Your webinar strategy will determine the different webinar types you select, but with so many options (including hybrid), that decision can be hard to make. This article will cover the importance of choosing the right webinar format, and the various options available.
The importance of choosing the right webinar type
The webinar format you choose impacts all of your webinar details, including length, content, engagement tactics, and the speakers you invite.
Here are some examples:
- A teaching webinar where a founder/owner or marketing director speaks directly to registrants.
- A round table for your users, where you invite registrants to ask you anything (i.e., AMA).
- An interview-style webinar where you (the host) ask your guest(s) questions.
- A joint Q&A where the audience can ask you and partner companies questions via a chat box and get answers live.
- A joint webinar where you partner with other brands to educate registrants about a certain topic.
- A hybrid of the above, such as a joint lesson with brand partners, with the second half of the webinar reserved for a live Q&A.
Each of those webinar formats has a different audience, purpose, and organizational approach. For example, you might use examples 1 and 2 to engage your current customers and boost retention and customer lifetime value. On the other hand, you might use example 5 to fill your pipeline with relevant leads from adjacent companies. For examples 3 to 6, you’ll regularly need to find partners to collaborate with, adding an extra level of organization and collaboration to the entire process.
The top webinar formats I’ve found most engaging are:
- A keynote speech webinar, where a company introduces a topic they’re experts in. This is the most common type of webinar I’ve encountered, and can be held in partnership with other companies.
- A panel-style webinar, where multiple company representatives discuss various topics, usually led by a separate host or moderator. You can also hold a panel of team members from the same company, but different departments, if you’re covering a new feature release or something similar.
- A live demo for onboarding, where a company activates sign-ups by teaching them how to engage with the service. Typically, there’s only one speaker who runs the presentation and Q&A.
Defining the customer journey
Before we dive into different webinar formats and how to choose the right one for your goals, let’s first look at the customer journey.
The customer journey, or customer funnel, depicts how people become customers. This theory is commonly represented by a funnel that moves through five stages, from awareness to purchase. The stages of the customer journey from the top of the funnel (ToFu) to the bottom of the funnel (BoFu) are:
As prospects move through each of these stages, their purchase intent increases until they eventually reach the final stage — purchase — where they will complete the buyer journey. Some customers may drop off before they reach the final stage, which is why it’s important to keep customers engaged through your marketing messaging and campaigns.
Customer retention is also a powerful motivator for maintaining a brand relationship with your buyers, even after purchase.
Webinars can be a powerful way to maintain your prospects’ interest and guide them along the customer journey.
Different webinar formats and styles
As highlighted above, you have a wide selection of webinar formats at your disposal. The type of webinar you choose to host should depend on two key factors:
- Where your webinar audience is in the customer journey
- Your webinar goals
By first defining your ideal webinar audience and your webinar goals, you’ll then be able to choose the most successful webinar format for your business. While I’ve found the most engaging webinar formats tend to be keynotes, panels or live demos, each format has its rightful place in your webinar marketing and sales strategy.
To help you decide the best webinar type for your business needs, here’s a look at some of the most common formats you may come across, and examples of when it’s best to use them.
Keynote webinars involve one or more people teaching a lesson(s) to attendees, usually with the use of slides or other visual assets. These webinars serve multiple purposes, from building thought leadership to generating leads.
Thought leadership webinars could be in seminar style where you talk about a topic you’re highly experienced in. They are most effective at the awareness or consideration stage of the customer journey. They’re deeply informative, so they fulfill the audience’s need to learn more about a certain topic, thus ticking that awareness box off the customer journey.
The specifics you discuss in a thought leadership webinar could also help people in the consideration stage of the customer journey to evaluate their options and decide whether you’re the best person or company for their needs.
The first goal of your thought leadership webinar should be to position yourself or your company as a helpful resource and thought leader within the industry. In conjunction with this goal, you should aim to inform and educate attendees about a particular subject, and to encourage leads as a result of you being seen as a trusted expert in your field.
Educational webinars teach attendees about a particular topic. These webinars are designed to be informative, and should help attendees further their knowledge and understanding of a specific subject.
“How-to” webinars are a great example. When setting up an educational webinar, plan to teach people about a topic you’re experienced in and that relates to your business. For example, an accountancy firm may want to host a teaching webinar that discusses “how to save money as a business owner.” This webinar would teach attendees ways to save money, and could include a pitch for their own services and products as part of the talk.
As teaching webinars are heavily focused on educating people, they’re best used for webinar attendees who are in the awareness stage of the customer journey. While these prospects may not be ready to make a purchase, your webinar can help them with their current pain points or needs. In turn, they’ll be more likely to think of your brand when they’re ready to convert.
