New research from a leading digital event provider reveals nearly nine in 10 (85 percent) Australian organisations are utilising webinars as a key marketing and education channel for engaging remote audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic – a 21 percent increase over the last year.
Webinar adoption and spending have also shown high double-digit growth, with almost three in five (59 percent) organisations looking to spend more on the channel in 2020 – a figure that is 69 percent higher than in 2019.
The findings come from the annual State of Webinar Marketing 2020 Study, based on a survey of 127 organisations conducted by digital event specialist Redback Connect, in partnership with webinar platform ON24.
Of the 127 organisations surveyed, the data revealed the primary reason organisations are hosting webinar programs is for lead generation (34 percent of organisations use webinars for this). In fact, it was found that webinars lower the cost per lead for 80 percent of organisations.
The data also shows that webinars are ‘mostly’ to ‘highly’ effective for 47 percent of organisations. Organisations that run webinars do so regularly: 72 percent of organisations now run six or more webinars a year, and 33 percent run more than 20 a year.
The report revealed that 62 percent of organisations – up from 43 percent in 2019 – build webinars with interactivity in mind, from enabling attendees to take breaks, to creating polls, Q&As or live chats.
In fact, 33 percent of organisations who use webinars say that audience engagement is driven mostly by enthusiastic and knowledgeable presenters, and almost a fifth (16 percent) of organisations say engagement is driven by interactive platform features – up from just 6 percent the previous year.
Jeff Downs, CEO and Founder at Redback Connect, said that when webinars are managed effectively, they provide great personable content for these purposes.
“Webinars remove geographical boundaries and are a cost-effective way to engage large, dispersed audiences over time.
“With social distancing the ‘new normal’ at least until the end of the year, we expect webinars to make up a large proportion of communication between organisations and their stakeholders throughout the 2021 financial year.”
In March – Australia’s first month of shutdowns – Redback Connect’s webinar-based events were the most popular event category for organisations, accounting for 78 percent of all events. In April, they were still the most popular, accounting for 76 percent.
Redback Connect’s 10 best-practice tips for using webinars to communicate in a COVID-19-affected world:
- Choose your event format, structure and speakers wisely. If you are replacing a physical event with a virtual one, perhaps even a conference, don’t make every session live: nobody wants to sit in front of a computer for long periods. However, you may wish to broadcast some sessions live – such as keynotes and panel discussions – and pre-record others, so you can access international speakers in different time zones and make them available on-demand. Choose a webinar provider that can not only deliver your online event, but advise you on how best to format, test, and host it, to ensure it flows.
- Build in interactivity. Once you have your event structure, format, and speakers sorted, build in your interactive elements. Take full advantage of all the benefits of webinars to include polls, Q&As, competitions, and more.
- Sort your pricing and sponsorship packages. You can still charge for an online event – but you may wish to lower the price to reflect reduced travel, venue, and catering costs. It is also a good idea to consider offsetting the cost of your event with sponsorship. Utilising your on-screen real estate and call-to-action-buttons, providing digital resource packs, including a virtual exhibition hall, or even offering online giveaways, are all ways to build sponsors into your virtual events.
- Set up your spaces. If speakers are presenting from home, talk them through the physical set-up required. They will need to consider lighting, background, and the quality of their camera, microphone, and internet connection. If they will be using their laptop camera, ensure they elevate it to eye level to avoid awkward facial angles. If using a webinar provider or videographer, check how they will maintain social distancing and hygiene during filming at external locations.
- Consider a studio broadcast. Some studio providers are operating throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, and can provide you with the professional look your webinar needs. However, make sure you ask your provider how they’re observing COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene guidelines in the building and on set.
- Invest in the right equipment. If you are going to be presenting from home regularly, you may wish to invest in a microphone and webcam to ensure the quality of your video and audio – or use headphones and your laptop camera.
- Properly train your presenters.If your speakers are presenting remotely, either from home or from their own office, they will need to know their way around the webinar platform you’re using so they can move their own slides and, if your webinar is being broadcast live, respond to questions from your audience. Ensure they’re comfortable taking questions and running polls if you include features such as those in your webcast.
- Rehearse your transitions. It is vital to rehearse the content and structure of your digital event as you would for a regular webinar. Practice any transitions, so you can switch between presenters seamlessly, or use a facilitator, to keep your remote event flowing smoothly. It is also a good idea to include breaks between sessions to give you time to test the tech for your next presenter.
- Conduct a technical run-through. Always run a technical test just prior to the event to ensure your presenters’ internet connection is up to the job, and their webcam and audio are working sufficiently. You might suggest they lock the door if they’re presenting from their office or socially isolating with children and other family members.
- Have a back-up plan if the internet drops out. Ensure your presenters have a phone nearby so your webinar provider can call them during the event if their internet connection or video drops out. Audio and slides are an excellent back-up.