The past few years have brought a sea-change for event planners. In 2020, a host of events were brought online including Salesforce’s World Tour Sydney 2020. Workday’s internal sales meeting of over 3,000 people became online-only. Even Art Basel Hong Kong set up digital ‘viewing rooms’ for the artwork. More often than not, these online events took the form of a video livestream or webinar.
We now live in a hybrid era, with 73% of event planners believing that hybrid events will continue to be more common in the future. Webinars and online events are now an integral part of every marketing and product mix.
That raises the stakes for event planners and marketers. It’s, therefore, time to enhance the quality of the audience’s experience before, during, and after a webinar.
The potential of webinars
A question still lingers for event planners. Can you recreate an event online and still achieve the same marketing and sales goals (like establishing thought leadership or generating leads and revenue)?
Some estimates place the revenue potential of a webinar at $20k per event. That doesn’t account for the cost savings that can be achieved by switching some of your event strategy to online or hybrid. Fewer in-person attendees mean you can have a smaller venue, you don’t have to cater as much, and travel is streamlined (not to mention, the environmental benefits). Plus, online events, because of their digital nature, offer more sophisticated methods of measuring success and can generate data to inform future events, marketing, and sales.
That said, there is one thing that you must account for when holding an online or hybrid event.
The attention problem
Webinar organizers are fighting for attendees’ attention not just against other webinars but against all of the other online and offline stuff crowding the attention span. This is why Live is just one component of delivering value.
The webinar is a point in time without the immersive and physical experience of an event.
Online event exhaustion
The exhaustion may come from the volume of webinars coupled with slack pings, online yoga invitations and zoom happy hours. We can only spend so much time in a live world online.
People are more selective when it comes to in-person events, especially if that involves time and effort in travelling to the location. But webinars, without the usual physical restrictions, have less of a barrier to entry. On one hand, this is a great way to boost attendance and increase your potential audience beyond your borders. But it can also risk people committing to, and attending too many webinars. It means you have to cut through the noise and hold their attention when many other things will be distracting them away.
More pressure on organizers
This raises the stakes for event organizers. What I find is that a webinar is great to bring together a large group of people (say, from 100 to 50k) during a point in time to broadcast your expertise.
But then the world continues and your webinar quickly becomes irrelevant. More so when you’re contending with notifications, email and instant messages during your webinar. Unlike in-person events where connections can be organically made and where collaboration happens in lobbies and break-out rooms, a webinar doesn’t have a ‘safe space’ for people to connect with their peers and industry experts.
At best, after a webinar, you may get a scattering of engagement around a post-webinar survey, or when you share a recording of the event. At worst, your attendees leave inspired and enlightened, only to find themselves caught back up in their busy lives and your knowledge-sharing is quickly forgotten. With your insights never implemented… to the detriment of the industry.
Finding the solution
So, what’s the answer? What should happen after the webinar to cut through all the noise in the market and ensure people action what you’ve discussed? Instead of going into the ether, your webinar must be the starting point, the catalyst, to a bigger movement. A community of people who are connected in the same place, to share ideas, experiences and advice. Where your webinar insights can lay the foundations for a knowledge hub and expert-driven network that raises the bar in your sector.
Beyond event tech
This goes beyond just event tech (that aims to recreate an in-person event experience as an online one) or social media (that isn’t well set up for expert communities). It needs a unique solution that can be tailored to attendees’ needs and expectations. Where your webinar can be complemented by the community, as well as your in-person events.
By and large, the event industry has cottoned onto this. Over a third (36%) of event organizers want to improve interactivity and networking in their online events.
Your webinar is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to relationship-building and long-term engagement. To take it further, you must invest in a knowledge-sharing community that reflects your brand and continues discussions well beyond an hour-long webinar. This will unlock the true power (and goals) of a webinar. Connecting people with experts, improving knowledge, sharing best practice, and highlighting your brand and event as best-in-class.