As the climate has shifted from in-person gatherings to digital conferencing, video chat has become the ubiquitous solution for nearly every aspect of corporate communication. For a small internal meeting, Zoom calls and Google Hangouts offer an easy, no-frills solution to the problems faced during this time.
But what about when you’re hosting webinars?
No longer requiring a physical space to operate, one might be inclined to think that webinars are affordable and easier to manage. Cyberspace has to be a lot easier than hosting a conference with over 100+ people, right? Think again– webinars pose challenges that are uniquely their own.
We’ve compiled nine helpful tips for hosting webinars with virtual event production services!
#1 Understand The Complexity of Webinars
Even if you’re not the most technologically adept person, odds are that you have been deeply ingrained in a smartphone. Although physical infrastructure is no longer part of the equation, digital infrastructure is.
Just like you’d carry out a walkthrough of the space prior to an event—and perhaps schedule a rehearsal—webinars need the same preemptive measures. For instance:
- Technology – Testing WiFi connection, finding a suitable content delivery platform, and ensuring you have right equipment is paramount. What type of webinar are you trying to host? Is the software you’re using capable of supporting your needs?
- Operations – Securing a team that will manage security measures, technical support, and attendee flow during breakouts is crucial. Keep in mind a complex webinar will need more technicians than an in-person event would. Who will be leading the upcoming webinar? Who will manage the speaker content and panelists feeds? Will the attendees be able to participate and, if so, who is managing that?
Like any successful corporate event, plans must be put into place in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Technology (especially if you’re not used to it) can be fickle. You don’t want your own webinar crashing in front of a ton of viewers!
#2 Educate Yourself on Video Conferencing
In order to identify the right software, you’re going to have to understand the ins and outs of each specific webinar platform. Start with your overall webinar goals, and then use those as a focal point as you begin looking into your hosting software. If the software doesn’t offer the functionality you need, it’s not a viable option.
Consider the most popular video conference softwares (including but not limited to):
From here, consider what types of devices your attendees are going to be signing in on. Based on the software, how easy will it be for them to log onto your webinar? Will they need to download an app? Is it as easy as clicking on a link?
It’s paramount that you consider two factors:
- Can your video conferencing software support your webinar needs?
- And how difficult will it be for an attendee to use it?
#3 Test Your WiFi Connection
As millions of people have shifted to WFH (work from home) setups, our internet connection can now dictate our workflow, productivity, and livelihood. This applies to both the webinar host and attendees. If you’re going to host webinars, then your internet connection needs to be sound.
This could be as simple as hardwiring your computer to ensure lossless connection and setting up a WAP to boost your wireless network. Additionally, it can also mean relocating your setup within your house to where the signal is strongest. Remember, if you’re the host and your internet drops, then the show is over.
In the world of webinars, nothing is more disruptive than a faulty internet connection. And remember, even if you have to switch spots to a less flattering backdrop, plenty of these webinar software applications offer alternative backgrounds.
#4 Selecting The Right Video Conference Platform
Now that you’ve done your research in Step #2, you’re keenly aware that there’s no shortage of web conferencing applications available. While Zoom has become part of our lexicon and is synonymous with video chatting, it’s not the only solution available to you.
Webinar specialists may use their own preferred tools. When choosing a platform, consider these basic features first and foremost:
- Accessibility – Unless you’re hosting a webinar for webinar experts, finding a solution that is easy to access and use is a priority. This all depends on your target audience.
- Document and Screen Sharing – Powerpoint presentations are extolled by many public speakers as a useful organizational device. Webinars offer even more to participants. Tools that provide document and screen sharing on the fly give viewers the information they need, when they need it. This means they can follow along in real-time.
- Audience Participation – Depending on the size of a webinar, audience participation may be beneficial to a topic. Tools that let participants enter an answer, or submit questions to a Q&A later in the conference help keep up attendee engagement.
- Breakout Rooms – A great webinar doesn’t need to be limited to a single speaker, and can involve multiple sessions occurring at the same time. Platforms that incorporate breakout rooms will allow participants to choose the speakers they want to hear.
#5 Set Up Your Video Conferencing Space
Today, having a dedicated space for video conferencing is critical for all forms of business, but particularly webinars.
Did you know that around 25% of webinar attendees access the live event through their mobile device?
No matter your viewing device, find a space that offers ample lighting, but not enough that it saturates your face in the camera. Dress professionally and find a suitable backdrop. If you’re the host, it’s important to present yourself as such!
