with social media.
“Less is more, keep it story-focused. Real life stories are always your best bet to wrap into the workflow or whatever you want to show or teach during a webinar” says Mark Rybchuk, Federal Account Executive at Hootsuite. “Webinars are still an excellent way to springboard from a broad topic that professionals may be familiar with and delve into particular cases where you can walk through a story or real life example,”
Tip #5: Engage (and Study) Your Audience!
Webinar organizers can create a very engaging audience experience. However, leaving your Q&A segment as the last item on the agenda means that many webinars end without enough time to engage the participants. Some ways to increase engagement:
- Schedule more than enough time for Q&A or perhaps have a short QA session midway through.
- Use polls to keep your audience focused on the topic and engaged throughout the webinar.
- Include live video of the speakers or integrated video clips, but make sure to test your video twice before running the webinar (a video that does not play properly during a webinar can cause many users to become disengaged and leave).
- Share your screen to show demos or walk viewers through an online process.
Tip #6: Plan Your Time.
Viewers’ time is valuable. Webinars that run too long often lose viewers. In addition, it is important to remember that most speakers tend to run on, so having fewer speakers can therefore be a benefit.
Tip #7: Evaluate Your Success.
Many webinar platforms also provide detailed reports that capture metrics like attendance, interest, number of links clicked, lists of questions submitted, etc. Review these metrics after the event to develop lessons learned. Whether or not your webinar was a success depends on your communication strategy and the goals for your event.
For free, personalized help with webinars, make a Virtual Office Hours appointment and talk to an HIV.gov digital expert about your organization.
For more tips and resources for using social media to achieve your organization’s mission, sign-up to have HIV.gov content delivered directly to your inbox. And be sure to visit our Learning Opportunities page to find out about upcoming webinars of interest for the HIV community.
1References to specific vendors are not intended to constitute an endorsement for those organizations.