Webinar Tips from a One-Woman Marketing Team
Rachel Bush, Former Senior Marketing and Communications Manager
COVID-19 changed Viget's approach to many things, including marketing events. Here are some tips and tricks for hosting a Zoom webinar from our small marketing team.
At Viget, we’ve always loved a good event. Whether it’s a team lunch around our big tables, a community Meetup with neighboring businesses, or one of our epic quarterly TTTs, since our founding, we’ve looked for opportunities to gather and share.
But, as you know, dear reader, COVID-19 changed things. Fortunately, pivots are something we embrace, so in the last two years, we’ve transitioned our events online, including all of our marketing events. While the heart of our in-person events remained – the big ideas, the community – the format changed, and last year we hosted four webinars.
The result has been pleasantly successful. Like before COVID-19, people are curious and appreciate good conversations, and work is interesting, and technology is amazing, and creativity can be a life source. Publicly articulating what we’re thinking about and sharing work we’re proud of has been a helpful reminder of why we do this work.
Viget is a mid-sized agency with a small-sized marketing team; the rhythm we’ve found for hosting webinars has worked well for us. And so, this post shares some of my behind-the-scenes tips for hosting webinars, from the planning process to the execution to the follow-up. There’s always room for improvement, so if you’ve got some good tips for virtual events, do share.
Assumptions I’m making:
You’re using Zoom
Your content is set
Your attendee list is determined (This isn’t a post about marketing your webinar.)
Breaking Down Roles
- When working at an agency, after client work, there’s limited time for marketing efforts – that’s just the nature of it. Because of this, don’t leave room for implied or assumed responsibilities. Be explicit about who is doing what and by when, particularly when you’re dividing up the content creation. (While I realize all project management requires this, it feels especially important when the webinar isn’t a primary focus of a colleague’s workload.)
- Have a wheelman! Your logistics person will be responsible for managing Q&A, ensuring the event is recorded, and helping attendees troubleshoot any tech problems they may have. I’ve had the most success when this person isn’t also responsible for presenting webinar content. However, the wheelman can also be the emcee – usually, that’s me. I find the emcee role helpful for welcoming attendees, including logistic notes (yes, the webinar will be recorded…) and introducing speakers. It takes some of the pressure off of the presenters.
- To make the “who/what/when” of the webinar crystal clear, I write a timed script that I share with the presenters. I highlight their parts, specifying when each person should unmute, share their screen, or comment on logistics. This document helps the presenters keep track of the event timeline, and we keep it separate from the Google Slides speaker notes to avoid confusion.
Send Out Reminders
Zoom offers easy-peasy automatic reminders for attendees. I set these up to send a week before, a day before, and an hour before the webinar.
Also set up reminders for your presenters. Put time on their calendars for logistics check-ins and dry runs. Set up a half-hour buffer before the event for your presenters to prep their space, put on a clean shirt, grab some water, etc.
Set up a Backchannel
If you take just one thing away from this post, let it be the importance of a backchannel.
At Viget, we always set up a private Slack channel for our webinars and test it out during a dry run. This way if a cat’s tail covers the microphone or if we want to gut-check a comment from an audience member, we’re able to do so discreetly. Additionally, we always share cell phone numbers in case of a wifi issue. While we’ve never had to use them, I feel we’d jinx ourselves if we didn’t have them.
Prep for Q&A
I know this sounds a bit like cheating, but in my experience, having some good questions to kick off the Q&A portion of the webinar leads to more and better questions from the audience. It’s also a great way for speakers to build in a bit of space for content they couldn’t squeeze into their presentation. Determine these questions before the event so they’re ready to go day-of, and the speakers can dive into Q&A confidently.
It’s also worth having a list of questions/topics that are off-limits, such as project specifics that might violate a confidentiality requirement. There probably aren’t many topics your speakers would shy away from, but it’s important to get the emcee and presenters aligned on what’s safe to discuss and what’s not.
To manage all this, I create a shared Google Doc with four sections:
- Prepped Questions
- Questions from the Audience
- No-Go Topics
During the event, I copy attendee questions from Zoom to the Google Doc, selecting between ‘Questions from the Audience’ or the ‘No-Go Topics’ category. After the presentation, I move questions to the ‘Asked’ section, so if speakers want to keep a pulse on questions, it’s easier to track which ones we’ve answered. This has made for a smooth Q&A process, and it’s also helpful during the retrospective after the webinar.
Have Some Follow Up
We love retrospective meetings at Viget, and that’s true for internal efforts as well our client work. Have a quick discussion right after the event to gather feedback from the speakers. This will do two things – 1) it’ll give you quality information on how to improve the process and 2) it’ll get buy-in from your team for future marketing initiatives. Make sure they know you really do value their time and effort.
The final advice I’ll share is to templatize what you can. If you plan to hold webinars regularly, you can minimize the effort required by duplicating what worked well, like your logistics script, reminder emails, etc. Templatizing also helps you improve the process, as you’re not constantly trying to recreate the wheel.
While webinars will never fully replace a Tuesday night Meetup with pizza, beer, and fancy seltzer, they’re a good alternative in our current times, and a low-stakes way for your fans to get an update on what your organization is thinking about and working on. Hopefully, some of the tips I’ve shared above are helpful to you. If you’re interested in joining our next webinar to see some of this in action, sign up for our newsletter here.