Every year, associations, manufacturers, magazines and companies offer a variety of trade shows, conferences and seminars to industry professionals. Most of these events educate or train professionals, while keeping them abreast of new technologies and products.
Usually, industry professionals want to participate in these productive events. However, in this busy day and age, it is a challenge for those same industry professionals to attend all the events they would like to because of time and travel constraints. There is a solution, and it’s a solution that is getting more popular every year.
LIVE ONLINEThanks to the Internet, people can participate in conferences and seminars via web conferencing, which is also known as a webinar. A webinar is a live meeting or presentation over the Internet, usually designed to be interactive between the presenter and audience. Webinars are also growing in popularity as an alternative to face-to-face meetings requiring travel.
According to Joe Stevenson, director of member services at the Adhesive and Sealant Council, members benefit by the webinars her organization offers.
“Not having to travel saves on time and cost,” says Stevenson. “Webinar attendees can participate from the office, home or conference room. More than one person can watch a webinar. Attendees pay a flat fee and more than one person can be involved.”
Also, webinars fit into a person’s schedule much easier than an event that requires traveling. Webinars can also be viewed at a later date because most of them are recorded, so participants can view the webinar at their leisure.
“I could use a webinar to educate apprenticeships across the country in a short time frame. They would not have to leave their classrooms,” states Les Dyduch, technical sales/product development professional. “Webinars save time and speed up bringing people together; thus, eliminating huge amounts of travel expenses, while making things possible that were cost prohibitive.”
PLANNING MADE EASYLogistics are not a major concern when planning a webinar, because webinars are about technology, not location. Participants can communicate while being in different areas.
In this day of up-to-date information, it is a must for information to be disseminated in an instantaneous manner, according to Kevin Bush, product specialist for Grabber Construction Products. In a webinar everyone hears the same thing at the same time in the same way.
Before an organization offers a webinar to industry professionals, some research is required. According to Stevenson, the first step is to make sure there is an audience for the webinar. Members, readers or customers need to be surveyed. Once an audience has been established, the next step is to make sure the content of the webinar is useful to the audience. The topic of the webinar should be educational. It should answer questions and inform the audience about new technologies, products or hot topics in their industry.
Also, analyzing the upfront cost of the webinar, finding a vendor and lining up appropriate presenters are important aspects of planning a webinar. Creating a marketing strategy for the event is of utmost importance too. A marketing plan should be created to ensure enough industry professionals know about the event and will sign up for it.
“We market the seminars (Webinars) to our readers (the formulators) as well as to others in the industry, depending on the topic and the intended audience,” says Teresa McPherson, editor of Adhesives and Sealants Industry magazine. “We market them in several ways – via press releases to industry organizations, flyers at trade shows, banner and tile ads on our website, announcements in the print magazines and e-mail blasts.”
SOME CHARGES DO APPLYOrganizations also need to research webinar vendors to find the one that best meets their needs. Vendors offer different packages and sometimes charge for service based on cost per minute or cost per seat at the webinar. Vendors may also charge based on a maximum amount of participants, and offer packages including specific services. Since different vendors offer different price options, it is important to do adequate research to find the vendor that fits the needs of the organization.
All these aspects of planning a webinar are necessary, but the most important task is to line up appropriate and knowledgeable speakers. According to How to Host a Successful Webinar by Todd Davison, content is the top priority, and a recognized industry expert or author will increase attendance of the event. Also, it is important to select presenters outside of the organization that is producing the webinar. This will add credibility to the event. However, if the organization’s employees are known in the industry, they can participate in the webinar by hosting it, interacting with the presenters, and coordinating question and answer sessions.
“My overall experience as a webinar moderator has been very positive,” says Michelle Hucal editor of Environmental Design + Construction magazine. “I enjoy being part of a live and exciting educational opportunity. Plus, I get to interact with the speakers, get exposure for my publication and have the opportunity to see all of the questions and comments from participants.”
CUSTOMER FEEDBACKSurveying attendees after they participate in a webinar is a valuable step in creating a successful event. By surveying participants, the organization will be able to judge the effectiveness of the webinar. Participants should be queried about their overall opinions of the event, it’s visual and audio quality, timeliness, etc. This data will be helpful in planning future webinars.
Organizations that are considering webinars as a tool to educate industry professionals should realize that webinars can be used for many purposes. “A webinar is not exclusive to educating; a webinar can also provide training,” says Brian Cairns, Online Event Coordinator at BNP Media.
Also, webinars can be used as supplements to face-to-face conferences and seminars that last two or more days. “Sometimes webinars are done before face-to-face conferences as a teaser, other times they are offered after a face-to-face conference,” says Stevenson.
Regardless of what a webinar is used for, it is a tool manufacturers, associations, magazines, and companies are continuing to use to educate and train industry professionals. Within the past few years, the popularity of webinars has increased, and both organizations and industry professionals have benefited from this technology.
Webinars are a benefit to industry professionals and organizations. They allow organizations to offer education and training via the Internet, while allowing professionals to participate in events without having to travel and commit themselves to being away from the home and office for days.
SIDEBAR: How to plan a webinar• Establish Objectives and Expectations: Define and cultivate target audience.
• Choose Webinar Model: Decide if event will be editorial or sponsor driven.
• Select Topic: Pick a topic that audience will be engaged in.
• Recruit Speakers: Find well-respected industry leaders. Use more than one speaker if possible.
• Set Date & Time: Host event Tuesday – Thursday between 12 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST.
• Create Webinar Name: Come up with a compelling name and description.
• Event Promotion: On-line promotion lends itself best to marketing webinars.
• Presentation Development: Keep slide delivery to a maximum of 35 minutes. Offer statistics and illustrations. Examples and quotes also add substance.
• Surveys: Survey participants after event to engage and retain them.
*Source: BNP Media Webinar Department