Webcasting technology hasn’t evolved very much over the past 20 years. So what can you do to add value, make it feel fresh, enhance engagement and differentiate your webcast experience, making it truly memorable?
We recommend adding a Lobby Experience — a pre- and post-webcast destination—to turn your webinars into unique, value-driven experiences.
Guests can begin engaging from the moment the first invitation is sent out—to ask questions, download content in a variety of formats including videos, and engage in online chat before and after the webinar. Why not use the pre- and post-event environment to involve your audience in the preparation and make sure your webinar content nails it? Why limit the interaction to just that one short window of webcasting time, when you can build an experience around the main event that adds greater value for your audience?
There’s no good reason to wait until the webinar to create a phenomenal experience for your audience.
What's the Difference Between a Webinar and a Webcast?
Historically, the distinction of webinar vs. webcast has been that a webinar (think “web seminar”) is a presentation that is intended to be interactive and, given the limitations of webinar technology, has been targeted to a smaller audience, while a webcast (think “broadcast”) is typically a one-way communication streamed to a large audience of tens of thousands of people, but with limited, if any, interaction.
Regardless of the label you land on in the webcast vs. webinar discussion, the desired outcomes are the same for both: to achieve scale and find new opportunities to bump up engagement. And the use cases are often the same: generating leads, developing your sales pipeline, building community and engaging investors. But how do you do that when the event usually lasts for no more than 90 minutes?
For the purposes of our discussion today, we’ll focus on webcasts. We think you’ll see the opportunity there, and if this sparks ideas that apply to other activities, that will be great, too!
Lose the Webcast Limitations
Until today, webcasts have been limited by two things: time and webcast technology.
Webcasts begin at a set time, and end at a set time. From the moment they are announced and until the minute they start, your engagement with the audience is generally conducted via email, dripping out information on the topic, agenda, and confirmed speaker and soliciting registrations. Once your target has registered, the contacting focuses on reminders to attend, encouraging your registrants to put the event on their calendar, or click a link that adds it for them, and then reminding them again to join just minutes before the event begins and hoping for the best.
Webcasts last typically no more than 60-90 minutes. Unfailingly, there are participants who join late and leave early, and when they do, they don’t have the benefit of the full experience you’ve so carefully planned for them. More importantly, they can miss vital elements of the information and interaction you invited them here to share.
Even when they do join on time, there is still the risk that they are not fully committed to spending the time with you—if, in the first few minutes, you haven’t proven this event to be worth their while, there is a very high risk that you will lose them to one of the many competing demands on their time. And even when they stay, you have no assurance that they are actually listening, and not running your webcast in the background while they multitask and allow in a multitude of distractions.
Within your limited time frame, you have much to accomplish: welcome your guests warmly and enthusiastically, introduce yourself and your speakers, explain how to use the technology and how to resolve any tech issues, cover any housekeeping items, and then dive in to the content, hoping you will still have enough time for a thorough Q&A.
Some of the common pain points of webcast technology include:
- No pre-webcast engagement. Beyond sending email reminders, there is little to do prior to the webcast to make your audience feel involved in the planning and excited about attending. With a Lobby Experience, you can increase your interaction and touchpoints with registrants to build excitement—and a stronger relationship with your brand.
- Low live attendance rates. Low engagement often leads to low attendance rates. Even when you’ve hit your target, there is always the feeling that you could have attracted more eyes and ears if only you had a better way of getting the message out.
- Lack of audience interaction. In many cases, the opportunities for audience interaction are limited in webcast technology. It is important to use every tool at your disposal to draw your audience in and, for the sake of your own metrics, test whether they are paying attention.
- Poor post-webcast lead generation. Webcast technology in and of itself is not the best tool for lead generation once the webcast is over. Perhaps you can include a link at the end of the presentation, but once that webcast window is closed, often your only hope is a really solid outreach campaign. Wouldn’t it be great if you could extend the window of time in away that would allow you work on generating and converting leads while the engagement is still high and the value you have just offered is fresh in their minds?
