How to make your webinar stand out

Mark Bornstein, VP of content marketing, ON24, shares his insights and experiences on making a webinar stand out from the norm. Kavita Singh reveals the key tips he gave during his lively webinar.

1. Create an enticing console

With webinars, it’s important to have a good console first and foremost before you can even begin to think about the content and presentation. The webinar console is simply what the audiences are seeing on their screen while viewing.  What your users sees on their monitor should look visually appealing and branded.

Mark says: “That is a direct reflection of your brand. It needs to look great. You've got people staring at a fixed location for up to an hour maybe more in some cases, and if it's something very bland and boring, it's literally going to move the eye away and pretty soon they're going to be checking their phone.”

Find the most appealing backdrop with quality images. Implementing chat bots, social media feeds, polls or trivia will all make your screen more appealing and keep audiences glued to the screen.

“The console matters, especially for those of you in financial services, manufacturing or accounting. You want to still give off a feeling of professionalism and polish, and your couch may not look professional, but the console can look great. And that's why it matters and so you really need to rethink the energy and effort that you put into creating great consoles.”

2. What would Oprah do?

Mark points out the obvious: Oprah would never give a boring webinar. She would put on a show. Period. You don’t need to be over the top with personality, but you do need to create an experience that will make people want to sign up.

In many cases, making the webinar a discussion or talk show is way more engaging than churning out stats to your audience.

Mark says: “And there's so many different types of formats. There's talk show formats, or interview formats, where people are having conversations about a specific industry, topic or concept. I love all the casual formats that have been happening over the past few years.”

3. Find your best talent

“Your best experts are not always your best presenters.”

Mark often hears from other companies that their webinar speakers just aren’t cutting it in their presentations. For example, if your webinar is about ABM, your instinct might be to find the person who knows the most on the subject matter. However, that might not lead to the best presentation.

The key is to find the person who has both the personality and presentation skills AND the expertise. This means finding the person who can deliver the content effectively and be able to answer the Q+A questions the best.

“There are those people, they may be in your marketing department, they may be in your sales department, your sales leadership, or even your company executives. They are usually the biggest type of personalities. Maybe you've got third-party partners that you work with, but the key is to find that person.”

If those people aren’t still appearing, you can start with having people moderate a conversation between experts so they can feel a bit more relaxed on camera at first. Encourage them to get out of presentation mode. It’ll feel like a PowerPoint presentation rather than a discussion.

Mark advises: “I am telling you, this is the number one tip I give to everybody if you've got nervous presenters, take away their PowerPoint and just have somebody who does have that type of personality moderate a discussion with them. Just basically create a series of questions that are preordained, get the audience involved and talk. And if you do that, I guarantee you the experiences will be better.”

4. Video, video, video

At this point, not having video should no longer be an option. Audio webinars simply aren’t as effective.

Mark says: “Let people see you and connect with you and just be your authentic selves, and I love it because we are at a time where everybody is so forgiving. They're so forgiving and they're just so accepting of us. Here we are in our living rooms and kitchens and whatever it is. Show yourself – don't be afraid to show your background.”

Another fun way to increase engagement is to integrate video clips. It can be an intro to your team, a cool animation, an interview with an expert, or any other videos you might’ve filmed before Covid-19. Even if it’s just one or two clips, it breaks up the presentation.

5. Get your audience involved

This might be the most important tip, but your content should be as engaging as possible through social media feeds, polls, trivia and group chats.

Mark explains: “What audiences want are experiences that are not passive. They want to engage with you. They want to be a part of everything. You know in the gaming world, we're participating. Even with TV, they're starting to have ‘choose your own adventure’ TV shows. I think that is a big part of our future coming, and you need to think of that same spirit in your marketing, your webinars and the digital experiences that you're creating that audiences want to be involved in.”

Before Mark started his slide show, he carried out a poll with the audience to get them warmed up. Later, he explained that this is the kind of tone you want to set. By utilising polls, surveys, social media and chats, you can create more of an interactive experience.

He says: “The goal of your webinar is not to deliver a great presentation. You want your audience to do stuff. You want them responding to polls; you want them downloading content; you want them chatting; you want them signing up for another webinar. Everything they do is going to tell you more about them, and the goal of real digital engagement is not just to deliver happiness and guidance and information, but it's to also get insights and actionable data.”

6. Get creative

Mark discussed ON24’s Halloween themed webinar, which was a mini-pitch about its 24 hour digital experience platform. “Bring Your Webinar Back from the Dead” was the title to draw audiences in, and the content focused on keeping your webinar content ‘alive’ well after the webinar event is over.

For them, it was a fun way to create a personalised experience and utilise webinars in a more creative way.

Mark says: “I've seen people use Slack channels and different networking tools to integrate into some of the experiences, also playing with the technology. We're seeing a little bit of everything. We're seeing lifestyle webinars, yoga webinars, cooking webinars – you can do just about anything and you need to get creative in terms of the types of experiences that you're building for your audiences.”

7. Be human and enjoy yourself

This might be the most important rule of them all. Just remember to have fun with the resources you have. If it’s just a PowerPoint presentation with slides and you’re reciting information, it’ll feel like a chore for both you and your audience.

Mark says: “Let your brand personality shine, whatever your brand is, whether it's super serious or light-hearted. You have the ability to create webinar experiences that can feel like your brand.”

If something doesn’t work, it’s all trial and error. Remember your audience are all human beings and will forgive any faux pas, whether that’s a glitch in your console, a blender going off in the background, or a speaker messing up here or there. Own all of your mistakes.

He concludes: “Don’t be afraid to mess up. If your dog jumps on your lap, your dog jumps on your lap. And maybe that's the best of what a webinar can be today, because if your dog jumps on your lap, it means that you're just a person. And the key to delivering great experiences is to just be able to connect on a really human level.”