With so many conferences and other business gatherings being cancelled this year, more companies are turning to virtual events to engage customers, vendors and prospects.


“We’re seeing clients transition to virtual events pretty much across the board,” says Chris Chan, founder and CEO of 3C Strategies,  a Washington, D.C.-based event management, design and consulting firm.


Webinars are a prime event marketing opportunity for small businesses, Chan says, because they are typically short, focused and can be easily and affordably produced. You can use either a basic video-conferencing app like Zoom or Skype or more robust webinar-specific platform such as Demio or ClickMeeting.


That said, with so many organizations hosting virtual events right now, how do you make yours stand out from the crowd? Here are five tips for creating a webinar as compelling and engaging as an in-person event:

1. Have purpose—and be timely

What unique information will you provide that your target audience needs to know now? The best webinars provide fresh and timely information that attendees can’t easily find elsewhere. So you need to think innovatively about developing a topic that showcases your company’s expertise while offering must-have information.


Even if the topic is somewhat evergreen, find a timely hook or new information to make it more compelling.

2. Encourage people to attend the webinar live

Most webinars today are recorded so they can be watched and replayed whenever. But to recreate the lively vibe of an in-person event, you’ll want people to attend the live webinar, Chan adds. For this reason, he recommends not advertising that the webinar recording will be available until after the event has happened.


You can also incentivize people to attend live by providing attendees with a promotion or gift and letting them know they’ll have the opportunity to interact with the experts and ask questions.


Also consider the time you schedule the webinar for. Chan recommends holding a business-related webinar on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in the early to mid-afternoon to increase the odds that people will be available to attend—especially if you have people joining from multiple U.S. time zones.


3. Promote it broadly

Use every opportunity and platform you have to promote the webinar in the weeks leading up to it—including on your website, in your email marketing and through your social media accounts. Make it easy to register and send all registrants a reminder email. Even better, make sure all registrants have a way to easily or automatically put the webinar event on their electronic calendar. (Most event registration platforms today provide that capability.)


4. Focus on quality over quantity

A common mistake is squeezing too much content into a webinar, when the goal should be the overall attendee experience, Chan says. “Quality over quantity is really key to producing a virtual event,” he says. Here are some tips Chan recommends to make the experience more rewarding:


  • Have a moderator whose job is to present and keep any conversation among speakers going, but also designate someone to help and manage attendees and ensure there are no technical issues.
  • Keep any presentation slides simple and digestible.
  • Use photos, infographics and other images to make it more visually appealing.
  • Move through slides relatively quickly—don’t spend more than two minutes on each one.
  • Consider having multiple speakers, including bringing in outside experts. People enjoy hearing from multiple voices and perspectives.
  • Keep the webinar under one-and-a-half hours and, ideally, under an hour.


5. Make it interactive

When somebody attends a live event, they often do so for the networking, engagement and learning opportunities. So any webinar should offer all those things.


Most webinars have a Q&A session at the end so anyone can pose questions to the experts. But the most popular video conferencing and webinar software programs also offer extra tools that can make them more lively and engaging, such as public and private chat, real-time polling, emojis to show reactions and allowing attendees to join by video. Some webinar platforms even let you have post-event roundtable discussions.


With so many events moving into the digital realm, yours needs to be a cut above the rest. Make the effort to create the most compelling and engaging webinars you can.

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