You may ask what exactly what is a Webinar? Webinars have rapidly gained popularity over the last few years. During the pandemic, webinars were widely used to remotely engage students, customers, employees, and other audiences.
Even as the pandemic restrictions have relaxed, businesses and organizations continue to use webinars as highly effective tool. In this article, we take a look at exactly what a webinar is, and what are the pros and cons of a webinar in today’s post-pandemic world. The article also covers various types of webinars.
How Does a Webinar Work?
During the pandemic, virtual events gained a lot of traction. So, what differentiates a webinar from other virtual events such as online keynote speeches and product launches?
Webinar platforms facilitate one-to-many virtual communication. It may be in the form of a presentation, seminar, lecture, training session, motivational counseling, workshop, or virtually any other format. The defining feature of a webinar is that it utilizes two-way communication between the presenter, lecturer, or trainer, and their audience.
Webinars can be used for a variety of purposes. Schools, colleges, and universities have successfully use them to educate students remotely. Corporate entities have utilized this particular type of virtual event to train and up-skill their employees without the need for in-person participation while businesses have garnered exceptional lead generation.
Similarly, public companies, notable speakers, and other educational institutes have seen tangible success.
What Are the Key Webinar Features?
A webinar draws its ability to engage an audience from its unique set of features.
The backbone of a webinar is smooth, two-way communication between the audience and the presenter. This is what makes webinars highly engaging and effective. The audience can connect with the presenter in real-time, ask questions, get explanations, and explore the topic at hand.
Such two-way communication creates an informal environment that is perfectly conducive to learning. This is one of the reasons why webinars are very successful for educational purposes.
Multiple Communication Options
Multiple communication options are typically integrated into a webinar to ensure smooth interaction between the audience and the presenter. Such options may include chat, Q&A, polls, and surveys.
Organizers typically use a variety of engagement tools to offer multiple types of communication support during the event. As a general rule-of-thumb, the more versatile and smooth are the communication options, the better will be the experience for your webinar audience.
Side-by-side with communication options, presentation tools are an important feature of a webinar. These are essentially the tools that presenters use to effectively convey their thoughts, ideas, and responses to the audience.
Presentation tools include slideshows, screen sharing, video clips, relevant documents, and more. Screen sharing is a powerful presentation technique used to share content with the audience in real-time. A presenter can use screen sharing for product demonstrations, app installations, or for a variety of other purposes.
Most webinars comprise evergreen content, such as a lecture by an industry expert. Such content can be reused again and again. A common way to reuse this content is to make it available as pre-recorded content after the webinar ends.
This ensures that the webinar audience can re-access the lecture whenever it wants. It also allows others who couldn’t attend the webinar in real-time to view it later at their leisure.
Interactive features such as surveys, polls, live chats, whiteboards, and chat rooms are often integrated into a webinar. This allows you to keep track of audience activity in real-time, maintain an optimum level of engagement, and get feedback from your participants. Polls and surveys, in particular, can provide incredibly valuable data for lead generation down the road.
A webinar is often compared to a seminar in terms of the benefits it offers. A seminar is a real, in-person event whereas a webinar is a virtual event. When compared to a seminar, a webinar offers a variety of benefits. These include:
- Lead Generation: One of the most convenient benefits of a webinar is how it allows you to obtain valuable leads. Given the targeted and exclusive nature of a webinar’s content, you are likely to attract only the relevant audience. When this audience signs up for the lecture or workshop you have organized, you obtain useful data which can later turn into a lead for your products or services.
- Educating an Audience: As noted above, the unique format of a webinar makes it an incredibly effective tool to educate an audience. The presenter can be a teacher, an industry expert, or an authority on the subject matter at hand. Interactive tools and two-way communication allow the presenter to convey the topic effectively and respond to any queries the audience may have.
- Training: Organizations and businesses today increasingly rely on remote human resources. For any major organization, the employees may be distributed all over the world. Webinars make it possible for the organization to train, up-skill, and build the capacity of its employees without worrying about event logistics.
- Thought Leadership: Webinars are often used by leading industry entities to establish thought leadership. This is done by arranging lectures or workshops by the top industry experts. A company can position itself as a subject matter expert in a specific niche using this approach.
- Evergreen Content: A webinar can produce rich material such as lectures by experts that can be later made available as pre-recorded content. You can build up a repository of evergreen content in this way. This will help you organically connect with your target audience and increase the number of relevant leads.
