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Hosting a Successful Webinar



You have to reach geographically dispersed audience, but you cant afford to stretch your budget. You have decided that webinars are the best way to reach your target audience (which they are!) and now that you have made this big decision, you are faced with lots of other seemingly smaller decisions.

Is Webinar the right choice? How can you ensure people attend your webinar? Can you use it to raise your company's profile? Can you make a HIT? And many more such. Simple questions. Can prove to be more challenging than you think though. So how do tackle them, you ask? Well, our answer is careful planning. That's right. Planning plus some.


Make it relevant

If you want people to rate your webinar highly, let your moderator and presenters know what they must focus on so as to make it most relevant for your target audience. It’s good practice to not overtly support your organization or its products.

It is worthwhile making sure that your webinar speaks about something new to the audience. No one wants to learn about something they already know. Do you want to listen to an hour-long advertisement on how good a partner company is? Probably not. A webinar your customer considers valuable is advertisement enough. That, in itself, will generate word-of-mouth publicity.


Work out an effective schedule

A series of webinars spread across a few weeks on related topics is more effective than a series of webinars on a single day or a single long webinar. Separate webinars are more focused. A single webinar flowing from one topic to another does not guarantee a captive audience. It merely ensures that webinar attendees move on to other important issues in their workday quickly. Spreading webinars across a few weeks increases valuable word-of-mouth publicity and raises the public profile of your company. A company known for organizing a series of webinars over time will be regarded more highly than a company, which makes a big splash and has nothing to follow it up with.


Get expert speakers

When it comes to getting noticed, names do matter. Choose recognized experts and well-known authors to moderate and speak at your webinar. Preferably, do not have more than one speaker from your organization as it might undermine the credibility of your webinar before it starts. It is good to have a credible webinar, even if you have a captive audience, as it will help you engage your audience effectively.

But, big names matter only during your first few webinars. If you host good webinars, then all you have to do is get experts for subsequent sessions. They no longer have to be recognized experts and their expertise will be sufficient to guarantee that what they speak about in the webinar is of value to the audience.


Time it well

You might have the best webinar on the best possible topic, but if you host it on the wrong date, weekday or even time of day, you will lose most of your target audience.

Ever wondered why most of the webinars you have attended are in the middle of the week and especially on Wednesdays. It is a simple question of time. Research has discovered that people have most time in the middle of the workweek. When you schedule your webinar, make sure it is not on a holiday or on a day immediately preceding or succeeding a holiday. Mondays are too busy spent catching up on e-mails and other work. Too many projects end on Fridays and people are too busy with their weekend plans, often leaving early—and forget the Thanksgiving weekend too!

Consider the time zones of your target audience. Most attendees prefer to attend webinars from their desks, particularly during lunch hour. If your audience is from coast to coast, 11 a.m. Pacific Time is a good time to start.

If your target audience is truly global, then aim for a time, which would give you waking hours for most of your target audience. To cater to your entire target audience, you may want to record your webinar, so that interested webinar attendees can review it later. An alternate and a highly effective one at that is On-demand webinar which is pre-recorded and can be played back whenever the attendee wants to.


Promote it well in advance

As soon as you schedule your webinar, start promoting your webinar from your website. If you are using more expensive forms of promotions, such as advertising in trade magazines and journals, start using those three weeks before the webinar. Anything longer, and people will forget about the webinar. Anything less does not give time for word-of-mouth publicity to build or for people to schedule their regular work around your webinar.

All said and done, these are but just a few tips that come to our mind. There are much more that go into making your Webinars successful. And it starts with understanding your audience.

Applications of On-Demand Webinar


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We embarked on a journey (virtual of course) to find out the different areas where people are using webcasts and webinars in the hi-tech industry. We figured that with the penetration of computers touching unimaginable levels, people are using these in practically every department and field for in-house as well as external interaction and communication.

Here is a list of few areas that we felt are prominent. We would like you to think about the areas of application in your company or place of work with relation to these titles.

  1. Sales
    • Features and pricing strategy
    • Region specific product info/sales info
    • Distribution channel support
    • Employee and partner training
    • Lead generation

  2. Marketing
    • Product launches
    • Design reviews/test marketing

  3. Support
    • Step-by-step troubleshooting
    • Staff training

  4. e-Learning
    • Panel discussions
    • Interactive course presentations
    • Customer training
    • Employee training
    • Partner training
    • Instant trainer feedback through polling
    • Continuous learning through Q&A
    • Rural education


  5. Seminar series


  6. Conferences


  7. Executive briefings


  8. Internal communication
    • Legal procedures
    • HR policies

We have consciously not defined the application areas at a micro level and just left them at a macro level. We would probably be restricting the scope of this wonderful tool if we do that! Webinars and webcasts can find unlimited applications, one just needs to think about them :)

Jargons and Definitions

Having been introduced to the world of wecasts, one always feels hit by a barrage of jargons and terms. We have compiled a list of jargons and definitions that people use interchangeably, leading to confusion. To give clarity, we have picked these straight from two highly reliable sources, namely wikipedia and webopedia
.

