3 Simple (Yet Powerful) Features Every Webinar Platform Should Consider Adding

June 1, 2013

My advice for webinar platform providers

Photo credit: User laughlin on flickr via photopin cc

Introduction

I’ve planned many webinars and attended a whole lot more. Webinars are a tried and true vehicle for communication, lead generation, training and more. That being said, the user experience could be even better. Let’s cover three features every webinar platform should consider adding.

1) Scrolling tickers.

Scrolling tickers would be useful in webinars

If you’ve ever presented a webinar, you know that without fail, these two questions are asked every time:

“Will this webinar be available on-demand?”
“Will the slides be made available for download?”

This information should be provided to viewers at the beginning of the program (or, throughout it) – NOT during the Q&A portion at the end. But how can this be accomplished? With a scrolling ticker placed within the webinar console (a la CNN, as shown above).

Pre-programmed ticker messages.

The ticker could be programmed with a set of messages to be run in rotation. With regard to the slides, the messages could be:

“The presenter’s slides are available in the ‘files’ folder [above]”
“Slides will be posted to our blog immediately after today’s webinar”
“Slides will be emailed to you right after today’s program”

You’d program a similar message with regard to the on-demand archive.

On-the-fly ticker messages.

Webinar planners (or moderators) could then submit ticker messages on the fly, providing comments in context to the presentation.

Examples:

Re-share a great quote the presenter just said
Remind viewers to submit questions
Invite viewers to visit the presenter’s web site
Invite viewers to visit your web site

2) Enhance the “Q&A Slide”

How most webinars end

[Do I really need to stare at this for 25 minutes?]

Let’s say a webinar is 45 minutes long. The presenters complete their slides in 20 minutes and spend the next 25 minutes on Q&A. This means that the ending “Q&A slide” remains on the screen, unchanged, for 25 consecutive minutes!

This is a pet peeve of mine.

So here’s how to address this: dynamic slides. When presenters select a question to answer, they click an element in the presenters’ console. A new slide is rendered containing the question text. The webinar planner can choose a setting which determines whether the submitter’s name is shown next to the question.

Now, as viewers join the webinar in the middle of a presenter’s answer, they’re able to see the precise question being answered. Use this with the “on the fly” ticker messages and your Q&A session just got 200% more effective.

3) Copy SportsCenter’s rundown graphic.

Add a rundown to your webinars

In 2007, according to Wikipedia, ESPN’s SportsCenter introduced a “rundown” on the right side of the screen (later moved to the left). The rundown listed, from bottom to top, the upcoming highlights (or stories). If you see your team’s highlights listed in the rundown, you’ll stick around and wait to see it, thus keeping you viewing SportsCenter longer.

I’m NOT suggesting that a webinar rundown simply list the heading of each slide, a la the slide outline in PowerPoint. Instead, presenters should be asked to map out the primary segments of the webinar. And it’s these segments that should be listed in a rundown.

In a live webinar, the idea is to interest viewers in subsequent segments (to keep them around). In the on-demand archive, the rundown segments are clickable, allowing viewers to navigate directly to that segment.

Conclusion

OK, so perhaps these features aren’t as simple to implement as I might think. But they are powerful. Add these three features to your platform and I guarantee that your customers will produce more effective webinars.


Product Marketing Is Dead. Long Live Product Marketing!

February 2, 2012

Introduction

Beware product marketers: Dave Wolpert (@SwordfishComm), in a guest post titled “The End of Product Marketing” on the “A Random Jog” blog, warns that the product marketing position is on its last legs. Wolpert writes, “The product marketing function in tech companies is heading for extinction. The work product marketers currently do will continue to be performed, but by different people.”

With due respect, Dave, I believe your report of the imminent demise of product marketing is exaggerated. Here’s why…

Outsourcing Can Have Downsides

Your thesis centers around the notion that a product marketer’s responsibilities can be outsourced (or insourced). For instance, product managers can synthesize the “voice of the customer”, thus combining both “outbound” and “inbound” product management roles. Content development is insourced to MarCom. Sales presentations can be handled directly by sales reps.

You have to ask, however, whether quality suffers. Effective product marketers have significant subject matter expertise within their industry. Who will provide this knowledge and know-how to the MarCom team who’s been asked to write next quarter’s white paper? Similarly, who will define and provide the messaging and positioning for Sales to include in their decks? Sales should focus on selling, not marketing.

