The past few months have seen numerous in-person events switch to an online format. More often than not, it takes the form of a video livestream or webinar. Salesforce’s World Tour Sydney 2020 was brought entirely online. Workday’s internal sales meeting (with 3,000 participants) is now an online-only program. Then there are more novel approaches, like Art Basel Hong Kong setting up digital ‘viewing rooms’ for the artwork.
Before, webinars and online events were becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing and product mix.
Now, they are everywhere.
As I write the first draft of this, I am literally on a webinar about webinars.
The potential of webinars
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. This might explain why, since March, I have been receiving more and more requests to attend webinars and virtual events - and, in-between looking after my 8-year-old and running a growing business, I’ve had just enough time for about one a week.
But something is missing. Our time is limited.
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
As events move to webinars and virtual events, we are now experiencing a saturation of invitations. Zoom fatigue is a real phenomenon, and the online meeting certainly brings fresh social challenges.
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.
Before March, 2020, I only had a few days every quarter when I could attend an in-person event. So I chose those wisely. I had some fear of missing out on those that I couldn’t attend - but rarely. But in April, without the usual physical restrictions, I ended up committing and attending too many webinars. I had to learn to pace myself and be more selective with my webinar attendance in May.
I know I am not alone in this.
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 to 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 when they eventually start again.
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.