140+: In the Moment


Conducting Webinars to Engage: The Good, The Bad, and The UGLY!

good webinars, bad webinars, and just plain ugly webinarsYou’ve probably attended a webinar or two along the way in your career. If you’ve had good experiences, you may have thought: “I can do that!” You’re right, you can! Webinars are great for business of all kinds, but there are some important things to consider before you jump in.

Over the past 10 years or so, webinars have grown increasingly popular and increasingly effective for marketing and training because they work. You can find thousands of articles and webinars about how great webinars are for lead generation. Many of the webinar software vendors offer webinars about various related marketing topics to generate leads for their companies, and include pitches for their software. But, they might not give you the nitty-gritty behind the scenes reality show version of the story. That’s where I come in.

In as much as I am an evangelist for webinars, I’m also a realist. I have presented and produced webinars for the past 10 years. I attend at least one and sometimes up to three webinars per week. However, as a producer and as a consumer, I have to be realistic: There’s good, bad, and ugly news about webinars that you should know before you build them into your marketing plan.

The GOOD

Webinars generate leads, begin a cycle of engagement, and can help you nurture relationships. Presenting on the Internet is a great way to introduce people to your organization, your products, and to your expertise. Webinars are also great for:woman celebrating a great webinar

  • demonstrating products
  • technology orientations
  • professional development
  • building your brand by demonstrating your thought leadership

Online presentations are like a virtual handshake in the beginning of what will hopefully become a deepening authentic relationship with those who attend. Depending on the content you present, they can help you nurture leads into sales, advocates into donors, and constituents into conducting. And, obviously, the convenience and cost effectiveness of attending or presenting a presentation in your jammies or at your desk is hard to beat.

Great. We’ve established that conducing webinars are a strategy worth exploring. So, what’s not-so-great about webinars?

The (Potentially) BAD

Well, there’s nothing inherently bad with webinars, but there are some potential problems that might not make them the ideal tactic to use without some planning, practice and preparation.

Producing and delivering online presentations can be time-consuming because:Thumbs down: webinar problems image

  • You absolutely MUST HAVE great content that is relevant, meaningful, exciting, and delivered exceedingly well. Developing content that will attract the right kind of audience can be time-consuming.
  • Typically, it takes time to build up a critical mass of people who want to consume your webinar content and are willing to invest their time in your webinars. Having just one will not have as much impact as having a series or multiple series. Be prepared to generate a lot of content.
  • You must research the webinar software vendors and pick the one that strikes a balance between the technology you need and your budget.
  • While you are getting started, researching best practice in webinar production, and practicing your presentation (A LOT) are paramount.
  • You will have to make sure the graphics are compelling and exciting and are not cluttered with a lot of text.
  • The key to success is filling the seats! You will need to spend time marketing and promoting the webinars.
  • You will have to be prepared to follow up with webinar attendees with meaningful practices.
  • Initially, you will need someone to help you practice, prepare and monitor the session while it is live. (When you become more experienced, you may not need the help, but you will initially.

Well, so far, the bad isn’t bad. It’s all just a matter of preparation, right? You’d think so…

The UGLY  

Even with the best software, great content, lots of practice, preparation, and promotion, things go wrong. There are many variables to being successful with webinars, only a few of which are addressed here. Even though I have a lot of experience producing and presenting webinars, I’ve had a bad experience or two. It happens. Once you’ve made a poor impression on attendees, it’s hard to recover. You might not get a second chance.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the pros and cons of delivering webinars. For more detailed information about webinar software vendors, best practice in webinar production, and presentation tips, you might want to:

Join me for a presentation on

11/9/2012 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo, 2012

in Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308

Despite the drawbacks, I strongly encourage the use of webinars for many businesses. As a matter of fact, I offer webinar production services that are designed to help the uninitiated get started, and for the business that don’t want to be troubled with the technical details. If you would like to chat about webinars, give me a call or drop me a line. I’m here to help.

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Social Media Resources for Newbies- There’s nothing to fear! (I promise!)