- Inability to measure impact and ROI. Beyond tracking new registrants and recording attendance, it is difficult to measure the impact of a webcast on your business. In many instances, we present webcasts because we know they have some value, and because we use every tool in our toolbox. However, the ability to more clearly assess the impact of each webcast would be a value add to your strategic analysis of return on investment and return on objectives.
- Poor alignment with overall strategy. It’s hard to argue that your webcast strategy is aligned with your overall strategy when you lack the metrics to prove ROI or ROO.
Webcast technology does afford some valuable opportunities to engage your audience and collect valuable information. In most platforms, webcast attendees can post questions, which a moderator can scan and handpick, designating some for immediate consideration by the speaker(s), and leaving others in queue—if there is time to go back and answer them. Webcast technology also enables you to poll/survey your audience, often gaining insights in real time that can help you present perspectives and insights that are aligned with their answers and, thus, guaranteed to be relevant.
Of course, going off script to address new insights in real time can be risky in terms of time creep; to be able to accomplish all of this in a compact window of time, you need to adeptly manage the pace, so you need to be practical while you work to be nimble. Webcast technology also means that you can offer your content on demand once the live presentation is over, and that your recording can now become the source of shorter snippets for use in marketing of the webcast and related content.
All of this sounds good, but wouldn’t it be great if you could take this foundation, and build more out of it—more input from your audience, more interaction, more information gathering, more data for metrics and analysis of ROI, and more time to exchange information and ideas?
At Notified, we’re proud to be able to offer you a webcasting solution that will allow you to turn your webcast into so much more.
Introducing: Lobby Experience
Our customers have expressed the need to turn their webcasts into more interactive, value-rich events, so we have identified an opportunity to use our platform technology to increase the impact of webcasts.
By creating a Lobby around your webcast, you can accomplish so much more from the release of your very first email or social invitation to the minute the event begins, giving your target audience a place to gather, to interact with your brand, your speakers, and with one another; to absorb more information; and to tell you more about themselves. And you can use the Lobby to keep the conversation going after the live event is over!
Creating a Lobby around your webcast event just makes sense for all of the same reasons that it does in an on-site event—and more. The difference is that the lobby of a webcast can open much earlier and close much later.
A Lobby packaging of a webcast event creates a more robust and memorable experience for all of your participants, offering more time and opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the event you have created with them in mind. And while they are enjoying, you are capturing valuable information and getting more out of your lead generation efforts.
Branding: Bookending your webcast with a Lobby Experience gives you an additional opportunity to promote your brand to prospects and attendees. If it aligns with your goals and objectives, you can even use the virtual space and technology to accommodate sponsorships and partner branding.
Pre-webcast Lobby branding.
Audience Preparedness: In the Lobby, attendees can become familiar with the agenda, learn more about the speakers, download content, and ask questions so that they are well prepared when they join the main event. (Of course, in a lobby that is open from the first invitation, they have much more time to do so!)
Networking: Participants can use any Lobby to chat, share information, and make new connections while waiting for the main event to start. They can reconnect with colleagues they already know and further develop their network with new contacts—and they have so much more time in which to do it.
Pre-webcast Lobby chat and Q&A modules.
Building Audience Engagement: In the Lobby of an on-site event, you can certainly use your social channels to engage the audience. In your webcast Lobby experience, though, you will have a longer time in which to engage your audience and can invite them to participate in polls, surveys, and even gamification and prizes, if that fits with the program vibe and aligns with your event objectives. If you’re launching a new product, you can offer a demo or a spec sheet to garner interest. You can greet your guests with a video welcome from your virtual host setting the stage and positioning the event as the special value that it is.
During the webcast, you can encourage participants to continue to submit questions, answer poll questions, post to their social networks, and chat. By the time the day of your webcast arrives, your audience will be so engaged, and so well prepared in ways that are new and exciting for them and for your team.
When the webcast is over, you can continue the conversation in the Lobby so that guests get even more out of the experience. You can also use this time to promote the next webcast, offer supplemental interactive content, monitor chats for feedback on this event, new content that you can push out to keep the conversation going, and ideas and content for the next event.
