Whether you’re looking to supplement in-person classes with online alternatives or you just want to reach a larger audience, webinar hosting is an extremely powerful tool for educators.
Before you begin hosting, though, make sure you use the following proven tactics to ensure webinar success.
Understand What Your Target Market Wants
Webinar hosting is a lot like designing a product or writing a book. You need to know what your market wants or you’ll soon be very, very disappointed (and possibly even out a sizable amount of money).
As an educator, you have at least one area of expertise. Inside of that expertise, there are a number of different topics you could teach. Before you pick one, though, it is critical do some market research. Of all the topics you could teach, which ones would be valued the most amongst your targeted audience? These are the topics that should host your webinars on.
If you can’t find enough data to support your decision or if you want another opinion, you can test your theory, too. If you have a decent social media following, you can simply ask your followers for feedback. Twitter even allows you to do polls on these topics.
If you don’t have a strong following on social media, don’t worry. Your webinar hosting prospects are still alive and well, you’ll just have to do a little more work. Visit forums. Check out discussions on LinkedIn. Go wherever your market goes and find out which topics that you could conceivably cover they find most important.
Avoid Boring Webinar Titles at All Costs
This is a webinar hosting tip that applies to everyone – educator or not. However, educators are far more likely to pick boring names. They’re objective and static. Presumably, it’s because educators are used to course names that must be concise and accurate: “American History, 101”, “Financial Accounting”, “Chemistry.”
Remember, you need people to actually sign up or all of your webinar hosting efforts will be for nothing. Don’t be afraid to use a little salesmanship here. Try to write out 10 or more ideas for your name before you pick one.
Furthermore, people should be excited to attend your webinar. If the title is dull, they might sign up; they might actually attend, too; but it’s very likely they won’t give it much of a chance.
Clearly Outline the Benefits of Attending
Again, this webinar hosting tactic can benefit just about everyone, but it’s especially important that educators understand it. You obviously know your subject matter very well. That’s what makes you such a great educator.
Unfortunately, it can also serve as a blind spot that undermines your webinar hosting efforts.
Don’t assume that because you know why the subject is important, everyone else will too. Even people who sign up for your webinar may not be completely convinced of its merits. Unless they’re paying for it, a lot of people will log on, take a listen and quickly log off when they decide it’s not really for them.
To circumvent this potential webinar-hosting blunder, be sure your marketing material makes it crystal clear what people will get out of attending. Don’t embellish, but, again, don’t be afraid of a little salesmanship. You want people signing up with excitement. You want them counting down the days until your webinar goes live. Moderate expectations will not help you in the least.
You can do this with video, too. Film a one-minute trailer or a testimonial from someone who can speak to your abilities as an educator. Depending on what you’re teaching, you have all kinds of options available.
Gain Interest by Giving Out Freebies
As an educator, you probably know a lot about the topic you wish to cover during your webinar. Presumably, you’re not offering the breadth of this knowledge in your presentation, though. Therefore, you should have some interesting pieces of information you could give out for free to help gain interest in your webinar.
This is an old marketing trick, but it still works extremely well. In fact, in this day and age, with so many other things vying for your market’s attention, it might even be considered mandatory.
Unless you have a certain amount of “star power” within your industry, most people are going to be wondering why they should attend your webinar. You may have some great credentials, but the best possible way to convince them is by offering a tidbit for free. This will give them something concrete to judge.
If you record the program, you could even give them access to a clip or two so they get a sense for what your webinar hosting looks like. Educators on Udemy do this every time to great success.
Map Out an Agenda
Even if you think you know exactly what you’re going to say, it’s still best to come up with an agenda while planning your webinar. This is especially true for educators who have a lot of information to cover since it can be easy to leave one or two things out without knowing it.
You definitely don’t need to read a script word-for-word while hosting your live webinar, in fact, we strongly advise against it. Instead, use note cards or a list of agenda topics as a tool for organizing your thoughts. This will serve as a reminder of major points when you’re talking and ensure you don’t forget anything important.
Effectively Organize Your Agenda
How should you organize your webinar? Start by highlighting the benefits of taking your seminar– this would be considered your introduction. As tempting as it might be to jump right into the meat of the matter, it’s okay to take a moment to introduce yourself and your credentials.
Next, reiterate what you’ll be teaching people. Explain to them why your topic is important and what they’ll walk away from the webinar with.
Depending on how long you plan on talking for, it may be prudent to cut the information down into sections. Each section should last between 5 and 7 minutes but no more than 10.