Are you little intimidated by all the weird terms and concepts you’ve heard so much about? Don’t worry, social media is in its infancy, and we are all learning… some of us have a bit more experience, but we were all newbies once. Relax! Here is a smattering of great resources that will help you understand the basics.

The FIRST STOP:

(Do not pass GO… Start here!) CommonCraft Videos
The absolute easiest, most user-friendly, and basic source of information might just be found at CommonCraft. The folks at CommonCraft develop and deliver outstanding videos intended to make the most complex concepts simple and interesting. They sell their …In Plain English series of videos to trainers and large corporations, but they make them available for non-commercial use on owner Lee Lefever’s CommonCraft channel on YouTube. (Wait, I might be losing you with channels on YouTube. We’ll get there, but for now, just click on the links!)

Here are a few of my favorite ComonCraft Videos!
Social Networking in Plain English
Blogs in Plain English
Twitter in Plain English
RSS in Plain English (If you want to keep up with lots of blogs, you MUST see this video!)

There are many more on the CommonCraft channel on YouTube

A quick Glossary, courtesy of Socialbrite

api app astroturfing blog campaign cause marketing civic media cloud computing copyleft Creative Commons crowdsourcing CSR Digg digital inclusion digital story double bottom line Drupal ebooks embedding Facebook fair use feed flash mob Flickr geotagging GPL GPS hashtag hosting Internet newsroom lifecasting lifestreaming mashup metadata microblogging moblog MySpace net neutrality news reader NGO nptech open media open platform open source open video OpenID paid search marketing permalink personal media platform podcast podsafe public domain public media remix RSS RT screencast search engine marketing SEO smart phone SMS social bookmarking social capital social enterprise social entrepreneurship social media social media optimization social networking social news social return on investment social tools splogs streaming media sustainability tag cloud tags technology steward terms of service triple bottom line troll tweet tweetup Twitter Twitterverse UGC unconference videoblog virtual world Web 2.0 web analytics Web conferencing webcasting webinar wi-fi widget wiki Wikipedia word-of-mouth marketing WordPress YouTube

Best overall resources

Mashable’s Social Media Guide
The overarching guide to social media that is updated several times a day:
Mashable’s Social Media Guide

Hubspot’s Internet Marketing Blog
Hubspot sells Internet Marketing software, so they want you to visit their blog, but in general, the information offered in this blog is very good! Highly recommended!

HubSpot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog

Articles and Webinars

From Joanne Fritz’ excellent Non-Profit Guide on About.com (a great resource for all things nonprofit, not just Social Media): 12 Tips for Nonprofits on Getting Started with Social Media

You’ll find a lot of Social Media articles in the Social Networking section of Network for Good’s Learning Center, Fundraising123

NTEN Artcles – Articles from the Nonprofit Technology Network
NTEN Webinars–  Affordable webinars from NTEN

Blogs

This is a hodgepodge of blogs that focus on  Social Media and its application for marketing and fundraising. Some are  written for nonprofit organizations, but offer excellent reading for small businesses as well.

John Haydon’ Blog
Heather Mansfield’s Blog
Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide
Allison Fine’s Blog
Beth Kanter’s Blog

NTEN’s Blog

Wild Apricot Blog

Organizations that offer articles and training on Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations (but offer great resource even if your business is not nonprofit)

NTEN
Idealware

Association of Nonprofit Professionals

Books, CDs, DVDs


The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause
by Kivi Leroux Miller

I’m On Linkedin– Now What? by Jason Alba

Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, Revised Edition by Andy Sernovitz

Guides and Whitepapers

Beyond the Hype: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits and Advocates
from Texans Care For Children

Reference
If you are ever stuck, you can look up words, terms or phrases through Google:
Enter keyword: define: (the word  or “phrase” you want to look find)

For more specific information, fast, I recommend Webopedia.

And, of course, the ever popular Wikipedia is helpful, but can be overwhelming.

Hey, Smartipants: Add your recommended resources here!
There is an overwhelming amount of information about social media! This is hardly a complete list! I’d love to add your favorites to this entry, so leave a comment to make this resource richer! (Yes, I know, a wiki would work better, but that’s a subject for another day!)