#6 Tools Available As A Host
As a host of a webinar, you have controls over other users that are not normally applicable to casual conversation. Using these to your advantage is essential for a successful web conference.
Note: Aside from the speakers, a webinar should include at least one dedicated staff member or hired production engineer whose sole purpose is moving attendees to the correct breakout rooms and live technical support. This will ensure smooth flow and minimize disruption.
Some of the tools available to hosts (depending on the webinar software) include:
- Mute All – Loud audience members or broken microphones can quickly become a major distraction. As a host, you can “Mute All” so only the person that needs to be speaking is heard. This also allows you to toggle “Unmute” should you want to accept questions.
- Waiting Rooms – As host, you’re the conference’s bouncer. You may have heard about the recent zoom-bombing phenomenon in which unwanted guests will spam video calls with their own pirated material. Even those with less malicious intent (not paying entry admission, for example) are popping up. Hosts can control who has access to a seminar.
- Breakout Rooms – Another essential feature included with some webinar services are breakout rooms, where smaller groups can gather to hear the words of a particular lecturer. Hosts can control who gets sent to which room.
#7 Outlining and Practicing Your Conference
Speaking on a video call is different than standing in front of a live audience. Some who fear public speaking find talking through cyberspace a joy, while gifted orators might struggle to connect with their online audience.
Before you organize an online event, consider:
- Outlining the webinar is similar to that of a regular conference and should include time for breaks and mingling. You want to find ways for participants to connect!
- Using headsets for speaking will make the audio clearer and more understandable.
- Practicing talking on a camera and asking coworkers to provide feedback on a test run before the day of the webinar will make you feel comfortable and confident.
- Using the first ten minutes to address basic housekeeping—who to connect with when issues arise, how to retrieve documents, and other aspects for those new to webinars.
#8 Finding New Ways To Engage With Your Audience
One of the most common criticisms of webinars comes from the argument that the event can just be recorded and viewed at any time, rather than being set for a particular date.
“If I can just watch a video of the whole thing on YouTube, why am I even attending?”
The fact that webinars can be recorded and reviewed by viewers can certainly be seen as a strength of the platform, but necessitates the need for audience participation. After all, aren’t networking and feedback two of the biggest draws to conferences in the first place?
In which case, implement tools in your video conferencing platform that encourage discussion. Provide value for them to actually attend it, rather than view it later. This can be anything from a select few that are chosen to ask questions, to offering a limited reward for those that come.
Note: You can always record the entire webinar and use it for lead generation or a subscription afterward.
#9 Document and Review the Webinar – Ask For Feedback!
After your webinar is over, granting access to the recordings can be of great value to attendees who may have missed something due to a quick break or technical issues. It can also benefit you as the host.
We recommend that you write a quick breakdown on the specific topics addressed, as well as what to expect during the viewing. For those that participated, you might want to follow up with questions like:
- Was the webinar useful?
- Did you think the pacing and information was relevant?
- What could we have done differently that you would’ve preferred?
- What parts did you find most helpful?
By asking these questions and then reviewing the answers, you can optimize and improve your next webinar.
Vario – Your Event Experts
Whether it comes to in-person events or digital alternatives, Vario is your expert production and event management team. We excel at meeting the problems that arise with digital technologies and have solutions that will make your webinar one to remember.
As you try to adopt and integrate this new medium of communication (particularly on the event front), organizing your own webinar can be difficult and time-consuming. With us on your side, we can help you get up running and ensure the virtual event goes as smoothly as possible. Contact us today to get started!
- Search Engine Journal. The Ultimate Guide to Webinars: 37 Tips for Successful Webinars. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/webinar-planning-best-practices-guide/231301/#close
- Forbes. Beware Zoom Users: Here’s How People Can ‘Zoom-Bomb’ Your Chat. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateoflahertyuk/2020/03/27/beware-zoom-users-heres-how-people-can-zoom-bomb-your-chat/#279c41a0618e
- Content Marketing Institute. The No-Fail Formula for Creating Awesome Webinar Content. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2020/04/create-webinar-content/
- Tech Republic. The best virtual backgrounds to use on Zoom for your next business meeting. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-best-virtual-backgrounds-to-use-on-zoom-for-your-next-business-meeting/
- Cisco. Set up a Wireless network using a Wireless Access Point (WAP)
- NY Times. So We’re Working From Home. Can The Internet Handle It? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/technology/coronavirus-working-from-home-internet.html