The tools and widgets that you can use to build your Lobby Experience are designed to allow for creativity and flexibility. As you plan, think about how you can use them to increase audience engagement: For example, give registrants a chance to weigh in on the topic ahead of the session, or to chat with the speaker after the main event.
Important Webcast Planning Steps
As you plan your webcast and how to design your Lobby Experience, there are some steps you can take to ensure that it is the best user experience possible.
- Set Goals and Objectives
Before you dive into the details of planning your virtual webcast event, it is important to have agreed-upon business goals and objectives. How will you know if your webcast event has been a success—if it has returned well on the investment of time and human capital—if you don’t know what it is the event is supposed to accomplish?
Are you looking to generate net-new sales leads? Move existing prospects further down the sales cycle? Introduce investors to your latest products? Inform employees about organizational change, or teach them to use the latest continuing education platform? Having this clarity will enable you to capture and analyze the right data so that you can meaningfully measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics to report on the event’s success. In short, you need to be able to articulate what “success” means before you can begin to measure it.
During this process, be sure to identify, prioritize, and build rationales for each of your overarching objectives, and any subsets of goals within each, document them carefully and clearly and circulate them to all stakeholders so that this becomes the foundational document for planning. This will better ensure your alignment with business strategy.
Your goals and objectives document will also be a useful resource for partners like your webcasting provider and the team that helps you leverage your webcast technology. If they know what is most important to you, they can help you construct your Lobby and webcast in the most effective way to achieve your business objectives and make your audience feel as though the event has been designed with meeting their needs as the primary objective.
- Clearly Identify Your Target Audience
What audience are you looking to attract? How does that influence your decisions regarding the format of your Lobby experience?
Being able to clearly articulate your target audience will play a key role in hosting a successful webcast, from soliciting their input on content while formulating your webcast program, to driving strong registration numbers, to achieving high levels of engagement and inspiring social sharing before, during and after the event, and then keeping the engagement going online in the Lobby once the webcast is over.
- Define Your Ideal Webcast Experience
There are several features and functionalities available to you in the Lobby Experience. Which ones you use and how you use them will depend on your objectives and your vision of the ideal webcast experience:
- Countdown Clock
- Video Clip
- Speaker Bios
- Ask a Question
- Group Chat
- Webcast Handouts
- Additional Attachments
- Twitter Feed
- Image/Sponsor Logo
- Carbon Savings Calculator
- Explore Popular/Upcoming Webcasts
If mapping out a user experience in a virtual Lobby space is new to you, now is the time to solicit the help of the pros. Leverage the consulting services that come with your webcasting platform. From strategy and planning to implementation and delivery, a consulting services team can help you achieve your vision for the ideal Lobby and webcast experience more efficiently and effectively. It’s a good investment in the success of your webcast, and a way to build skills and knowledge at the same time.
- Decide on Style and Personality
Consider the style and personality of your webcast event and construct your Lobby Experience accordingly. Whatever you do should be consistent with your brand and present it in the best light possible, whether you are seeking to create a high-energy product launch, a positive and upbeat announcement of organizational transformation or a more subdued academic/educational vibe.
- Build Content Around Audience Interest
The best approach to content programming, once you have determined your webcast objectives and defined your target audience(s), is to ask your audience to inform your content development. The Lobby Experience and webcast technology allow you to invite their input through the survey functionality, the Ask a Question widget, chat, and polling. Find out where their interests or concerns lie and build your webcast around it: new intelligence, market trends, new organizational reporting lines, training challenges—whatever is on their minds that makes your webcast more relevant and more valuable. You now have a place and a means to consistently and repeatedly invite them in for engagement—to tell you what’s on their minds while you gather their input and other metrics that may be of strategic use to you.
Once you have a clear picture of what the webcast needs to cover to be considered valuable by your audience, outline the types of engagement you want to use during the webcast to ensure they are paying attention and to achieve your webcast goals.