  1. Web conferencing: Web conferencing is used to hold group meetings or live presentations over the internet. In the early years of the internet, the terms "web conferencing" and "computer conferencing" were often used to refer to group discussions conducted within a message board (via posted text messages), but the term has evolved to refer specifically to "live" or "synchronous" meetings, while the posted message variety of discussion is called a "forum", "message board", or "bulletin board".

  2. Webinar: A Webinar is a seminar which is conducted over the World Wide Web. In contrast to a Webcast, which is transmission of information in one direction only, a webinar is designed to be interactive between the presenter and audience. A webinar is 'live' in the sense that information is conveyed according to an agenda, with a starting and ending time. In most cases, the presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, pointing out information being presented on screen, and the audience can respond

  3. Webcast: The delivery of live or delayed sound or video broadcasts using web technologies. The sound or video is captured by conventional video or audio systems. It is then digitised and streamed on a web server
    Live+Archived webinar: Webinar broadcast live and then recorded and stored as an archive

  4. On-demand webinar*: Pre-produced webinar played as a recorded component.

We shall keep adding to this list.

* - self defined as neither sources define these.

Introduction

Hi! Welcome to our blog on Webcasting and Webinars. Before we proceed with more serious and important discussions and breakthroughs, let us define what we mean by a Webinar/Webcast. As we go along in this blog journey, these definitions may get altered or more fine-tuned as better technologies with better efficiencies evolve but for the larger audience, and as a basic meaning, these will always hold good.

What are Webinars?
Webinars are live and 'On Demand' online presentations, which allow companies to reach out and communicate over the Internet, with a large audience, much more frequently and at lesser cost than face-to-face seminars. In short, Webinars are the Online equivalent of a physical seminar.

Webinars = Web+Seminar

And what are Webcasts?
Webcasts are online communications that are similar to telecast. Presentations are 'webcast' at a fixed time and date online, with audience logging in synchronously. Webcasts can include Webinars (which were initially conceived as a one-way communication), Streaming Video, Streaming Audio and a combination of all this.

Webcast=Web+Telecast (Ex: Webinars, Video, Audio)

What would I need to host a Webinar/Webcast?
Well, first of all dumping both Webinars/Webcasts in the same basket is not a good idea, though Webinars are a subset of Webcast. The reasons are simple - Webcasts are large, both in terms of the audience, resources and the cost whereas Webinars though attracts a large audience are relatively less costly and takes very less time to host. Of course, as technology evolves and becomes more affordable, this difference may vanish. Another distinguishing factor is that Webcasts are typically one way communication.

To host a webinar, all you would need is a computer connected to the Internet, a microphone or a recording device if you are planning to talk to your audience, a speaker system if you are going to make it both ways or play some audio file/music and the tool/service to enable it.

To host a webcast, in addition to the above, you may need to have a computer that is better equipped to handle multimedia with a high memory space, better bandwidth to support a large audience along with the hosting service.

We will soon write in more about what you need to look for in Webinars and Webcasts - technology options, scalability issues, usability, detailed system requirements, archiving and reusing webinars, tips and tricks, benefits/advantages and many more such factors that are critical for a successful Webinars/Webcast.

If you have got any queries before that, don't hesitate to shoot a word to us.

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Discussion on Webcasting and Webinars (On Demand and Live) - Issues, Technology, Performace Standards and Innovations


Contributors
Ayush Jain (AJ)
Vaijayanthi KM (VJ)

At Mentorware Inc., a company that delivers cost-effective and high-quality webcasting services, we are excited about the power of communication and think webcasts/webinars will evolve as the accepted technology for online corporate communication. As Marketing Specialists, we have had experience working with the high-technology B2B industry in the lead generation and training areas and have researched and produced content for webinar/webcast papers, collaterals, marketing materials among other things. We have a vast repository of knowledge in this field - this is our effort to share them with you - to provide you with a simple, yet complete online resource for producing and hosting webcasts/webinars.

Contact us at ayush {at} mentorware {dot} com and vaijayanthi {at} mentorware {dot} com.

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