You note, “most copywriters can write persuasive proposal content.” While I agree that good writers can write quality content, I point to the Wendy’s commercial from the 80’s that asked, “Where’s the beef?” Copywriters can provide the ketchup and the bun, but subject matter expertise is required to produce quality beef.

Functional Oversight Still Required

We don’t operate in absolutes, of course, so I’ll partially accept Wolpert’s notion that some product marketing responsibilities can be outsourced. Don’t we still need an overseer to coordinate the outsourced tasks, ensure the quality of the work and be held responsible for the overall deliverables? If a CMO outsources demand generation, event marketing, search marketing and SEO, should her role be eliminated as well?

A product marketer is responsible for delivering upon product marketing objectives, in the same way a CMO is responsible for delivering on the broader marketing objectives.

Focus Is Paramount

Wolpert does note that someone still has to “perform the bit roles product marketers play,” but goes on to say that “ancillary roles don’t collectively constitute a full-time job.” But what about focus? Tuning in to the voice of the customer means that you often need to “leave the building.”

When product managers are meeting with customers and prospects, will they still be able to make the daily Scrum meeting? Will they be able to maintain and update the competitive matrix while keeping the product roadmap current? Can they speak at an analyst briefing while ensuring that this month’s product ships on time?

I don’t think so. Sure, in smaller organizations, product management and product marketing may be the same person. But as organizations grow, product marketing should be distinct, in the same way that QA exists as a role distinct from the developers.

Priorities for Product Marketing (Strategic)

Wolpert writes that “only those with an exceedingly rare combination of talents” will survive the mass extinction of product marketers. I agree that product marketers need a rare combination to succeed, though I object on the “exceedingly rare” qualifier.

Strategically, product marketers need to deliver on more and more of the “E” in “SME” (Subject Matter Expert). We need to serve simultaneously as customer and industry advocates. Product marketers ought to be the leading voices that propel an industry forward on adoption and growth.

Priorities for Product Marketing (Tactical)

Product marketers should be comfortable and well versed with the following:

  1. Social media. While Marketing Communications or Corporate Marketing tend to manage an organization’s social channels, product marketers need to utilize social media as a listening platform. Your market is speaking. Are you listening?
  2. Blogging. Start blogging. Never before have you been able to both publish and receive market input so quickly. If you blog, be sure to allow comments, as two-way conversation is more powerful than the one-way street.
  3. Video. Learn how to effectively use this medium. Your market wants its content in this form.
  4. Webinars. Learn how to present via webinars.
  5. Events. Attend industry events to build upon your (and your organization’s) role as the industry advocate and voice.

Conclusion

As a product marketer, I’m confident that my role (and by “my,” I mean the role in general) will continue onward. Sure, it may shift and adjust, but eliminating product marketing, in my opinion, will bring harm to organizations far and wide.

Use the Comments section below to share your thoughts on this topic.

Subscribe

Did you enjoy this blog posting? If so, you can subscribe to the feed here: https://allvirtual.me/feed/

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Virtual Events Q&A

July 27, 2011

Read the full Q&A: http://www.icon-presentations.com/blog/bid/40930/Virtual-Events-for-eventprofs-Q-A-with-Dennis-Shiao

Introduction

Icon Presentations is “one of the country’s presentation leaders specializing in projection and wide screen video blending.” Jenise Fryatt (@IconPresentsAV) is with Icon Presentations, where she authors the Sound n’ Sight blog.  I had the privilege of doing a Q&A with Jenise on her blog, on the topic of virtual events.

Q&A

I provided answers to the following questions:

  1. Can you define “virtual event”?
  2. What do you think is the biggest myth about virtual events?
  3. What do event professionals need to learn about them?
  4. Can virtual events help planners to show a measurable return on investment for their clients?
  5. How do you determine which kind of virtual event will best meet your needs?
  6. What resources would you suggest for event professionals who want to learn more about virtual events?

To read my answers, view the full blog posting at Sound n’ Sight.


Answers To Your Virtual Events Questions

November 23, 2010

Introduction

Got a question about virtual events, virtual trade shows, virtual career fairs, etc.?  Post it to FOCUS.com and a network of FOCUS Experts is here to help.

Focus “provides millions of professionals with the expertise they need to make better business decisions. At the heart of Focus is a network of world class business and technology experts. These experts power the real time Q&A, world class research, and personalized support that so many businesses now depend on”.