- Create a Warm Welcome
When the day of your live webcast arrives, it is important to have all your content and programming staged and ready to go. First impressions are critical—especially if you want to retain your very busy audience, so pay special attention to the details of what an attendee sees and hears upon arrival. You will want to acknowledge them and usher them into an environment that aligns with their expectations and quickly lets them know they have come to the right place—a place where they will find great value.
- Have a Virtual Host
You may consider making use of a “virtual host”—a person, recorded via video, who welcomes attendees to the event. The video greetings are placed in the Lobby and are the first thing attendees experience as they login. The virtual host helps provide a personal, multimedia-based welcome to attendees. The recorded greeting helps acquaint participants with the platform, the agenda for the webcast, and general housekeeping rules. The virtual host can explain when to use chat vs. Q&A vs. technical support and explain how to make the most of the post-event Lobby experience.
While all of your webcast content needs to hit the mark, be sure to compose a strong, compelling opening. Make your opening as memorable as possible and keep things creative. Upon login, capture your audience’s attention with the theme of the event and the tone you are trying to set. Consider how to use the Lobby experience to build a foundation for this exceptional opening, and to build excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation of a uniquely remarkable convening of professionals who share a common interest.
Audience Engagement Before, During and After Your Webcast
You’ve decided which audience to pursue to participate in your webcast experience, knowing that the right audience can make or break an event.
With a webcast platform and webcast technology to build a Lobby Experience, you can connect with (and recruit) participants before, during and after your webcast.
- Pre-Event. Of course, align your acquisition/recruitment strategy with your event goals. You have worked with stakeholders to determine what audience makeup is most desirable. Keep those demographics and qualifying criteria in mind as you campaign for their attention. Develop your webcast Lobby, feature the event and Lobby on your organization’s homepage, create a word-of-mouth campaign by providing posts that your event activists, champions, speakers, and sponsors can post to help promote. Once you have successfully recruited, you can use these same tactics to engage your registrants and get them excited about and fully prepared for your webcast event.
By creating a Lobby Experience, you can create a steady drip of new content and invite repeated engagement. Develop a multi-channel campaign. Email is the number one driver of pre-event registrations, so be sure to make the most of it, testing subject lines and deployment times. Schedule multiple posts across your social channels, deploy blog posts and press releases, and allocate some budget to search engine marketing (SEM – aka “paid search”). Activate your speakers and your registrants to promote the event and invite recruits to the Lobby, alongside any other industry leaders in your “Friends of” list who are likely to push out your message. Don’t forget to encourage registrants to share the event through their networks.
- During. The recruitment and engagement opportunities are not over just because the webcast is on. Pull in those not already attending through social by pushing out content from the event through social channels—yours, attendees’, speakers’. Dedicate a social media moderator on your team to make timely updates based on the webcast engagement, watching over social chatter, and keeping the audience engaged. Don’t forget to assign a team member to monitor and manage the webcast chat and Q&A, finding opportunities to respond and provide relevant resources in the moment to keep your audience on their toes and feeling wowed.
- Post-Event. In the virtual space, the activity and engagement go on even after the main event is over. Deploy feedback surveys to assess both quantitively and qualitatively how attendees gauged the value of your event, and use the insights to plan forward. Segment your attendees and registrants who did not attend into groups and develop an on-demand promotional strategy for each. Use the post-event window to build strong relationships; reach out to highly engaged attendees and continue to nurture and build relationships and leads that may turn into new opportunities and business. Repurpose content, creating a highlights reel, blog posts and presentations spotlighting key takeaways that give a flavor of the value and use them to entice no shows to come on in and view the webcast on demand, download related content, and sign up for the next event.
For product launches, a beta test or demo can be placed here, along with product spec sheets, and a survey for gathering feedback. For training and education, leave the window open for employees to chat about existing training programs, or recommendations for new programs.
Prep Your Speakers Well
Don’t assume that your subject matter experts know how to be webcast speakers. Help them prepare by educating them about framing, lighting, choosing a background (or design one for them to use), and guide them on clothing and makeup.
You can even help them prepare by pitching them questions to answer.
Encourage them to avoid the urge to read slides and encourage them to be in the moment, be authentic and to practice, practice, practice until they are completely comfortable with their content!
