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In today’s dynamic age of communication, public health professionals are using different forms of technology to interact with stakeholders and target populations. Web conferences, such as webinars, are increasingly popular platforms to engage audiences. A webinar is a live meeting that uses web conferencing software to connect attendees.
Webinars by the Numbers: Stats & Trends
Organizations continue to use webinars as an important part of their outreach, communication, and marketing strategies. Below are some recent data on webinar usage in the U.S.:
- Over 60% of marketers are using webinars as part of their content marketing programs.(Content Marketing Institute)
- The average webinar has 28 participants, 2 presenters, and runs for 65 minutes. (ClickMeeting)
- Approximately 25% of registrants view the webinar replay, which includes people who attended and did not attend the live version.(on24 Benchmarking Survey)
- Twenty-three percent of people register more than two weeks prior to a webinar.(on24.com)
According to a ReadyTalk blog post by Christine Nguyen, research supports the following best practices:
- Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to host a webinar.
- The average webinar attendance rate is 40-50% of registrants.
- The average viewership per webcast is 53 minutes.
- Best practices suggest 3 weeks of promotion prior to the webinar.
- The average cost of conducting a webinar is between $100 and $3,000 depending on promotion and technology costs.
For more on webinars, this benchmarking report includes additional data and a glossary of commonly used webinar terms.
Best Practices & Tips from HIV.gov
At HIV.gov, we see webinars as useful tools for communication and collaboration. Below are some lessons we’ve learned from our experiences and from talking with experts in the field:
Benefits of Using Webinars
- Reach. A webinar enables you to host a much larger audience than you can with a single office conference room. A webinar might be ideal for reaching a few attendees or even hundreds.
- Interactivity. Many webinars offer features that increase participant engagement, including slide polling for surveying attendees and chat boxes for Q&A sessions.
- Multiple presenters. Depending on the software, webinars might offer webcam capability for the presenters as well as the audience members. There are a lot of software choices. GoToMeeting, for example, allows a maximum of six attendees to share their screens at a time. Webex is another platform that offers screen sharing. Facebook Live, on the other hand, is a free livestreaming feature that does not allow viewers to share their screens with presenters, but does allow users to post comments in real time. We recommended researching lots of different options to see which tool is best for you.
- Vary the format. When using a webcam, many webinars feature a presenter speaking directly to the camera. There are, however, many of formats to choose from. A recent article in Entrepreneur provided the following recommendation: “without buying any new technology or gear, you can increase the production value of your webinar just by planning it out. Consider changing the format to an interview between two people, creatively including slides and videos, incorporating polls or other forms of audience feedback, offering discounts during the broadcast or literally anything other than talking at a camera in monotone.”
- Low cost for participants. Because users can call or log in to a webinar from various geographical locations, there is no travel time or travel costs associated with attendance. Webinars are particularly beneficial for regional and national meetings that include participants in different time zones.
- Playback control. Users may be able to pause and resume a webinar, or jump forward, as they wish. Because health-related information can often be complex and clinical, this feature is crucial for webinar attendees who are new to the discussion topic or for those taking notes on an unfamiliar subject.
Tips for Planning and Executing Webinars Successfully
- Schedule run-through sessions in advance. You should practice using your technology well in advance of your webinar—especially since dashboard functionality for some websites may vary on different browsers and devices. Serial entrepreneur Nathan Resnick, CEO of Sourcify, recommends, “Be sure your webinar platform works before you're set to go live. Test everything like audio, video, and more.” At HIV.gov, we have witnessed hundreds of people waiting for a webinar that started 10–30 minutes late because someone did not practice using the technology.
- Don’t oversell your content. Resnick also advises against claiming to provide benefits that your webinar ultimately cannot deliver, such as promising expert proficiency instead of intermediate proficiency by the end of a training. “You'll create a bad reputation for yourself if you overpromise the value,” he says. Be clear about your webinar’s objectives and the potential advantages for the audience.
- Enlist help. “I usually have a ‘plant’ in the audience to text me if something is not going well,” says Tammy Goodhue, Director of Health Communication for the Office of HIV/AIDS at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “Sometimes the technology does not work perfectly, especially with muting/unmuting participants, transferring presenter rights, etc.,” she says. “When possible, have a second person monitor in-app chats/questions.”
- Select days and times carefully. As we noted in the data above, selecting the day and time wisely is an important factor in success. Choose a date and time for your webinar that does not conflict with popular events for your community partners, and if participants will be joining from all over the country, choose a time of day that works for both east and west coasts. (Check out the HIV.gov webinar page for a listing of upcoming HIV webinars.)
- Use a variety of channels to promote your webinar. Social media is a great promotion tool, as are app banners and printed flyers. Send email reminders to webinar registrants a week before the scheduled date to optimize attendance, and always include instructions for participants to contact technical support during the webinar, if necessary.
- Review your data post-event. To determine whether or not your event was a success, use data to see how well you met your goals (e.g., increase knowledge, launch a new service, encourage visits to a testing location or clinic). One key metric is the number of event attendees, but there are many others that provide valuable insights. Matt Ley, President of The Streaming Network, says there are numerous ways to tell if a viewer is engaged: “Did the viewer answer poll questions, click on links, open shared documents, or ask questions? There are a million ways to see if someone is paying attention and interested in your content.”
To hear more about webinars by experts in the HIV community, please read the “Want to Host a Webinar?” blog post. For large audiences (i.e., more than 1,000 participants), you may also want to consider a webcast, which uses streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers.
Visit the HIV.gov Learning Opportunities page for a list of upcoming webinars and conferences that are of interest to the HIV and hepatitis communities. You may also submit suggestions to include new events on this page by emailing contact@AIDS.gov with your event date, title, sponsor, registration link, and a short description. Please also view our criteria for inclusion [PDF, 47KB] if you are interested in submitting an event.