With the rise of online events, webinars have become a hugely popular way to teach and learn. Even before the world became more virtual, many event creators were using them to reach audiences across the globe. As well as being a great way to position yourself or your company as a thought leader, webinars are also cost-effective. After all, you don’t need to think about adding a venue to your budget.

The tricky part is knowing where to start with webinar hosting, especially as there are now so many options available. Whether you’re looking for help with planning content, finding the right platform, or marketing your online event, this guide on how to host a webinar will take you through the basics.

Step 1: Choose your topic

When you’re settling on a topic, remember that the more specific you are, the more likely it is you’ll engage and motivate your target audience. While “Copywriting 101” will attract attention, “Copywriting for Fashion Brands: How to Create Words That Convert” is a much more effective way to entice your distinct target audience. If you’re not sure what your audience wants to learn more about, ask on social media. Or take a look at your most frequently asked questions to really get into their mindset. If the subject matter needs more expertise than you have, consider drafting in a guest speaker. Remember that the goal is to give people information that they can’t easily find anywhere else.

Once your topic is crystal clear, think about the format that will work best for your webinar. A solo presentation with slides for a lecture, a panel discussion with multiple guests to tackle a hot-button topic, or an interactive Q&A session for a more casual approach to learning are just a few solid examples.

Step 2: Pick your platform

Now, it’s time to decide which software to use to host your event. Zoom may now be a household name, but there are plenty more webinar platforms out there. Both Zoom and Vimeo support live and on-demand events, so attendees who can’t make it will be able to watch later. They also feature in-stream interactivity such as live Q&As, polls, and chats. And as you can set a password for meetings, they’re a great option if you want to set up a paid webinar.

Another popular platform is GoToWebinar. It’s ideal for group discussions as it lets you have up to 24 panellists. Or, if you want to reach a wider audience, you could use a streaming site like YouTube. It has low barriers to entry – a lot of people already have a YouTube account, and there’s no need for guests to download any software. YouTube also automatically saves your live videos to your account, so that you can easily access the content for future marketing opportunities.

Step 3: Set a date and time

Think about how to plan a webinar around your audience’s needs. For example, it might be difficult for a target audience of business professionals to dial in during normal working hours, so consider holding a webinar event later in the evening or at the weekend. Similarly, if you want to reach a global crowd, choose a time that will work across multiple timezones. You should also think about your ticketing strategy. Will your webinar be free, or will there be various price tiers with added benefits such as merchandise or access to a smaller post-event networking session?

Step 4: Craft your content

Now that you know what your platform can do and when your webinar will take place, you’re ready to create the content. It’s always a good idea to have some visuals for people to focus on, especially if you’re discussing a complicated issue. The basic rules of presentations apply here:

  • Avoid putting too much text on slides so that attendees can easily follow the presentation
  • Use interactive features like polls and games to keep your audience engaged
  • Have a script you can refer to in case you lose focus
  • Put together handouts and email them to attendees straight after the webinar so that they have something to refer back to

Step 5: Get the word out

We’ve covered how to create a webinar. The next step is getting it in front of the right people. Whether you use current followers or reach out to new marketing partners, there are lots of ways to promote an upcoming webinar.

  • Take to social media. Mention your webinar on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn (if it’s a business event), and Facebook. If you have guest speakers, ask them to promote your event on social media, too. Don’t forget to use a unique event hashtag to drive extra buzz.
  • Create an Eventbrite page so that attendees can easily sign up and receive automated reminders.
  • Email current subscribers. And if you don’t already have an email newsletter, why not start one?
  • Reach out to potential sponsors. This will give you access to the sponsor’s audience, as well as more money to spend on the event.

Step 6: Invest in technology

One of the basics for virtual events is making sure your technology is reliable. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, but picking up a good microphone and webcam can make a world of difference. Look for cameras that sit on an adjustable tripod for the ability to choose the best angle. As for sound, a clip-on mic will look professional and pick up your voice more clearly.

Another thing to think about is lighting. You never know if the natural light will be too bright or dull on the day, so be prepared to switch on a bulb or two. Ring lights are popular because they cast an even glow and minimise shadows. It’s also worth hiring a technical assistant to help out. They can deal with any connection issues and comments while you concentrate on hosting.

Step 7: Have a dress rehearsal

Set aside time before the big day to run through everything. Ask friends or colleagues to dial in and give you feedback. As well as an opportunity to eliminate some of the most common livestreaming mistakes, a run-through also gives you and your speakers the chance to get comfortable with the platform. Now is the time to make sure your audiovisual equipment works, your lighting is as good as it can be, and there aren’t any unexpected distractions such as ambient noise. It’s best to do the trial a few days before the webinar, so that you have time to fix any issues.

Step 8: The day of hosting and beyond

Set up your space at least an hour before you’re due to begin. This helps you to work through any snags and ensures you start on time. Remember to use screen recording software like Vimeo Record or OBS Studio to capture the webinar and save it for post-event usage.

Once you have it saved, you could charge people to watch the recorded version from your website, post snippets on social media to show your expertise, or host a social media competition related to the topic. As well as engaging previous attendees, these kinds of strategies also let followers who couldn’t make it enjoy the highlights of your webinar, convincing them to attend a future event.

Are you ready to host a webinar?

Where technology is concerned, it’s always a possibility that an issue occurs on the day. But with these webinar basics in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to engage live audiences from across the globe and have the skills to rectify any problems.  (Top tip: When you go live, inform your audience to hang in there if anything does go wrong as the webinar will be back shortly.)

Now that you know how to plan and host a live online event, it’s time to create your next webinar.

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