Leverage User-Generated Content
Most people think of blogs (e.g., Medium, WordPress, etc.) or forum sites like Reddit and Quora when they hear the phrase “user-generated content.” On these sites, users publish questions, opinions and perspectives and invite others to weigh in.
In a Lobby, user-generated content is a bit different. Instead of published posts that spur a conversation, the user-to-user content looks more like a networking activity.
Moderated Chat: Think of an “Ask the Expert” capability where you can submit questions to the speakers and planners. In a moderated chat session, the speaker engages with the audience via text-based chat. Audience members submit questions and comments. A moderator views comments and questions and decides which ones become incorporated into the session. The speaker can then post responses and comments publicly or privately.
Have an On-Demand Strategy to Keep the Engagement Going
Use the post-event period to engage registrants who couldn’t attend live and stay engaged with people who attended the live event.
Deploy an email campaign to let people know about the on-demand access. Invite them to view presentations on-demand.
Re-run the most popular sessions or use this opportunity to answer questions that were posed but not answered during the live event.
Create new content from the proceedings in the form of snackable videos, blog articles, infographics, podcasts and webinars.
Keep reviewing chats, social posts, and other sources of feedback to find new opportunities to keep the conversation going.
Best Practices for Creating a Lobby Experience
Most importantly, we recommend these best practices for creating a successful webcast with Lobby experience. The key word: strategic.
- Choose Your Content Early. The sooner you can tell your target audience what you’re going to cover, the sooner you can promote the activity, build the initial Lobby experience to support content development, and gather their input into the coverage.
- Strategize Registrant Engagement with Email Nurtures. Develop an email strategy to nurture registrant engagement. And don’t forget to incorporate your social channels into the campaign. Push out alerts when something new has been added to the Lobby, and invite your audience to read, share, or weigh in.
- Stagger Lobby Updates Pre-Webcast. Be equally strategic about your Lobby updates. Pace them carefully and always make sure to keep your content fresh. Consistently show your audience that it is worth their time to check out your latest update.
- Have a Post-Webcast Strategy. Have a plan for what happens after the webcast—how you will use the Lobby experience after the webcast to keep the conversation going. Think about the best places to send your audience and what you want to deliver to them. Refer back to your objectives. Do you want the next step to lead to a sale? A demo? A download? Another data capture opportunity? If you know what you want to achieve, you’ll know what to put into the post-event Lobby experience to elicit the appropriate response.
Webcasts (or is it “webinars”?) are a great way to convey information to your target audience, whether you are using them for lead generation; to host a product launch, an investor day, or a town hall; to present your expertise through thought leadership; or to deploy education and training. But they have their limitations.
Using technology to add a Lobby Experience to your webcast can address all of the pain points we’ve heard about with webcasts—no pre-webcast engagement, low live attendance rates, lack of audience interaction, poor post-webcast lead conversion, inability to measure impact and ROI, and poor alignment with overall strategy.
Adding a Lobby Experience can resolve these pain points and allows you to turn your one-time webcasts into unique value-driven experiences. You can use the Lobby to increase brand awareness, promote your thought leaders/expertise, share other related content, and promote upcoming webcasts. By wrapping your webcast into a Lobby experience, you can extend the engagement time of your webcasts, keep your audience informed and engaged with interactive content, and leverage the webcasts to nurture your marketing strategy and convert more webcast leads into paying customers—and do it faster.
Get a Demo of Our Webcasting Platform
Whether you’re hosting virtual or hybrid events to reach customers, employees, investors, or partners, Notified is here to help bring your vision to life.
We host over 100,000 webcasts and virtual events annually on behalf of thousands of customers around the world while providing dedicated support with a focus on data.
Our services include:
- Dedicated product manager
- Interactive environments with live & on-demand programming
- Flexible branding and personalization options
- Accessibility – anytime, anywhere, and from any device
- Robust analytics and reporting
And, from strategy and planning to implementation and delivery, our consulting services team supports you every step of the way.
Contact us today to set up a free demo and learn more about our consulting services.