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8 Best Practices For Your Association's Next Webinar

Webinars are a great tool to show members that your association is an innovative thought-leader in your field.

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Sometimes fostering an air of authority is as simple as promoting your own expertise. As an association, you’re in the unique position of possessing a wealth of industry knowledge – knowledge that you can leverage to build up your membership and engage current members.

But, sometimes you need to go beyond the typical thought leadership blog. It’s easy for readers to land on your blog and just skim to find what they need, then bounce on to the next piece. You need something that draws a viewer in for a significant amount of time, and then persuades them that you are, indeed, an authoritative leader in your field.

Enter the webinar.

Now, at one point or another we’ve all received an invite to a webinar that seemed unnecessary or boring, and the typical response is an eye-roll and a quick delete. But the reality is, with the right presenter and the right content, you can create an online webinar that garners attention and keeps attendees leaning in to listen. Studies have even found that webinars are an incredibly effective premium content marketing tool. So what exactly do webinars do to benefit you, the association? And how do you host one that actually generates leads and keeps your current members engaged? To start, we’ll cover some of the ways a webinar can boost your image and attract new members.

An all-in-one marketing device

It’s no exaggeration – webinars really are an all-encompassing tool that every professional association should have in their marketing tool belt. They generate, nurture, and sometimes even convert leads all in one swoop. They also promote retention of current members. And they’re a simple way to promote thought leadership. But the benefits of online webinars don’t stop there:

Reach a wider audience.

A webinar allows you to do essentially the same thing you would do at a professional event: inform, educate, and engage. However, one huge advantage that webinars have over live events is they’re remote. You perform them from anywhere, and anyone can attend. This casts a much wider net on the types of people that can attend your online conference.

Inexpensive self-promotion.

The average cost to host a webinar, from start to finish, can range from as little as $100 to as much as $3000 depending on the type of technology you use and how you promote. Putting on your own conference can cost well into five-digits. Consider that you have to pay for event space, an event coordinator, and a professional speaker that will cost you upwards for $4000 just for their time alone. Webinars give you a much wider reach at a lower cost.

Captivate current members.

Retaining members is a constant challenge. They need to see a tangible value for their membership fees, and one particular asset they expect is career-advancing information. By offering insider advice in an easy-to-access forum, you provide the opportunity for members to deepen their industry knowledge while actively engaging with other members of their association community.

Generate and nurture leads.

This is one of the biggest perks of hosting a webinar. You can generate leads and nurture those that attend at the same time. The average attendance rate of webinar registrants is 40-50%. But, of those that register but do not attend, you still gain leads that you can foster in other ways like through a display ad campaign or follow-up emails. Those that do attend are already qualified leads – and throughout the course of the webinar, you have your chance to sell them on your association by displaying your expertise. You have qualified leads that are listening to you with rapt attention for a full hour – gaining insight into your organization and learning how much they could benefit from membership.

Best practices of webinar hosting

When you decide to set up your first webinar, where do you start? We’ll outline some of the best practices of hosting an online webinar.

1. Choose a relevant topic.

This should be fairly obvious, but it needs to be stated, since this can make or break your webinar. You need to choose a subject that will be engaging to your target audience – you can’t just spend an hour talking about whatever you think will be most interesting. Think of your members’ most significant pain points and use those as a reference point for your topic. You also need to choose a topic on which you have valuable information that your audience may not be able to find easily. To sum, choose a topic that addresses your members’ needs, and one in which you have plenty of insight.

2. Find a platform to host.

There are tons of online platforms available to help you host a webinar, including sites like GoToWebinar and AnyMeeting. Spend some time researching a few hosting sites and comparing their functionality to your needs. This will require you to already have a game plan for how you want to run your webinar. For instance, will you be using video or just audio? Do you want a chat box where members can chime in? Make sure your hosting site offers the features you need at a price you can afford.

3. Advertise your webinar widely.

Sending out emails to current members is important, but you can’t bring in any new leads that way. You need to advertise your event on a variety of social media outlets, especially professional sites like LinkedIn and heavy-traffic sites like Facebook. You should also include sign-up links on your website, blog, and any of your other outlets. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even form a retargeting campaign for those that visit your landing page but don’t sign up immediately.

4. Send out frequent reminders.

Think of how many times you missed an online events, either out of laziness or plain old forgetfulness. The same holds true for your webinar. Registrants will forget, so it’s your job to remind them. Send out multiple emails, for example, one upon registration, one a couple days prior, and one an hour prior to the event. For those that provide a phone number you may even want to send automated text messages.

5. Choose the right speaker.

Even if you get a large number of people to tune in, you’ll quickly lose them if your speaker is overly dry or monotonous. Select someone with a passion for their topic, and who is able to speak fluently on the subject. Additionally, you want someone whose name carries weight in their field, so it’s best to find a speaker with heavy-hitting credentials that will be seen as a credible source.

6. Invite discussion.

Remember that chat box function we mentioned earlier? You definitely want to have one in your webinar, as this is how your viewers will discuss and ask questions. It creates a more personal experience when the audience can interact with one another and the speaker, and a public chat feed where individuals can bounce comments back and forth is ideal for this. Be sure that your speaker saves time at the end for questions, and have him/her answer queries that were posed in the feed.

7. Give a freebie.

Inevitably, some viewers will not make it to the end of the webinar. We live in an age of short attention spans, and an hour or longer of listening to a speaker is much more of a commitment than a short YouTube video. One way to keep your audience watching is to offer a freebie to those who tune in for the entire webinar. Whether it’s a useful eBook or a discount on a related product, delivering a payoff is a fantastic strategy to keep your viewers on board.

8. Don’t forget your CTA.

No marketing tool is complete without some form of a call-to-action. At the end of your webinar, remember to include a brief plug for your association, to the tune of, “This webinar was brought to you by…” Include a sentence or two about your association, then give an invitation for non-members to join. Remind them that they can have access to more useful information and more, and then direct them on how they can join.

Promote as you provide

A successful webinar won’t just be determined by the number of leads you generate. Gauge the overall fruitfulness of your online webinar with these questions:

Did I accurately promote our organization as innovators and thought leaders?

Did I provide valuable information to my current members?

Did I offer a platform for interaction, engagement, and personal development?

Did I plant seeds in the minds of potential members that can be nurtured into conversions down the road?

With these overarching goals in mind, and the tips outlined above, you can host your own webinar that both meets and exceeds your expectations.