Janelle Allen is the founder of Zen Courses, where she helps online course creators create with less overwhelm. We caught her fresh off a series of webinars and asked her to share some tips on how creators of all kinds can successfully get started with live, educational events online. Here are her seven steps to launching live webinars.
You probably already know that webinars are one of the best ways to boost your brand, grow your email list and build fans. But the hard truth is, running your first live event can be incredibly daunting.
Over the past 30 days, I’ve run seven webinars and definitely had my share of learning curves. Before you start to question my sanity, though, learn from my mistakes. These are the seven steps to follow to run a successful webinar.
Step 1: Set a goal and host format
Before you get started, set a goal. What's your business objective? Keep this in mind as you determine format.
Pitch or nah?
Decide on your offer strategy. Are you trying to sell a paid product, get people to sign-up for your free bonus offer or just provide free education?
Don’t have a product or offer yet? Don’t worry, free education goes a long way in building trust.
Pro tip: I use Crowdcast to host my webinars. The platform's call to action button allows me to sell products and collect contacts for a free bonus.
Solo or joint venture?
Solo webinars are perfect for connecting with your audience and building credibility. If you’re just getting started with webinars, or you want to provide value to your existing followers, this is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you’re ready to take things to the next level, joint webinars are fantastic for growing your email list, building relationships and spreading brand awareness. When considering a co-host:
- Reach out to potential partners who complement—not compete with—your brand and products.
- Choose partners who will help promote the event. Ask partners up-front if they’ll help promote—not everyone will and, if they won't, it may not be the right fit.
Pro tip: If you run a joint webinar with a business or SAAS, they usually require a minimum of 100 registrants to run the webinar and they will rarely promote the event to their list.
Step 2: Set a date and time
What is the best day and time for your webinar? If you’re starting out, this is probably a big question. In the United States, mid-week works best—so plan for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday event. My personal preference is Wednesday, with Thursday as an alternate.
As for the best time, that depends on your audience and mine is primarily U.S.-based. For me, 2 p.m. Eastern Time works great. (Anytime from 12-2 p.m. ET is generally golden for U.S. audiences.)
If you have an international audience, it gets trickier but it's do-able. Try to pick a time that works for the top three countries in your audience. Not sure when that is? Use a tool like TimeandDate.com's Meeting Planner to find the best times across time zones.
Pro tip: Most email service providers provide location data for your audience in their analytics.
Step 3: Set up your registration page and email sequence
Now that you’ve decided on your format and scheduling, it’s time to set up your registration and email sequences. You probably know you’ll need a registration page for people to sign up for your webinar. But what happens after registration? That’s where email sequences come in.
Setting up your registration page
One of the great things about Crowdcast is that it has a built-in registration page for events. You can easily create a customized registration page, and share the link in your marketing.
Pro tip: If you’re running a joint webinar, be sure to create and share the registration page with your co-host at least 10-14 days prior to the event. This gives them time to get it on their social media calendars (and out to their people).
After setting up your registration page, the next thing to do is set up your follow-up emails. At a minimum, you’ll want to have an email thanking registrants for signing up for your event, as well as a reminder before the webinar begins.
But people are busy and need a few extra nudges. I recommend the following sequence after someone registers for your event:
- Immediately after sign-up: Thank You message, with event date and the link
- Day before your event: reminder
- Day of your event: reminder
- One hour before your event: reminder
- Ten minutes* before your event: reminder
- After your event: follow-up
*(True story: One of my webinars had a pretty low attendance rate. So I sent out a “Starting in 10 minutes” reminder and—voila!—a ton of people signed on. So, don’t discount the power of the 10-minute reminder.)
Again, people are busy, so don’t skip this sequence if you want them to remember your event. To email event registrants via Crowdcast, just go to the Settings menu and select “Email Templates,” then customize your Registration and Reminder emails.
Pro tip: If you end up running a lot of webinars, email sequencing can get stressful. Create Zapier integrations and actions on your registration page. Why? So you can automate your custom email sequence and drive sign-ups to your mailing list.
You can set up a trigger through Zapier on Crowdcast's native registration page to automatically send your e-mail sequence through your mailing list app. You can also set up “zaps” that instantly connect event registration contacts with your mailing list app, like MailChimp or ConvertKit.
So once people register for your event, the registration page will trigger your email software to start your email sequence and add registrants to your mailing list. Beautiful!
(Note: I use a third-party software (Leadpages) for my registration pages. It all comes down to personal preference and what works best—and is easiest—for you.)
Step 4: Market your webinar
Okay, now it’s time to market your webinar. There are two main channels you absolutely want to hit: social media and email.
