What is a webinar? Everything you need to know!

While not a new thing by any means, webinars remain a tried-and-true tactic that drives great results for many companies. What is a webinar? And what kind of companies can benefit from them? Let’s take a look.

A webinar (or web seminar) is a live online conference or presentation. They are generally interactive, with participants getting information, asking questions, and discussing in real-time.

In fact, we’ve done some webinar-style live-streams here at Biteable. As an example, here’s a recorded video of our live talk on making on-brand marketing videos with Biteable.

Many companies use webinars as a way to connect with new customers, demonstrate expertise and build brand authority, or to promote a launch. They may also be aimed at existing customers, for training or onboarding, as an extra value add, or to upsell.

Generally webinars work best for B2B or SaaS companies, bloggers, and small business owners who want to share their expertise.

For e-commerce companies, other marketing tactics tend to work better, though B2C companies who offer bigger-ticket items or services may also benefit from the webinar format.

How do webinars work?

Just like an in-person workshop or seminar, a webinar will usually consist of one host or a panel of participants presenting live for 30-60 minutes.

Attendees can interact via chat and messaging, though some webinar hosts will also allow them to use their microphones to speak during the Q&A portion. The vast majority of webinars have fewer than 100 attendees, and most have fewer than 50. That said, it’s not unheard-of for webinars to have 500 or more viewers in attendance.

Webinars are generally free, but may be paid as well. The value in free webinars tends to be lead generation, though they may also be used for onboarding or training purposes.

Though actual attendance may be low, a well-promoted webinar may drive hundreds (or even thousands) of leads. Paid webinars can also be a source of revenue for bloggers and thought leaders who have a niche audience eager to learn from them. No matter who your audience, here are some general tips to keep in mind for an effective webinar:

Schedule smart

Consider your audience’s schedule — a B2B audience is very unlikely to attend a webinar on a weekend, but Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be good days. If you have an audience across multiple time zones, aim to land somewhere in the middle. In the U.S., 11am and 2pm local time tend to work well. Don’t get too hung up on scheduling though — many of your viewers will likely opt to watch a replay over attending live anyway!

Prepare well

With a webinar, it’s important to be well-prepared so you’re not stumbling over your words or leaving out key points, but you also don’t want to be blandly reading from a script.

Instead, you should map out a detailed outline of the information you want to cover, with plenty of time factored in for questions and audience interaction. You should also always do at least one dry run — preferably in the software that you’ll use. If you’ve never used your webinar software, make sure to take time to get familiar with all the tools so there are no surprises on the day.

Know what you want to achieve

Are you hoping to build your email list? Provide well-qualified leads to your sales department? Onboard new customers? Market your product? Generate revenue with paid registrations? The structure of your session, the content you cover, and your promotion strategy will vary depending on your goals, so be clear from the start about what you want to achieve and you’ll save a lot of time.

Leave time for questions

92% of webinar attendees want live Q&A time in a webinar, so be sure to pause for questions, and/or leave time at the end. Make audience interaction part of your session too, by incorporating real-time polls, chat, and surveys.

Surprise the audience

People love surprises! Teasing a surprise in your promotions is a great way to drive interest and registrations. Try inviting a special surprise guest, providing an exclusive download, like an ebook or worksheet, or offering a limited-time discount for attendees.

Have one big takeaway

Be sure to clarify exactly what you want audiences to walk away with. Depending on your goals, that might mean sharing a handout or worksheet, clarifying next steps, or ending with a specific call to action.

Promoting your webinar

How you promote can make or break your webinar’s success. The key here is to promote early and often. Keep in mind that about 15% of registrations will occur well before the big day — around 3-4 weeks ahead of time. That said, some 33% of people who register will wait until the day of the event, so make sure you continue sending reminders right up until it starts.

Of course, even if you do everything right when it comes to promotion, you can expect that only one quarter to one third of people who register will actually attend. But that’s OK! Just by registering, they’ve identified themself as a lead and opted into your email list. You can reach out to them again with special offers, or send a link to the webinar recording after the fact.

Here are the top marketing channels for promoting your webinar:

Email

The majority of marketers cite email as their top promotion channel, so make sure you’re sending invitations to your existing email list. In the weeks leading up to your event, you can re-send emails to any recipients who didn’t open last time.

If you don’t have an email list, that’s OK too — webinar registration is a fantastic way to grow your email list and generate warm leads.

Social channels

Start promoting your webinar on your social channels several weeks ahead of time. Share sneak peeks of what attendees will learn in the session and invite your followers to submit questions ahead of time. If you’re holding a paid webinar, consider offering a special discount for your social media followers.

Your website

You should definitely include information about your webinar and registration links on your website. The majority of webinars are aimed at either onboarding new customers or marketing and demand generation. For both objectives, your website is an ideal place to get the word out.

Pop-up or banner calls to action, blog posts, videos, and dedicated landing pages can all help you drive interest and registrations.

Video

Whether embedded on your website or landing page, included in an email blast, or shared on YouTube and social media, video can greatly improve your click-through and engagement rates, ultimately driving registrations for your webinar.

Use Biteable to make a beautiful, affordable webinar video in minutes. Our event templates make it simple to get started with just a few clicks:

Best webinar software

While sharing unique and valuable content is hugely important for a successful webinar, perhaps the most important decision you’ll make is what webinar software to use.