Then, at the end of each section, offer a quick review of what you just talked about. This will ensure your audience doesn’t get lost along the way. If someone feels like they’ve missed a major point and won’t be able to understand the rest of the webinar, they’re likely to drop off.
You may also benefit from starting each section with a very, very brief summary of what the listener has learned so far. This can be done every other section, too – whatever suits your presentation the best.
Finally, end with a conclusion. This should probably last between three and five minutes. Go over the major points and remind the viewer what they’re now capable of because of this webinar.
Whenever possible, give your webinar attendees an actionable takeaway. If you taught people how to become better public speakers, encourage them to schedule their first presentations at work or put speaking engagements on their calendars.
The point is that you want people putting the knowledge you’ve given them to work. Otherwise, what’s the point of webinar hosting?
This will help boost the popularity of your presentation, too. You want people spreading the news that your webinar helped them reach their goals.
Finally, leave time for a Q&A at the end of the webinar. Not only will this increase the value of your seminar for many of the attendees, but you’ll also get great feedback about what to cover next time.
Whatever you’re teaching, be sure to tell a story. Many people would be far better at webinar hosting if they would just remember this one piece of advice. No matter what it is you’re trying to educate people on, storytelling is a vital tactic.
This doesn’t mean you should only tell stories, there is plenty of room for things like analytics, statistics, raw numbers, etc. Just don’t get so far into the weeds with listing these things out that you run the risk of boring your audience.
Also, you don’t have to tell your own story. If you’re teaching people marketing tactics, for example, you could tell success stories about people who employed a certain method or cautionary tales about those who didn’t.
In fact, if all you do is tell your own stories or otherwise talk about yourself, your audience will most likely grow bored and tune out.
Stories are also a great way to begin your webinar. Hosting can be tough and the hardest part is often right at the beginning when you’re trying to get your presentation off the ground.
Instead of worrying about a “cold open”, move from the introduction and list of benefits into a story. That will naturally progress the audience into the subject you’re actually teaching.
If you really want to make sure you hold your audience’s attention, begin with a story but don’t finish it. While this only works for a true spellbinder, people will commit to the end of your webinar if you tell them that you’ll eventually reveal the exciting conclusion.
Use Graphics and Illustrations
Along the same lines, webinar hosting shouldn’t mean that you just stare into the webcam and lecture for an hour. Even if you have something truly valuable to teach, people are going to get bored quickly.
Again, think about all the other things out there pulling at people’s attention. We’re used to colorful graphics, animation, videos and more.
You don’t need to go overboard or break your budget to make your webinar hosting a success with these tactics.
Something as simple as a whiteboard could work. If you have access to a classroom, you can stream a whiteboard on your webcam. If not, webinar platforms like BigMarker have virtual whiteboarding tools you can use.
Otherwise, simple graphics and illustrations are very affordable these days. With a little editing, you can pair your webinar hosting with these complementing images to keep your audience interested and help them learn.
Keep it Conversational
We’ve mentioned a few times already that being an educator can lend itself to an overly formal tone. At least, that’s one way to put it.
Another is that you can quickly become boring.
Graphics, animations and stories will all help mix things up and keep your audience’s attention, but don’t forget that you’re just having a conversation. It’s a very one-sided conversation, we’ll grant you. Still, stay loose. Use a bit of humor where possible.
Turn Your Webinar into Other Content
Webinar hosting is such an effective tool for educators, partially because it helps them produce other forms of content that can be used for anything from marketing to product development.
The easiest thing to do to increase the ROI of your webinar hosting efforts is to turn some of your script into at least a blog post. If you don’t blog on your site, see if you can post it on an industry website you know a lot of your market will see.
As we mentioned earlier, taking questions from your audience can help you get a better understanding of what they would have liked to have gained from your webinar hosting. This would also be a great blog post.
You can literally start it with, “I did a webinar last week with X people and one of my attendees asked…”
This does a few things:
- It shows your audience that you truly care about their questions and needs
- It tells people that you do webinars – so it works as a subtle ad
- If that “X” is big enough, it serves as a nice form of social proof. You’re clearly a good educator if a lot of people set time aside to listen to you cover a certain topic.
Get creative with this tactic. What you can’t afford to do is leave your webinar alone after it’s done. Make sure you leverage it for as much exposure, marketing and influence as possible.
Above all else, never attempt to host a webinar without practice. Put all of the above tactics to work and then practice, practice, practice. Whether you’re hosting it live or recording the webinar, you’ll most likely be a bit nervous and that’s fine. With enough practice and persistence, webinars will soon be second nature.