Marketing with social media
Build event awareness, and get people onto your email list in the process, by giving social media a big push. Start by identifying the platforms where your audience spends most of their time. For my audience, that’s Facebook and Twitter. Begin promoting seven days before the event, right up to the day before.
Twitter best practices:
- Be sure to mention your co-host in your tweet, if you’re running a joint webinar
- Ask your co-host and any influential friends to share or re-tweet
- Use relevant hashtags to attract a wider audience that's on target
Facebook best practices:
- Create a post and pin it to the top of your Facebook page
- Try running an ad for your webinar to reach a wider audience
Pro tip: If social media makes you anxious (trust me, I get it), use Buffer to schedule your posts in advance.
Marketing with email
You've built a strong list of contacts. Now get them to take action:
- Send your first email out 5-7 days before the upcoming event.
- One day before the event, send another email to those who did not register or open the e-mail. Change the title to something that incites action like, “Last chance to sign-up for tomorrow’s webinar” or “Are you joining us for tomorrow’s webinar?”
Pro tip: If you have a podcast or website, don’t forget to mention your event there. Be sure to share a link that’s easy to remember.
Step 5: Structure your event content
We’re at the halfway point. Now it’s time to make sure your content is ready. The first thing to consider is what type of content you want to share. Do you want to have slides, or will it be a talking head presentation? Here’s some pointers for both:
Talking head presentation
- Pro: More conversational
- When to use: Interview or Q&A-style webinar.... or to have a break from PowerPoint.
- Best practice: Stay on topic. It’s a good idea to have an outline to guide your talking points.
- Pros: Familiar to people; gives people something to focus on; gives you something to share later
- When to use: When you have a lot of content or content that benefits from visuals
- Best practice: Keep it short; avoid using a lot of text on slides, just use key points and relevant images. My personal goal is 10-20 slides, maximum.
Pro tip: If you’re doing a joint webinar, it’s best to discuss structure in your initial planning meeting.
Creating content is only half the battle. To keep things running smoothly for your attendees, you’ll need an organized structure. Here’s what I’ve found works best:
- Pre-welcome: Thank people for joining and let them know what time things will kick off. Ask people to share where they’re joining from in the chat while they’re waiting.
- Welcome: Introduce yourself. Mention your guest’s name and the webinar topic. Thank attendees again. (Optional: Ask those who’ve just joined to share where their location in chat.)
- Instructions: If you're using a platform like Crowdcast, introduce them to the features and where to participate. If you’re holding questions till the end of the event, let your audience know; tell them where to submit questions.
- Formal introduction: Introduce your speaker (if you have one) and their website. Introduce the topic and its value.
- Give the presentation: This should run 35-40 minutes.
- Present your offer: Share the link, tell them why it’s valuable.
- Q&A and wrap-up: Allow 10-15 minutes to answer questions, remind audience about the link and tell them to expect an email with the replay, offer link and anything else you’ve promised.
Step 6: Make a tech contingency plan
Things don’t always go according to plan, especially with live events. Here’s what to do to make sure you don’t lose attendees because of tech glitches.
Safeguard against browser trouble
Doesn’t it seem like Google Chrome is always in the middle of an update at the worst time? Check for updates and, if necessary, restart your browser before you start your event. Have Crowdcast open in Firefox, as a backup.
Anticipate co-host tech trouble
Preparation is half the battle. Email your co-host instructions and the link for joining Crowdcast several days prior to your event. They can even test things out on their own right here.
Have them join you 20 minutes early in the green room. If they’re running late (it happens), have content prepared for your audience to avoid dead air.
Join early to test your audio and video
Take advantage of Crowdcast’s green room to test your audio and video. If you’re doing a joint webinar, be sure to set the expectation with your co-host that they’ll need to sign in 20 minutes for testing.
Step 7: Follow-up with attendees
You’ve run your first webinar and it was a raving success! The event is over, but not your interaction with the audience. Keep those lovely registrants engaged (and on your email list) by staying in touch. Here’s what I recommend:
- Within 24 hours: Email the replay link to all registrants, not just attendees.
- If you promised to include slide decks or links to your bonus page, include them in that email. Don’t forget to add a final thanks for their time.
- If your co-host handled registration and shared the list with you, import attendees as a new list or segment to re-introduce yourself and ask them if they want to receive emails from you.
Pro tip: If registrants opt-in to get emails from you, consider creating a special on-boarding sequence of messages just for them—instead of just dropping them into your next broadcast.
There you have it—my trusted steps for getting started with successful webinars. If you’ve been on the fence about hosting your first live event online, you now have all the steps to get started and stay organized to run your first webinar without totally losing your sanity. Good luck!
Follow Janelle on Crowdcast: @JanelleAllen