There’s nothing worse for a webinar host than dealing with embarrassing technical problems that prevent you from delivering the information your audience has made time to hear (or even worse, paid for).

Luckily, there are some great webinar software options at every price point. As you’ll see below, choosing the right one comes down to your budget, the number of attendees you expect, and the features you need.

Free: YouTube Live or Facebook Live

While not the platforms you usually think of when you think ‘webinar,’ we’d be remiss not to include Facebook Live and/or YouTube Live. Both offer live streaming features that can be used to host a webinar, provided your feature needs are simple and a more informal session is what you’re after. Let’s look at some pros and cons to hosting your webinar on social media:

Pros:

  • Free
  • Browser-based, no additional software needed
  • No limit on audience size
  • Long duration limit (240 minutes on Facebook, 36 hours on YouTube)
  • Potentially massive audience
  • No barriers to participation like registration or downloading an extension

Cons:

  • Live chat functions can be difficult to manage — you’ll likely need someone else to help field questions
  • Audience interaction is limited — no polls, surveys, etc.
  • No registration pages means fewer lead development opportunities
  • Less polished and professional appearance than a custom, branded webinar room
  • No webinar-specific features like join by phone, Q&A tools, automated email, or CRM integration

While Facebook can be used for webinars, in terms of features, YouTube’s video-specific features make it a more powerful tool if you must choose just one, though it’s also possible to stream simultaneously on both.

The other option is to choose webinar software with Facebook and YouTube integrations, which offers the best of both worlds — all the tools you need, combined with the large potential reach of social media.

Low-cost: Zoom

This popular conference calling software has a number of features that can be used for webinars too, but there may be some drawbacks depending on your needs:

Pros:

  • Free for up to 100 participants (however, free calls are limited to 40 minutes)
  • An affordable $14.99/month plan removes the call duration limit and gets you some other helpful features, like reporting and a custom meeting ID
  • All plans include traditional webinar features like whiteboarding, messaging and chat, raise hand, and more
  • Participants don’t need a Zoom account to join a meeting
  • Integrations with Facebook Live and YouTube Live allow you to stream simultaneously to both platforms
  • Zoom allows you to have multiple active participants without extra cost — ideal for panel discussions or webinars with multiple hosts

Cons:

  • Duration limit on free calls
  • Zoom’s pricing tiers can be a bit confusing, and the cost can quickly add up if you find you need many add-ons
  • The webinar-specific add-on increases the price to $40/month, which puts the cost closer to more expensive competitors
  • No built-in monetization, but an integration with Zapier allows you to charge a registration fee via PayPal
  • Some reviews cite connectivity and audio/video quality issues

Note that while it’s possible to host a webinar with the free or basic plan, you may find you need features that will quickly raise the cost significantly. In that case, you may be better off choosing a tool built specifically with webinars in mind.

Mid-range: BigMarker

With strong user reviews and an affordable base price, BigMarker has some compelling features built specifically with webinars in mind.

Pros:

  • Many webinar format options, including live, simulated live, on-demand, recurring, and automated
  • Audience interaction tools including chat, polls, Q&A, and handouts
  • Built-in marketing features like email invitations, registration pages, customized landing pages, and custom branding
  • Integration with CRM and email platforms like HubSpot, Salesforce, and MailChimp
  • Built-in monetization allows you to sell tickets for your webinar
  • The $49/month Plus plan (billed annually) gets you unlimited webinars for up to 100 attendees with two hosts
  • No downloads required

Cons:

  • May be less reliable — some user reviews reported technical issues with audio and video
  • Lacking some advanced webinar features like breakout rooms or practice sessions
  • Top-tier plan allows 1000 attendees — if you need more than that, you may need to go with a competitor

High-cost: GoToWebinar

Created by the same company as the popular GoToMeeting conference call platform, GoToWebinar offers some top-of-the-line features for webinar hosts. However, those features do come at a higher cost.

Pros:

  • Robust audience interaction features, including polls and QAs, handouts, whiteboarding, and more
  • Custom registration pages and branding, automated emails, and reporting and analytics
  • CRM and email integration for lead management
  • Simulated live webinars for pre-recorded sessions that feel like live ones
  • Many advanced features, including mobile webinar management, practice sessions, and more
  • Join by phone or computer
  • Free, 7-day trial

Cons:

  • It’s expensive — the lowest pricing tier is $89/month (billed annually) for just 100 participants
  • Users must download software in order to join the webinar — this can be a barrier to attendance if they have trouble downloading or just don’t want to
  • The platform’s user interface has a dated appearance compared to some competitors with a more streamlined look

Further options

The webinar and web conferencing space is a crowded field, and we’ve just scratched the surface. Depending on your needs, other options you may want to investigate include Cisco’s WebEx on the higher-end enterprise side, and WebinarNinja or WebinarJam, two mid-range favorites of bloggers, startups, and small businesses.

After the Webinar

After your event is over, don’t let your webinar go to waste! Share the recording on the same channels you used to promote it, including email, social media, your website, and recaps on your blog.

You can also repurpose the webinar content into other formats: email courses, ebooks, training and course materials, or videos.

Remember, 84% of B2B consumers will opt to watch a replay over a live webinar. To get the full value of your webinar, be sure to send the recording to all your registrants, not just those who attended.