Pictured: Audience members in a typical B2B Webinar.
We all attended lectures in college that seemed to go on for hours without end. The professor was dry and not engaging. Today’s B2B webinars are similar to college lectures – they’re long, they’re often dry and they do not invite attendees to participate (aside from those 10 minutes of Q&A at the very end). In today’s world of social engagement, B2B webinars should be more Twitter chat than college lecture.
The Need for Change
Too many of today’s B2B webinars amount to a product pitch. If you’re fortunate enough to have 10% of your audience be “late stage” leads (for your product offering), then a product pitch may be effective, if it delivers the information needed to make a final decision.
What about the other 90%, however? They range from early stage to mid-stage, so they’re not ready for a product pitch. Instead, they probably have some questions that your presenter(s) could answer. So instead of lecturing to them, invite them to join you in a conversation.
How to Change: Engage Your Audience Ahead of Time
I don’t know why some webinar presenters guard their presentation like it contains the secret location of The Fountain of Youth. These days, transparency rules, so why not show your potential audience what you plan to talk about? You’ll gain valuable feedback to ensure that your message delivers on what your audience wants.
So post the preso on the web. Allow anyone to comment on each slide. Then, allow users who have registered for the webinar (perhaps you’ll need to assign them a login/password) the ability to edit your slide a la wiki (i.e. so that changes can be tracked and backed out). Now, you’re really onto something: a presentation tuned to what your audience wants. And, by engaging your audience beforehand, you increase the chances that they’ll attend the webinar.
How to Change: Conversations, Not Presentations
Your webinar viewers could be twiddling their thumbs or typing away on their keyboards (back to you). The choice is your’s, which would you prefer? Webinars should evolve to conversations, not presentations. Similarly, the slide deck should evolve, too. The new slide deck doesn’t include deep information about your products. Instead, it lists “topics for discussion,” that cover issues relevant to your prospects. If you’ve engaged with your audience beforehand, then you already know what topics they’d like you to cover.
Of course, presenters should still have the opportunity to tell their story, but the story should enable the conversation and not define it. So tell a short story, have it seed the discussion and then invite your viewers to join the conversation. Do this by embedding chat rooms, tweet streams and other relevant social networks directly into the webinar console. Your viewers will thank you – and, they’ll learn a lot from the other viewers, too.
The Benefits of Change
- Pre-webinar engagement can lead to higher registration and attendance numbers.
- Your viewers leave happier.
- You generate engaged prospects, not a generic list of leads.
- By engaging with your prospects, you’re able to better qualify them!
- By starting a conversation, you enable your sales team to continue that conversation.
Demand Generation Conference
I’ll be speaking at DemandCon in San Francisco on May 20, 2011, on the topic of demand generation and virtual events. In my session, I hope to avoid the same sins that I’ve outlined in this posting.