A simple how-to guide if you're thinking about planning and hosting a webinar
April 21, 2022
7 min read
Founder at Buildr
Now that you have a better idea of the pros for general contractors to host a webinar from Part 1 last week, the question now is: how does one actually conduct one?
While the execution of a polished webinar may seem complex on the surface, it's more likely the case that the hosts of this supposedly polished webinar are following a firm procedure similar to the one we'll lay out, and have simply put in enough reps that it comes across as seamless and effortless.
Rest assured, if you're thinking about hosting a webinar, it's best not to compare what you think you're capable of to a fully fleshed-out and produced webinar that you've attended in the past—just like you wouldn't bother comparing a tentative project to a fully designed and operational building that has undergone a decade or more of renovations.
You can begin with a very basic webinar with no expectations other than knowing your first will be your worst. You'll have a recording you can review and you'll be able to button up the spots where you see room for improvement, knowing that you'll inevitably improve with more practice.
Here are a few notes to consider—
Gone are the days when you’ll spend a lot of money on conferencing services. Instead, you can find dozens of software companies that offer all types of tools to help you go live on with ease. You can use Zoom or any secondary live video conference service to do so, including live-streaming on YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn—which are best if you anticipate that your audience is directly found on those sites. While there are an overwhelming amount of video conference hosting options available, including ones that market themselves specifically primed for webinars, I recommend initially using the video service you've used most frequently and are already familiar with. For most people, that's going to be Zoom.
If you've used Zoom for any period time and then happened to use Google Meet (or vice versa), you know the vulnerable, uneasy feeling of quickly trying to figure out the settings and options while you're live on-camera. Ease and comfort is the foundation we want to start with, so until you've found yourself outgrowing whichever conferencing platform you begin with, let's use what we know.
Zoom has a myriad of streamlined options for hosting webinars, depending on which license you go with, and which license you go with will fully depend on the amount of people you anticipate will attend. Here is Zoom's helpful "Getting started with webinar" article which dives into helpful topics including:
Webinar licenses: It's all but a guarantee you'll have 500 or less attendees on your first (and likely well beyond your first) go-round, so the least expensive license will be your best bet.
Registration approval: The process you want people to adhere to when deciding to attend your webinar. Do you want them to give you their email (recommended) or attend anonymously? Do you want attendees automatically approved if they sign up or do you want to manually allow who you'd like in?
Computer prerequisites: which operating systems you'll need for which versions of the Zoom (or mobile) desktop clients.
Recurring vs. one-time webinars
Scheduling a webinar
Audience interaction: do you want attendees to be able to ask questions that everyone can see or just panelists?
Let's drop the word "webinar" for now. At the end of the day, you're essentially constructing an engaging conversation that would have the same beats if you were doing a presentation at a live conference or on a smaller scale, at a work/board meeting.
It’s important that you have a well-drawn out and structured plan because unlike a podcast, meandering is frowned upon. Attendees expect to experience a conversation that is organized, clear, and well-planned when signing up to attend a webinar.
Develop a topic that you want to address and know that people will want to sit in on. There are nearly infinite routes you can take here. Perhaps you want to cover a hot-button topic that's currently popular in the construction industry, or you want to bounce ideas between other general contractors which piece of technology you use for a circumstance or how you deal with a certain problem.
However, it is critical to give something to the viewer. Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch, and they certainly don't want to listen to you talk about your business. What can you tell them or teach them that they will find valuable? A big component of that comes down to who your target audience is. Are you looking to create relationships with smaller companies? Perhaps you want to target investors for local commercial development. Create content that is going to appeal to your specific target audience and fold in the "salesy" stuff so that it comes across organically. You'll have the opportunity to mention your company’s mission, vision, and goals in passing. You may even want to showcase some of the work you’ve done.
With a well-established website comes well-curated social media accounts. Use your company's social media, email, newsletters and other connection points to let others know about your webinar. Again, when communicating about it, clearly state why they should attend and make that about them. What will the viewer gain from attending? The more interesting, controversial, or unique the topic is, the more likely people will be interested in it. Be sure to focus on the right audience, such as using your LinkedIn account to connect with investors.
The entertainment factor of a webinar is something to keep in mind when structuring. Considering the average human attention span and the amount of content that can be discussed exhaustively without starting to repeat oneself, expect to schedule a 30, 45, or 60 minute webinar (with 60 minutes being the most common).
Of course, you're not going to be talking for that entire time, keeping in mind that 10 or 15 minutes of questions included in that timeframe is the norm. Generally, you'll also want to give tardy attendees a few minutes at the top to join. If a webinar goes over the time you've allotted, don't sweat it too much since people can leave whenever they like, unlike an in-person engagement where leaving early or running too long can be considered a faux pas. A timely start is much more important for webinars. Additionally, consider these tips:
Charisma: Just like any public speaking engagement, you'll either want to appoint someone on your team and other panelists who are charismatic, engaging, and experienced.
Practice: If you, or someone on your team, is planning to conduct webinars no matter their current skill level, that's okay too. Experience builds that aforementioned charisma. Every rep improves.
Stimuli: Develop visuals that help to bring that content to life for the viewer. Just like if you were giving an in-person presentation, having accompanying slides and/or videos to support your talk will only help drive audience engagement. Unlike in-person, your audience is anonymously watching so they'll have a million other stimuli including other web pages and their phones which you will be competing with.
Anticipate: Create engagement opportunities that help people ask questions or answer the questions you have. It's always a good idea to leave room for questions you want to answer by not being exhaustive about a certain topic. Before your webinar, it'd be wise to create a list of potential questions you 100% have the answer to. The craftier webinar hosts even like to have audience plants that ask specific questions they want to answer live!
When done well, webinars can be a powerful way for you to communicate with your audience in a meaningful manner. They can also be a great way to build your business's reputation in the digital world. Over time, you'll find they can be fun to create too.
Seriously, you should sign up to be a construction insider. Everyone will be so jealous of you.