With COVID-19 making traditional events impossible to run, the advantages of webinars have become clear and they’re fast becoming one of the smartest choices as a marketing tool for businesses.
These online events combine a simple way to advertise your brand, engage with potential clients and gain feedback, all in one place.
They are also relatively easy to run, once you have mastered the basics.
Many of the skills that would allow you to organise successful in-person networking events will stand you in good stead when it comes to running webinars.
The possibilities are endless
When run as a live event, webinars allow for audience interaction and instant feedback, with the added bonus of being available to anyone with an internet connection. Webinars are not hampered by geography or traffic jams.
They are also far easier to record than real life events. Most webinar platforms have this tool built in, which then allows you to share the recording on your social media channels.
Webinar recordings can be really useful bonus website content for accountants. You can embed them on an existing site, with a written transcript to increase accessibility, and they can also be emailed out to potential clients as a taste of the kind of expertise from which they can expect to benefit.
From a participant’s point of view, webinars can be far more convenient than in-person events. They remove the need for travel, overnight stays in a different city, getting up early or even for dressing formally.
They also provide access to people and events that might normally be out of reach, expanding potential networking circles beyond those in your own town, city or region.
They’re low commitment, too. When all that is required for an online event is to sign up and then engage with the content from the comfort of their own home, people are more likely to be interested.
Of course, online events are also easier for participants to drop out of at the last minute, and webinars still have to be done well in order to attract and keep an audience – just like a real life event.
Webinar tech: keep it simple
The prospect of setting up a webinar can be daunting if you are completely new to running networking events or are unsure how to make the switch to digital.
It is often better to start out with something simple that you know you can execute professionally.
This low-stakes event will give you experience on which you can build.
In general, what participants want is a speaker who looks professional and smart, is knowledgeable about the topic they are discussing, and is warm and engaging.
Don’t worry about having the right books in the background or using all the features of the technology straight away – audiences will prefer clarity to over-complication, and the content is the most important thing.
There shouldn’t be a need for you to buy lots of expensive tech. Two things that are worth investing in, however, are fibre optic broadband and a good quality microphone.
There is nothing worse than attending a webinar where the speaker’s internet keeps cutting out, or their audio is poor.
These problems can detract from your content and potentially lose you your audience so it’s worth taking the easy steps, and making the small investment, to avoid them.
Observe webinar best practice
A great way to prepare for running your own webinar is to attend some others, if you haven’t already.
By putting yourself in your audience’s position, you can tell what works and what doesn’t. If something annoys you, it will annoy your clients.
Set clear goals when planning the content and format of your webinar. For example, do you want the opportunity to explain the benefits of a new service you are offering, or perhaps help people understand the importance of small business tax planning?
Some topics may lend themselves to being combined but, on the whole, it’s a good idea to stick to one topic per session.
Not only does this make it easier for you to plan the content, but it also encourages participants to come back for future webinars on related topics.
It’s a webinar, not a lecture
The best way to encourage sign ups to your webinar is to start with a clear theme that is obviously relevant and of interest to your potential clients. This is also key to ensuring participants stay for the whole event.
Keep your presentation or discussion compelling, practically useful and brief.
Research shows that audience numbers for online events start to drop off after an hour, so you may find it best to present for around 45 minutes, with the remaining time left for question and answer.
Another way to ensure people stay interested is to encourage active audience participation. Again, this doesn’t need to be too complicated – simply providing a document for participants to fill in with their own ideas is a good start.
As with social media marketing, polls are a great way to encourage discussion, and inviting your audience to ask questions makes them instantly feel they are included and helping to drive the conversation.
When it comes to advertising your webinar, email has been proven to encourage the most sign-ups. We find it best to send an initial email a few weeks in advance, then follow up with weekly reminders in the lead-up to the event.
Crucially, your registration form should be short and sweet. Only ask for information you really need, or clients may get half way through and give up.
The best way to learn is by doing
Once you have decided on a format, theme and content, it’s a good idea to carry out at least one rehearsal of your webinar with colleagues.
This enables you to make sure you know the process inside out, your speaker is comfortable being on camera, and practicalities like audio quality are sorted out. Once you’re happy, you can start to run them with real participants.
Remember your audience is the perfect source of impartial feedback, so make sure you use this. By measuring sign-up numbers and dropout rates, you can see what works about your format and what may need tweaking.
Finally, don’t be afraid to try online events and to make them work for you.
You have the expertise in accounting and offer the services your potential clients need. A webinar is a great way to connect the two.
The more webinars you run, they will only get better and before you know it, it will become second-nature to integrate them into your overall marketing strategy.
Download our beginner’s guide to webinars for accountants for more tips and advice.