You’ve decided to use webcasts to market your product or service. Now what? Grab a company executive, slap her in a chair with the latest PowerPoint sales presentation, a PC and a phone, and voila! Well, although that’s probably the most popular way to get a webcast done, there’s a lot more that goes into a great webcast. The best webcasts start long before the event, with a solid strategy and execution plan to maximize the return on your marketing dollars.
Webcasts are social media – a two-way conversation between your panelists and the attendees. You should be plan to listen as well as talk, and be prepared to have the conversation change based on what you are hearing. Here are some key points to ponder when you start planning your webcast
First, understand your goal. Most B2B webcasts are lead generation activities for a specific product or designed to raise brand awareness for your company. You might want to be viewed as a thought leader to your target audience or respond to changing market conditions or a public relations issue. Whichever it is, know what measureable action you want to occur as a result of your presentation.
That leads directly to who you’re talking to. Are you targeting business executives? Technical buyers? Consumers? Resellers or partners? Existing customers? Each of these groups hears messages in different ways, and each has different hot buttons that your presentation should be pushing without being “pushy”.
Once you’ve got your goal and audience in mind, it’s time to determine your overarching theme and message – the big takeaways you want to leave your attendees with. That’s ONE theme and 3-4 major points – don’t try to cram in every detail or feature. You want to leave attendees with the key benefits you’re offering and a desire for them to take some action to find out more.
Next, build your presentation team. Don’t make the mistake of having a single presenter drone on for 40-50 minutes, it’s almost guaranteed to lull your audience into inaction. Can you find a customer who’s willing to share a positive experience? Great. A partner or reseller who has worked with you on a successful project? Wonderful. Even unbiased third parties – industry analysts and the like – provide credibility to your story. And every presentation should tell a story, not just sell a product or service. You should round out your team with a moderator who can keep your event flowing smoothly, assist with audience interaction, Q&A and transitions, and maintain a conversational flow in your webcast.
You’ve got a topic, lined up speakers, and now you need to tell your potential audience about your story. Writing an abstract and invitation is one of the most critical steps in the webcast process. The subject of your invitation should get your key theme across without sounding like a sales pitch, and give a compelling reason for your audience to show up. The body of your invitation should highlight the takeaways and encourage attendees to come with their own questions for you to address either throughout the webcast or during a dedicated Q&A session following the presentation. And don’t be afraid to offer an incentive to get people to register for your event. Even inexpensive giveaways like iPod Shuffles given to a random attendee can boost registration, attendance, and prospects.
Now it’s time for your presenters to craft their presentation story. It should be graphic rich and text light, have a beginning, middle and end, and have different presenters telling different parts. Plan to build interactivity in from the start. You can begin with an audience poll, have attendees submit questions or comments related to a point a presenter is making, offer a demonstration and plan for a post-webcast survey where your attendees can tell you what they liked, what they didn’t – and collect more information about them in the process.
How do you get the word out? You might have your own mailing list, but chances are you want to expand your horizons by using a rented list or media partner to help promote your event. Depending on the audience you’re looking for there are a number of companies (many with established webcast programs) to help you in this regard. Ask for registration guarantees and to have your webcast archived on their event page – often you’ll get more attendees for a recorded version of your webcast than you will at the live event.
So what webcasting platform should you use? There are certainly enough choices, from the popular On24, Citrix Online’s GoToWebinar and Cisco Webex and BrightTalk to a staggering array of newcomers who offer a numbing array of features ranging in price from free to thousands of dollars per event. When you work with a media partner you may have little choice though – many offer a bundle of services including the promotion, use of their platform, and archival on their site – all for a fixed fee. If you’ve got your technology lined up you might be able to negotiate for a promotion-only price – your mileage will vary depending on the partner you’ve chosen.
Seem like a lot to do? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s much better to put in the up-front time to help ensure the result and ROI that will make your company want to webcast again.
Michael Krieger has crafted and moderated over a thousand webcasts for start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. You can reach him at Michael@webcastmaven.com