Lead generation webinars, as the name suggests, are all about generating more leads for your business. These can be used as a lead magnet to upsell the particular product or services that you want your prospects to purchase.
Lead generation webinars are often aimed at people who are relatively new to your brand. Essentially, you’re targeting cold leads and trying to “warm them up” with your webinar. You can acquire registrations through social media ads, or by promoting your webinar on external websites through guest posting and digital PR.
When hosting a lead generation webinar, it’s likely most of your audience will be in the awareness stage. These people will have an understanding of their problems or needs, but not how to resolve or reach them.
Your webinar will, in turn, introduce a solution to their problems and educate them on their issues. It’ll introduce a solution (your product or service) and help them move from awareness to the consideration stage.
Q&As offer your audience the opportunity to ask you and your webinar partners questions and receive a live response.
This type can be a collaborative webinar hosted with a partner company, or with other people from your internal team, such as your sales or product development teams.
Commonly, Q&A webinars focus on company offerings and products/services. As such, this type is best suited for people who are in the interest or consideration stages of the customer funnel.
At the interest stage, people have recognized that your company could potentially offer a solution to their problem or need. They’re keen to learn more about your company and any helpful information or solutions you can offer.
A Q&A webinar is the perfect opportunity to speak to these leads and directly support them with their purchase decision in an informal, conversational environment.
A collaborative webinar or panel refers to a webinar where you (you guessed it!) collaborate with other businesses or experts.
Collaborative webinars, where you partner with other people, are one of the easiest ways to increase your impact. Because your co-partner for the webinar will also bring their own audience, insights, and expertise, you have the opportunity to market your business to these people along with your target leads. As a result, collaborative webinars are great for people in the awareness stage of the customer journey.
This type of webinar should focus on sharing as much information as possible, along with a little self-promotion from the webinar hosts (as you are sharing your audiences). Collaborative webinar or panel ideas could include two founders sharing their brand story, or a panel of experts offering tips and advice on a particular issue.
When choosing a partner for your collaborative webinar or panel, consider who would be ideal to help you reach your webinar goals. Your webinar co-host should closely align with your business niche, without being a competitor. You’ll also want them to help you nurture webinar attendees and move them further along the customer funnel.
Round-table style webinars effectively build connections within your network and with your target audience. They tend to be free group discussions and Q&A sessions that allow all attendees to speak up and get involved.
An example round-table webinar could be an “ask me anything” Q&A with an industry expert where attendees can chat informally with the expert and ask any questions they have. This style tends to be very interactive and can offer useful insights for both your business and your customers.
Due to their intimate and interactive format, round-table webinars can be great for your existing customers who’ve already completed the purchase stage. You can set up a round-table with a number of key customers to maximize loyalty, gather customer feedback, and find out how you can better support these customers and other prospects in the future.
Round-table webinars can be a beneficial part of new product development. These webinars allow you to gain insights from your audience and test ideas before launch which, as a result, can help you launch new products and services with a higher success rate.
Product demonstrations are webinars where someone from the company, usually a product manager or salesperson, records an introduction to your product or service. They will typically include a walkthrough of some of the main features and benefits of your product or service, a successful case study from a past or existing customer, and a Q&A session where attendees can ask questions about the product. The idea is to give your webinars attendees enough information about your product that they feel ready to make a purchase.
Some of the highlights of product demos should include:
- How the product or service works
- How to get the most value out of it
- Who the best customers and use cases are
Most SaaS businesses already have product demos available within their onboarding process, as live demos are a powerful way to address any lingering concerns turn interested leads into customers.
Because product demonstration webinars focus on acquiring conversions and sales, this format is best for customers who are in the intent stage of the customer funnel. These customers have already done their research and are thinking about buying your product. But they might need more information about it to assist them with their purchase decision.
Live demo webinars also allow you to spend time with your customers on a 1:1 basis, which means you can nurture these leads and find out exactly what’s stopping them from buying. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have someone from your sales team and your support team on the product demo in case they can assist the lead with any particular inquiries or concerns they may face.
The main goal of a live demo webinar is to convert prospects into customers so these types of webinars tend to be rather sales-focused.
Customer onboarding webinars
Webinars can be a great tool for delivering exceptional customer onboarding experiences. A customer onboarding webinar helps new customers get started with the product or service they just purchased.
This type of webinar should help new customers understand key product features and how to use them so they can get the most out of their purchased product/service. As a result, these webinars increase customer retention and minimize any friction during the purchase stage of the customer journey.
Your support shouldn’t stop the second someone makes a purchase. Customer onboarding webinars demonstrate your commitment to providing exceptional customer service without exhausting your customer service team. That care and attention to detail then form strong bonds with your customers. These events can take the form of either on-demand webinars or live walkthroughs.
