Webinars 2.0

Okay Loyalty360, here’s your free promo (to a very small audience, but hey, free promo is free promo).  I logged into a webinar today run by Loyalty360 and I have to say that it was actually pretty good.  This isn’t a backhanded compliment to Loyalty360, because this is the first time I have participated in one of their webinars, but it’s more a statement about webinars in general.  To be blunt, most webinars suck.

I wish there was a more polite way that I can express how I feel about webinars; a more constructive approach that I could take to convey my disdain for them, but I find that the most effective way of saying it is to say that they suck.  Why?  Well where should I start?  The monotonous voices, the technological problems, the static images for extended periods of time…it’s enough to make you start counting ceiling tiles in your office.

Luckily, today’s webinar had a lot of things working in its favour.  I’ll outline them below just to make things easier to keep track of.

1. No Tech Problems – E-mails were sent weeks before the event advising that you could do a test to see what (if any) updates were necessary on your system in order to fully participate in the webinar.  Of course, I have been so swamped lately that I didn’t get a chance to do that test…nor did I try when the reminders were sent.  The fact that I had to download a couple of quick updates wasn’t on Loyalty360, because they had clearly covered their bases with pre-webinar emails telling me to make sure I had the updates installed.  Once I had the downloads complete, everything worked perfectly.  Nothing froze, the sound was good, it worked like it was supposed to.

The lesson?  Make sure that you are clear with your users on what they will need to have installed to fully enjoy the webinar.  Remind them to do system checks and to download the necessary software.  Remind them again…and then a third time.  The point is to make sure that they enjoy the experience, not to get frustrated with it and then associate it with your brand.

2. Interesting Guests – Usually when you take part in a webinar, there is somebody talking about something they are passionate about, but after about 20 minutes, they don’t really have a lot of interesting things left to say.  So you get into a situation where they start stretching points or explaining visuals that are self explanatory.  Their voice gets more monotone and before you know it, everybody is dying of boredom.  Today there were three panelists (David Sims – Vice President, CRM for General Nutrition Centers (GNC) , Sarah Mendez – Director of Marketing for Mister Carwash and Connie Hill – President of VeraCentra) who had very different experiences and therefore very different things to say about customer retention.  While this was interesting in itself, it was also nice to have a few different voices to listen to, because then it didn’t feel like Ben Stein had taken over the microphone.

The lesson here?  As great as you may think you are (and may be), it’s tough for people to focus on what you are saying when they can’t see you.  There are so many distractions in an office (people coming by to ask you questions, the phone ringing, the coffee you just knocked over on your desk) you have to be engaged.  Get some guests who are going to provide different viewpoints. Get some guests who may throw in the odd joke.  Keep people interested…and entertained.

3. Polls – I’m not sure why, but I always like to see the results of a poll or a countdown…even when I know the results.  It’s strange, but I just love to see what other people think or how similar or different their world is from mine.  Today’s webinar had a couple of polls that actually had some interesting results.  I mean, who would have thought that over 50% of participants had data mining tools right on their desktop?  The polls also helped to break up the webinar, keeping the participants engaged.

Lesson time:  Find effective ways to break up your webinar.  As I mentioned earlier, webinars are a tough format in which to keep your audience’s attention.  By including things like polls in your presentation, people stay interested in what’s going on.  Find polls that are relevant (that’s key) and make them part of the presentation.

So congrats to Loyalty360 for today’s webinar; I’m sure I’ll register for a few more.

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