Sample Q&A

Below is a sampling of the questions posted, along with their answers:

Virtual Trade Show Best Practices: Best Practices for Exhibiting at a Virtual Trade Show

Should virtual event teams reside on the IT or Business side?

Virtual trade show booths: What are best practices for creating virtual event booths?

What are your top three tips for planning a successful virtual event?

Virtual Trade Show success: What is the ideal number of exhibitors at an event?

What should your content strategy be for your virtual event booth?

Virtual Events: Best practices for determining the success of your virtual event?

Conclusion

Join the conversation! If you need some help with your virtual event strategy, planning or execution, post it on Focus.  If you have thoughts and experiences to share, “come on down”.  Hope to “see you” there.

Related Links

  1. From the INXPO blog, “Interview with The Funnelholic: Virtual Events, FOCUS Expert Network and More
  2. A webinar I did with FOCUS, “How Smart Marketers Succeed with Virtual Trade Shows

Webinar Evolution

October 6, 2010

Introduction

Do you attend webinars?  If so, what is your satisfaction level with the experience?

Webinar Q&A

I was attending a highly captivating webinar last week.  The speaker had delivered a great, crisp presentation and was doing a great job answering questions during the Q&A period.  While viewing the webinar, I tweeted the following:

Needed in webinars: tool for producer to dynamically insert Q&A topic on screen – better than seeing static closing-slide image

When presenters complete their presentation and transition to Q&A, the viewer is left with a closing slide.  That slide remains unchanged for the duration of the Q&A session.  Couldn’t the moderator play a role here by generating some updates that appear in the webinar player, adding some context to the presenter’s answer?

That’s one of many ways that the webinar experience can evolve.  About a year ago, in fact, I wrote a posting about applying Web 2.0 features to webinars.  Here’s a link to that posting:

https://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/from-web-2-0-to-webinar-2-0/

Let us know your thoughts – how can webinars evolve?


Virtual Events 101: Tips For Building Your Virtual Booth

April 13, 2010

Your company is exhibiting at a virtual event and you’ve been assigned the responsibility of building your company’s virtual booth.  You’ve had plenty of experience assembling a physical booth, but never before have you built one virtually.  What’s your first step?  To immediately resist the urge to start the virtual build.

Set/Confirm Objectives & Goals

The objectives and goals for your virtual booth should align with the goals for your company’s participation in the virtual event. If you do not set the direction yourself, be sure to round up the necessary decision makers and have a documented set of goals – publish them internally and be sure that all stakeholders have a copy.  Sample goals include:

  1. Obtain contact information from “X” number of prospects
  2. Generate “Y” number of meaningful prospect engagements in-booth
  3. Yield “Z” number of qualified sales opportunities
  4. Generate “X%” of brand uplift, as measured by “Y”

It’s absolutely critical that goal definition be your first step, as it drives the decisions you make regarding the build-out of your virtual booth.

Content is King

The main elements of a virtual booth are (1) content [e.g. images, signage, videos, documents, links, etc.] and (2) virtual booth staffers.  Your first job is “content curator” – review all content available and be selective about which content you’ll place in your booth.  It all goes back to the defined goals – the content you select should align with the goals.

So if your goal is demand generation, find the same White Papers that your marketing team is using to generate sales leads across the web.  If your goal is driving awareness around a product launch, grab that 2 minute video of your product manager and have it auto-play when visitors enter your booth.  Besides documents in your marketing library, be sure to cobble together useful links on your web site, along with third party articles, blog postings and product reviews that reinforce your objectives.

Booth Labels Are Like Headlines

Content in a booth is typically housed behind a set of “booth labels”.  Your next job is one of headline writer – you’ll want to craft captivating “headlines” for the booth label, along with attention-grabbing titles (and descriptions) for the underlying content items.  You’re like the home page editor for your favorite content site – you need to figure out how to write headlines (titles) that will grab your visitors’ attention.

While you certainly want to avoid the “bait and switch” (e.g. writing a label/title that intentionally deceives), your labels need not literally reflect the underlying content. For example, if you assemble a set of blog postings from your company’s blog, you need not label these “Blog Postings”. Instead, organize the blog postings into themes – a set of postings on best practices could simply be labeled “Best Practices” in your booth.

While I suggest you do not change booth labels while the event is live (that would significantly confuse your booth’s repeat visitors), you’ll want to review the activity reports from your booth to learn from the labeling decisions that you made.  You’ll begin to figure out what worked and what didn’t – and can use those learnings for your next event to more effectively use labels/headlines to achieve your goals.

