- Craft an agenda that respects the guests time.
- Elevate the experience through stunning design and branding.
- Live is better than pre-recorded.
- Invest in professional production.
- Incorporate live elements throughout the webinar above and beyond the traditional Q&A panel.
- Observe and adjust – even seemingly minor tweaks can have a significant impact on the guest experience.
- Plan and prepare leaving no stone unturned in the event preparation. Attend to every detail with precision.
RSM US LLP, a leading provider of audit, tax, and consulting services for the middle market, and ranked within the Fortune 500, boasts a significant footprint in the United States with a workforce of 12,000 across 86 cities. The firm’s RSM US Alliance program is a beacon of collaboration and strategic growth, encompassing 92 independent firms, all dedicated to fostering a community that champions strategic value and positions member firms as preferred advisors. This alliance empowers member firms with the resources of a national CPA firm while preserving their independent and entrepreneurial spirit.
Members benefit from a robust network, sharing expertise and resources in areas such as technical knowledge, marketing, business development, practice management, talent management, career development, and networking opportunities. RSM’s commitment to thought leadership is exemplified by its numerous webinars, aimed at both current and potential clients, with the goal of enhancing the guest experience and boosting attendance, engagement, and return on investment. To this end, RSM partnered with Communique Conferencing to revolutionize their webinar strategy.
Previously, RSM experienced a webinar attendance rate of 53%, slightly above the industry average of 46%. Despite this, there was a clear opportunity to improve. RSM also sought managed services to alleviate the logistical pressures of webinar setup and speaker onboarding, as well as to enhance the visibility of their sponsors beyond traditional logo placements in emails and presentation slides.
RSM and Communique Conferencing crafted a multifaceted strategy to transform their webinars into captivating virtual experiences.
1. Agenda Optimization
Recognizing the digital fatigue of lengthy online events, RSM crafted concise, value-packed agendas that respected attendees’ time and attention spans. Most organizers that host webinars or virtual events design an agenda that is way to long for a digital format with attendees joining remote from their home or office. RSM’s agenda is only an hour each day.
2. Elevate the Guest Experience
RSM’s webinars were re-imagined as immersive virtual events. They leveraged Communique’s virtual event platform to create a customized 3D environment reflective of RSM’s brand. This environment featured streamlined navigation, reducing complexity and attendee inquiries. Registration and login processes were clarified to minimize access issues, and sponsor visibility was significantly enhanced through strategic placement in the virtual lobby, theater, and a dedicated resource center.
Resource and Sponsor Room
3. Invest in Professional Production
RSM capitalized on professional-grade video production by partnering with Communique’s expert in-house camera crew, ensuring the delivery of broadcast-caliber video content. This savvy move not only afforded RSM top-notch production quality but also came at a cost that was a mere fraction of what larger production houses typically charge. Moreover, this collaboration offered RSM the convenience of a single point of accountability, streamlining the resolution process in the event of any complications.
This approach, complete with dynamic on-screen graphics and transitions, elevated the webinar experience to the level of a television broadcast, maintaining audience engagement through a more interactive and professional presentation.
RSM leveraged Communique’s webinar platform scenes feature to add transitions throughout the webinar vs. a static webinar console with a fixed appearance. Instead of the webinar console displaying all the engagement tools at once throughout the entire webinar, Communique’s platform allows organizers to push out different scenes. The beginning of the webinar included the video stream, slides, and speaker bios. But, when the speaker paused to take questions or a poll, the webinar console included only the presenter’s video and the poll. This focuses the guest’s attention and increases the audience engagement rate.
Branded Webinar Console
5. Interactive Engagement
The introduction of “chat storms” during sessions led to a tripling of engagement rates from prior webinars. This technique involved live, rapid-fire interaction in the chat window. At various times through the session, the speaker announces the chat storm. He or she would ask a question to have that participants answer in the chat window as fast as they can. With an eye on the answers coming in through the chat, the facilitator acknowledges responses and themes.
RSM achieved incredible audience engagement garnering 1,026 chat messages during the webinars.
6. Live is Better than Pre-Recorded
The landscape of webinar hosting is evolving, with a notable shift toward simulive (pre-recorded) presentations as opposed to traditional live broadcasts. This trend is largely driven by the desire to reduce the pressure typically associated with ‘live’ event days. While the simulive format does offer a more relaxed experience for the hosts, it’s important to note that simply having attendees watch a pre-recorded session with a subsequent Q&A period doesn’t quite match the dynamism and engagement of a live presenter.
For instance, RSM has innovatively incorporated live elements into their webinars to foster greater interaction. Each morning on days two and three, the speaker would actively engage the audience by recapping the previous day’s content and highlighting notable insights and trends. Additionally, the speaker would intermittently initiate “chat storms,” prompting a flurry of real-time interaction. These strategies have proven to be highly effective, significantly boosting RSM’s webinar engagement rate to an impressive 87%.
7. Observe, Solicit, & Adjust
RSM is committed to a diligent process of observation, solicitation, and adaptation. They place immense value on gathering and meticulously analyzing feedback post-event, utilizing insights from chat logs and survey responses. Their approach is one of careful refinement; they understand that even seemingly minor tweaks can have a significant impact. To illustrate, here are a few of the subtle yet effective modifications implemented in their latest webinar series:
- Refined Registration Terminology: The RSM and Communique team identified a point of confusion where attendees registered with their business email but attempted to log in with a personal one. By simply updating the language on the registration and login forms to specify “Business Email” instead of just “Email,” they successfully eliminated this issue.
- Streamlined User Interface: Feedback revealed that having two separate theaters—one for Keynotes and another for Breakouts—was causing attendee confusion. In response, RSM consolidated the experience into a single, unified theater for all daily sessions, thereby simplifying navigation and enhancing the user experience.
8. Planing and Preparation
Live events inherently come with a higher risk of technical mishaps compared to simulive ones. Aware of this, RSM and Communique leave no stone unturned in their event preparation, attending to every detail with precision. They conduct exhaustive tests on speaker connections, internet stability, microphones, cameras, and more, well in advance of the event day. Their objective is clear: to devise a plan so robust that only an act of god could disrupt the live proceedings.
This meticulous planning was put to the test on day two of their event when an unexpected power outage struck at the main speaker’s location. Thanks to their well-crafted contingency plan, the session resumed with minimal delay, so seamlessly that most attendees remained oblivious to the hiccup.
On each event day, the entire production team operates like a well-oiled machine, staying in sync through constant Slack communication. They convene for a roll-call an hour before showtime. This tight coordination ensures that any in-the-moment needs are met with immediate action and solutions.
9. Digital Resources & Takeaways
A downloadable “Digital Notebook” PDF was made available, providing attendees with a comprehensive guide to the event, including session details, speaker bios, and space for personal notes on each session, alongside sponsor advertisements.
Downloadable Digital Notebook
10. Cover the Housekeeping Items at the Start
Housekeeping includes all the necessary organizational and procedural aspects of your webinar. They help avoid an overwhelming number of queries during the Q&A segment. To save time and make it fun, RSM recorded an exciting video clip, with music, that played at the opening of each webinar after the host introduction.
The housekeeping items covered:
- Will the slides be available post-event?
- Will recording be provided after the live webinar?
- Highlight the location of Q&A, chat, and other features on the attendee console and how to use them.
Related Article: The Perfect Webinar Script Template
11. Make it Fun and Reward Participation
Communique’s gamification features enabled RSM to assign points for activity and engagement, track results, and display a live leaderboard each day. RSM awarded achievement points that could be used towards RSM gear (coffee mugs, shirts, back packs, and more).
The results did not happen overnight. But after running the elevated webinar experience enhancements for 12 months, RSM culminated in an impressive 94% attendance rate (1,002 unique attendees out of 1,222 registrations) for their October webinar series. This is well above their goal, especially when you consider that the industry average hovers around 46%.
In addition, the October webinar series garnered tremendous audience engagement:
- 1,026 chat messages
- 502 resource downloads
- 6,722 total content views, a testament to the engaging and accessible nature of the virtual experience.
Carla Begseth, Meeting Experience Manager at RSM, praised the event’s professional presentation and versatility, highlighting the platform’s ability to meet their needs while providing an exceptional experience. The success of the event underscored Communique’s invaluable partnership, with their expertise and support playing a pivotal role in achieving unprecedented attendance and engagement metrics. RSM and Communique didn’t just host webinars; they created an engaging experience that resonated with attendees on a level comparable to the most captivating streaming content.
“I was extremely pleased with the look and feel of the event. It had the level of professionalism and options that we were looking for. Anything that we needed Communique’s platform to do it could do, and it looked amazing at the same time,” stated Carla Begseth, Meeting Experience Manager at RSM. “We were also able to promote our sponsors in several different ways. The platform really enabled us to drive traffic and help our sponsors. We have never achieved such impressive attendance and engagement numbers with other vendors in the past. It is a testament to the unique value that Communique brings. We felt very valued as customers throughout the project. Their team’s expertise and unwavering support throughout the process significantly contributed to the success of these events. Together, we didn’t just host webinars; we crafted an experience that rivaled the allure of a binge-worthy Netflix series.”
Hosting webinars is akin to running a restaurant. Both endeavors are centered around crafting an exceptional guest experience. Similarly, both demand the perfect blend of an experienced and dedicated team, an inviting venue, a masterful recipe, and premium ingredients to create an offering that is not just remarkable, but also compelling enough to ensure your guests return, eager for the next serving.