- Product Demos: Product demonstrations can either be huge events, such as those by Apple, or they can be an up-close look at how a product works. Unless you are a multi-billion dollar giant, you can use the power of a webinar to unveil new products and show off their features. Screen sharing and other tools available in a webinar can make the product demonstration a highly interactive and engaging experience for your attendees.
- Customer On-boarding: Another major advantage offered by webinars is that they allow for a smooth customer on-boarding experience. Webinars enable your experts to coach new customers on how to start using specific products or services. Such one-on-one coaching not only helps customers but also earns their loyalty to your brand.
- Scaling at Low Cost: A webinar costs very little in contrast to a real, in-person event. You can also scale from a dozen participants to a few hundred participants without a lot of hassle. The same is almost impossible for a live event without expending a lot of money, effort, and time.
Although webinars offer numerous advantages, they also have their downside. Here is a look at some disadvantages of using this specific type of event format:
- Technical Dependence: During a webinar, you are fully dependent on the relevant tech tools for support. If the tech tools malfunction at the organizers’ end, the event may have to be canceled. Even in the best-case scenario, this can mar the event experience for the attendees. If the same technical issues persist at the end of the attendees, they can be prevented from attending the event. This particular downside can be averted by testing the logistics of a webinar in advance so that if there are any glitches, they can be sorted in time.
- Reduced Participant Engagement: It is harder to focus on a screen than seeing a real person sitting from across you. This is why a webinars may not be as effective with participant engagement. Attendees may be easily distracted by a doorbell, a cat, a child, or any other event in their immediate surroundings. They may also be tempted to walk away during the event for a snack, or a cup of coffee.
- Reduced Speaker-Audience Engagement: Another downside of a webinar is that the engagement levels between a speaker and the audience are not the same as in a live event. The speaker may not be able to gauge the mood and interest levels of the audience in real-time. This deprives the speaker of a useful indicator for attendee engagement.
Types of Webinars
Here is a look at some of the most common types of webinars:
This is the most common type of webinar. Live webinars take place on a specific date and at a specified time. They run live, so you must attend them on time or you may miss the content. They also usually leverage the highest levels of audience engagement compared to other types.
At a glance:
- Live event on a specific date and at a specific time
- Highest audience engagement levels
- Offer real-time interactive opportunities
- Often made available as videos later
These are also known as On-Demand, simply because a participant can view the webinar at his or her leisure. The pre-recorded content is typically available once an attendee registers. The attendee can view the content in a single go, or in whatever way they deem fit.
The great thing about pre-recorded is that it is possible to engage with a larger audience through this format. The obvious downside is that the audience can’t utilize live interaction features.
At a glance:
- Also known as On-Demand
- Available for viewing at any time
- Accessible to a larger audience
- Lacks real-time interaction with presenter or speaker
Simulive is also known as a ‘recorded’ or ‘automated’ webinar. It combines the elements of both live and pre-recorded.
In a simulive, all the content of the event is pre-recorded. You then set up a date and time during which this pre-recorded material is released to the registered participants. The result is a real-time event that appears live but with content that has already been recorded.
It is possible to combine a simulated webinar with real-time interactive features. For instance, you can pre-record the keynote speech of an expert. On the date of the event, participants can view this speech. You can invite the speaker for a live Q&A session on a chat board as the speakers view the recorded speech.
Simulated webinars afford a lot of flexibility and can be used to manage the risks of live events while enhancing the opportunities inherent in the webinar format.
At a glance:
- Also known as ‘recorded’ or ‘automated’
- Uses pre-recorded content for a scheduled release
- Combines real-time interaction with recorded content
- Offers a lot of flexibility and multiple opportunities
In a Nutshell
Webinars have been a powerful medium to educate, instruct, train, and engage with niche audiences for many years.
Although they were initially limited to educational purposes, they have become a staple today for various industries and fields. Organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and companies have successfully leveraged the power of the webinars over the years.
However, it is important to understand both the risks and opportunities inherent in the webinar format. Only by comprehending these risks can you take timely measures. And only by understanding the opportunities can you make the most of them.
For most webinars, successful audience engagement banks heavily on good communication and effective interaction. Make sure you choose a platform or software that supports these aspects with plenty of features. With the right line-up of speakers, your webinar is sure to be a success.