You can supplement your customer onboarding webinar with additional resources such as blog posts, case studies and ebooks, or downloadable materials that enhance their customer experience. Potential extras include best practice guides, instruction manuals, feature insights, or any other information you think could benefit your customers.
Onboarding webinars are great for your bottom line and can increase your long-term customer value. If increased ROI and customer longevity are two of your business goals, you should incorporate these as part of your sales and marketing strategy.
On-demand webinars are pre-recorded events that can be viewed at any time. While they don’t have the same excitement as live webinars, they do have several benefits.
One is that they extend the lifespan of your content. Live webinars can only be viewed once, unless recorded for replay. Meanwhile, on-demand webinars are evergreen thanks to being easily and readily available.
On-demand webinars overcome the time-sensitive issue of live webinars, allowing people to watch at a time that suits them. 30% of people will watch on-demand webinars rather than live events, according to WorkCast.
Customers who are in the awareness or interest stages of the customer journey would benefit most from on-demand webinars. You can pre-record webinars on a series of informative and educational content for prospects to view while they research.
Example topics for on-demand webinars include customer case studies, informative “How-to” videos, and benchmark reports or insight round-ups. These topics all serve to educate attendees about either the problem they face or the solution your business can offer.
Your on-demand webinar could also function as a stepping stone, encouraging users to take action such as signing up for a free product trial or joining your online course. Depending on your webinar goals, on-demand webinars could be used for lead generation or awareness activities.
Tip: Turn your live webinar recordings into on-demand webinars to extend their lifespan.
A fool-proof webinar template
The “perfect” webinar depends on your goals, audience, and format. To spark your inspiration, let’s look at the components of a webinar.
1) Title page
The title page is what your audience sees before the webinar begins. It’s an excellent opportunity to remind attendees what they’re waiting for to get them excited.
Include the title, a brief description, and the names of your key speakers. You could even add a countdown timer to build anticipation and tell people how long they have to grab a snack.
Always open with an introduction of the host and guest speakers. This establishes a relationship from the beginning and builds a rapport to prevent people from leaving.
Your introduction slide should include:
- Headshots, especially if you’re not using video.
- Names and job titles so viewers can identify who’s speaking.
- A short bio to establish credibility and expertise.
- LinkedIn and Twitter handles to encourage connections.
The Aristotle triptych says, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” An agenda sets your audience’s expectations and helps keep them engaged by promising the best part is still to come. Agendas are also useful to deter questions on topics covered later, and to gear up your audience for any final Q&As.
4) The main event
This section is the meat of your webinar. Depending on what webinar format you chose, this will be when the panel, presentation, or interview begins.
Bring your webinar to life through:
- Storytelling – Make the presentation personal and relatable.
- Visual aids – Use graphics and animations.
- Interactivity – Run polls and surveys.
- Imagery – Incorporate photographs and videos.
- Application – Add stats and information relevant to your audience.
While live webinars work best for interactive content, there may be circumstances where you want to deliver an entirely or partially recorded webinar; for example, a product demo where the presenter plays a recorded video of the demonstration, then opens up the chat to live Q&A for attendees. Various webinar tools have the option for on-demand webinars, where the registration page takes the registrant to a recording. The recording can be a previous webinar or something recorded specifically for the on-demand webinar.
A recap slide tells your audience what you just told them, and reinforces your message. It’s also a useful prompt for the host should they miss anything they wanted to cover.
After telling your audience what you want to say, you need to tell them what to do about it. Include a powerful and clear call to action at the end of your webinar that connects to your goal.
This could be directing attendees to a web page, a free trial, your blog, or a registration page for next month’s webinar.
A question and answer section gives your audience an active role in your webinar and can generate useful insights for your sales and marketing teams. You can run Q&As using audio or chat boxes. It’s helpful to assign someone responsibility for filtering and collating questions, then delivering them to your host.
You also can plant some initial questions to get the ball rolling. I recommend setting questions to private so your internal team can see and answer them. When questions are viewed publicly, attendees can become stuck on one topic.
Tip: Use the Q&A section to generate future content ideas. You can repurpose your attendees’ questions to fuel your content calendar. Keep questions open throughout your webinars and field questions in real time. You can set aside the best ones for your speakers to answer live at the end, and simultaneously garner insight into what your audience wants to know. Some of my best-performing articles were inspired by my webinar Q&A sections because we were able to hone in on the content most relevant to our audience.
8) Thank you and repeated CTA
Lastly, thank your audience for their time, repeat your call to action, and let everyone get on with their day.
Wrapping up — Webinar types and a starter template
Choose your webinar type and use the template above to start testing and planning your first webinar. Keep your goals and your audience in mind when selecting the right format for your event. And be prepared for plenty of trial and error; no webinar is perfect the first time, but as you run more, you’ll eventually find your stride.