Use A Call To Action – Not A Declaration

For signage within the virtual booth, I prefer to use a call to action (e.g. “Ask Us Why 2010 is The Year of The Hybrid” above) over a declaration. So instead of declaring, “The world’s leading producer of plastic widgets”, try a call to action, “Ask us why plastic widgets are the new metal widgets”.  The call to action initiates a conversation with your visitors, rather than telling them what they should know.  If visitors enter your booth’s group chat and proactively ask the question stated in your call to action, then give yourself a pat on the back.

Stand Out From The Crowd

You’ll likely have competitors exhibiting in their own virtual booths, which means that a key part of your job is to figure out how to separate your booth (and company) from the crowd.  Greenscreen video (aka an embedded video greeter) has been used at enough virtual booths that it won’t make your booth any different.

Instead, try an offbeat video that’s not yet made its way to YouTube.  Or, how about an avatar of your CEO whose mouth movements are synchronized to the words s/he is speaking.  Perhaps an animated avatar is the new greenscreen.  Thinking further outside the box, how about bringing one of your products to life – personalizing that product to the point where it speaks and delivers a message to visitors.  A good example (in general – not in a virtual event) is the DCX Man character created by Brocade:

Source: Brocade (dcxman.com)

Further information can be found here: http://www.dcxman.com/whois_dcxman.html

Optimize Your Content For Search

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not the sole domain of your web site or blog – it applies to virtual events as well.  How can this be?  Well, most virtual event platforms provide basic and advance search capabilities – they index all content in the event (e.g. documents, links, Webcasts, etc.) and some platforms even index the contents of uploaded documents.

As a result, keep SEO in mind for selecting documents to include in your booth, along with the labels, titles and abstracts that you use to catalog your booth content.  Taking a step back, be sure to write an SEO-optimized description for your company and booth – if attendees search for a key term and your booth is at the top of the search results, then all is good in the world.

Subject Matter Experts as Booth Staffers

While you’ll certainly want sales reps and sales engineers as booth staffers, it’s critical to work subject matter experts into the staffing schedule.  A visitor who asks specific product or service questions is a hot prospect – and telling that prospect “let me get back to you with an answer to your question” becomes a lost opportunity.  Even worse, that opportunity could fall into the lap of your competitor, whose booth is only one click away.

If you’re a technology vendor, try to have your product manager, chief engineer or event your CTO available within the booth.  While some technology folks may not be comfortable face-to-face with a customer, most feel quite at home in a text chat session.

Optimizing For: Demand Generation

If you’re looking to generate sales leads, cobble up all your best lead gen content – the latest White Papers, Case Studies, product sheets, videos, podcasts, customer testimonials, etc.  Be liberal and selective at the same time – that is, ensure there is a good mix of content choices, but be religious in making sure the content you select aligns with your goals – and relates to the theme of the virtual event.  The beauty of a virtual event is that registration occurs once – but all activity with your content is tracked.  So you’ll have rich activity profiles at your disposal to help you separate the cream of the crop leads from the visitors who came simply to enter your prize drawing.

Optimizing For: Thought Leadership

Are some of your co-workers experts or luminaries within your industry?  If yes, then have them be staffers within your booth!  Visitors will have a natural inclination to engage with them – and they’ll be able to funnel the ripest opportunities to sales reps within your booth.  If your employees have not achieved rock star status within your industry, leverage some of the luminaries to produce content on your behalf.

Perhaps it’s a research report authored by an industry expert – or, a video interview (hosted by the expert) with your CEO.  Better yet, a Webcast within the virtual event that features the expert(s) who provide a presentation prior to your own speakers.  If the experts are available to attend the virtual event, invite them to provide Q&A within your booth, as they’ll serve to draw interest and engagement from visitors.

Conclusion

While much of the logistics occur “online”, building a virtual booth will take longer than you think (if done right).  Be sure to clearly define your goals first – then, make sure your booth achieves those goals.  Take planned breaks from the virtual build to assess whether your booth aligns with the stated goals.  Finally, be sure to study activity data from the live event so you can make improvements for your next event!

Related Links

  1. Browse the Virtual Events 101 Index Page
  2. Download the eBook, “Virtual Events: Ready, Set, Go

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


%d bloggers like this: