“Webinar” is a word most of us are familiar with—and if you weren’t familiar before the pandemic, you probably are now.
Webinars differ from online meetings, but the two are often confused, particularly since the pandemic made platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and GoToMeeting household names.
As the world switched to working from home, and everything was remote in mid-2020, digital frustrations and assumptions became associated with anything involving a video, remote audio, or screen-sharing component. Whether it is a meeting, presentation, marketing event, or classroom lecture, people put them all in the same category.
Given the tech saturation, it’s safe to ask, “Do webinars still work?”
In 2022, as the pandemic wanes, a webinar-weary world just doesn’t want to be endlessly online. But wait, webinars can – and should still – work.
Webinars Before COVID
Pre-pandemic webinars were seemingly another tool in a company’s larger marketing, sales, and events toolkit. They were a valuable and creative means to attract a larger audience remotely and served to save time and money by not hosting everything in person.
Sales teams used webinars to drastically increase their lead generation by inviting larger groups to scheduled events rather than having to drive and meet everyone individually. Employees traveling for work could use their laptops or phones to participate in company-wide events, instead of missing out and feeling disconnected from their teams.
Pre-2020, business trends focused on how to capitalize and expand webinar offerings, since engagement and presentation styles for online events are not the same as in-person events. Many businesses started to pay attention to adult-learning strategies—crunching data on the ideal length for a presentation or event and analyzing the effectiveness of the chosen subject matter and promotional aspects.
Although the webinar has existed since the 1990s, webinars started gaining traction in the mid-2010s. Based on research by Cisco Webex, GoToMeeting, and Parmonic in 2017 (three of the top webinar platforms at that time), a webinar happened every two seconds. According to the research, “The speed and affordability of webinars compared to live events [made] them the most popular choice to reach audiences. No timezones, borders, or expense reports [made] them ubiquitous.”
At a time when businesses were more creative and intentional with their webinars, the world changed.
How COVID Affected Webinars
In March 2020 schools were closed, businesses shut down, offices went dark, and furloughs reached millions. And the scrambling began.
How do we keep educating our children? How do we keep our companies open? How do we keep people safe, but also keep them working? How can we keep our government in order? How do we keep our country from an economic collapse?
The answer, it seemed, shifted to technology that had typically been reserved for special occasions—online video and web conferencing platforms.
Seemingly overnight, everyone’s virtual connection was the golden ticket. According to Forbes, “COVID-19 just vastly accelerated the move to make virtually all learning…virtual. [Making] asynchronous video learning, blended learning, and the ever-popular synchronous webinars our dominant learning modes.”
For business managers, department heads, team leads, and even CEOs, online meetings and webinar platforms had ensured communication, connectivity, and productivity.
All of a sudden, students, teachers, business owners, and employees were forced onto online technology platforms, whether they wanted to or not and whether they were equipped to or not.
Businesses had to choose the best platform or risk everyone using something random on their own. Teachers who had never used technology in the classroom were suddenly responsible for online lessons, and directors were still responsible for the performance of their teams.
With online platforms as the majority and everyone shifting to survival mode, strategy almost flew out the window. Webinars and online meetings pre-pandemic struggled to be effective and engaging. And then the pandemic opened the electronic communication floodgates.
So, in 2022, what do we do to revitalize the webinar? Or is it too late?
How to Do Webinars the Right Way
While the old ways of the webinar are drained and platforms are exhausted from the pandemic, this technology is not going anywhere—nor is the need to engage people remotely. If anything, it’s here to stay, and the competition is steep.
It’s up to businesses to shift their mindsets beyond maintaining the status quo. Make webinars effective. We’ve all seen videos about work-at-home productivity issues. The culprits? Boredom, distraction, and a lack of investment.
Webinars still have potential, arguably more now in 2022. MarketWatch stated, “The webinar market is projected to reach $800 million by 2023.” With all this potential, it’s about delivering a webinar the right way. Consider these key tips on how to host a webinar:
- Be visually creative.
- Know your platform, including its visual and auditory strengths and pitfalls.
- Avoid the word “webinar,” and present something more distinctive.
- Do research on how often and how long people stay engaged. Research has shown that “an average webinar lasts between 39 and 60 minutes, [and] people are unlikely to attend more than one webinar per week.”
- Adjust your presentation skills, including vocal delivery and visual readability.
- Train your employees on remote engagement, which includes recognition and expected participation.
- Attend webinars yourself and discuss pros and cons.
- Understand your target audience and how your viewer’s will experience your webinar.