A Developer’s Guide to Hosting Webinars

A Developer’s Guide to Hosting Webinars

It may be hard to remember, but there was once a time when to learn something new meant paying for classes, searching for free courses or heading to a physical bookstore or library, and facing the checkout persons thinly veiled judgment of your new chosen area of study. Coding for dummies? Hmmm. Fast forward to the glorious age of the internet and you can now safely search for how-to webinars on nearly any conceivable topic, in the privacy and comfort of your own computer.

Webinars have become an indispensable tool for developers to engage with audiences, generate leads and accelerate outcomes. Marketing reports predicted that 82% of businesses would increase investment in video marketing in 2017 and that 58% would be putting webinars to work.

Though your content should always be original, optimizing logistics is as simple as finding out what’s getting the best results for others and copying their strategy. INXPO, ON24, and Brighttalk have published insightful reports based on webinar metrics and benchmarks. By implementing data driven best practices into your webinar strategy, pros estimate that you should get the higher end of 40% to 60% of registered attendees to turn up for the show.

With that goal in mind, we have plucked out and summarized a few tips from Microsoft that was put together by Brian Honey to increase audience registration, attendance, and engagement:

Timing is everything

Promotion for your webinar should begin no later than 2.5 weeks out, with follow-up reminders sent at 1 week, 1 day and 1 hour before the event. One report found that 26% of the total registration occurs the day of your webinar, and 31% occurs in the week leading up to the event.

Research shows to avoid the beginning and end of the week, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all scoring 22%-23% open rates.

The best days to host the webinar were found to be Wednesday or Thursday. In general 8 am to 1 pm was shown to be the optimal time frame but as audiences time zones can vary, the intended audience should be considered. Starting an event in the morning on East Coast time, for example, often negatively impacts West Coast audiences, but will maximize International audiences. Starting an event in the mid-morning Pacific time will decreases attendance in India and China. An example of this in practice was a webinar by speaker and Google developer expert Tracy Lee at 12pm EST.

A good idea to maximize visibility when targeting multiple time zones is rebroadcasting, to ensure your broadcast is at the optimal time for each region.

Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin

The right content for the right audience

For businesses deciding to take the live webinar plunge, the first step is discovering engaging topics that your desired audience will find valuable. Though your first thought may be aiming for widely appealing developer topics that will pack in viewers, insights from the reports show that webinars with specific, targeted topics may have lower numbers of overall attendance, but higher rates of audience participation and conversion.

If you’re goal is to win conversions, consider using the more specialized topic approach. If you’re goal is not motivated by conversions, and is instead to reach a large audience, your topics can be more general, but you should also consider offering nongated information like Youtube videos, white papers and infographics, as people considering their options and gathering general information were shown to be less likely to sign up for webinars. One example of this in practice is software engineer Ben Lesh speaking on Reactive Programming and RxJS here and the popular developer David Walsh on his website.

The initial hook

With your webinar developer content planned, you’re on your way, but still have quite a few things left on your “to do” list to ensure your audience sings up, attends, and sticks around.

It’s now time to promote your webinar with email and social media posts linking to a registration landingpage. It’s important the registration form doesn’t ask for too much information. 6 required fields was shown to equate to a 44% form completion rate, with each additional required field resulting in less registrants.

Asking for overly personal or difficult to provide information was also shown to decrease registration (keep in mind forms may be filled out on phones, where typing and clicking dropdown menus can be tedious).

Make sure your signup page offers an “add to calendar” link so registrants can save your event with a click of a button. The key takeaway is to make registration as easy as possible.

A preshow can help corral developers

In many cases –and particularly in events that have a large social following — audiences join webcasts 5 to 15 minutes after it begins. This is because it takes time for word of mouth to spread on social channels and boost the audience size.

Microsoft’s own Production Studio webinar data found through A/B testing that webinars with a short preshow had higher rates of late joining audience member retention. When people connect to a webinar 15 minutes late that has already progressed into the content sharing phase, they may be lost and discouraged from staying connected. Filling the first 15 minutes by welcoming listeners, giving speaker introductions, or even a quick update on company news, is a great way to keep early birds entertained and allow time for word to spread. When latecomers are able to connect without missing too much content they are more likely to stick around.

Engagement increases retention

Webinars are designed to be interactive, and offer an opportunity to both share information, and also engage with listeners in real time. Including interactive elements such as a Q & A, group chat, or a live poll, was shown to increase audience retention and receive higher rates of audience interaction, with 67% of attendees responding to live polls in webinars and webcasts.

Downloadable attachments were also found to increase audience engagement and provide great opportunities to extend the conversation with audiences after the webinar. The first three documents attached to webinars were shown to receive the most downloads, so the most important information should be at the top of your content share list.

Including downloadable and interactive elements in your presentations offers quantifiable opportunities to increase your audience’s level of engagement, so be sure to engage with listeners, and ask questions throughout presentations. One of the things Facebook’s Tom Occhino did in the past was include a Facebook post with information on his team’s earlier webinar.

Microsoft’s Steven Guggenheimer and John Shewchuk

Extend the life of your webinar

When done right, webinars are gifts which keep on giving. To save your attendees from having to frantically scribble notes, and allow them to really listen and engage, and to extend the content to people who weren’t able to attend at the time of airing, it is a good idea to save and share your content post-webinar.

Offering the recording of the webinar in a follow up email to all registered attendees is a great way to connect with the people who weren’t able to make the live broadcast. Though a recording of a live event may seem counter intuitive, rebroadcasting or making a recording of your webinar for on demand access was shown to increase your viewership drastically. One report found that their recorded webinars only received 65.5% of their total views in the first 100 days of the webinar event, meaning many of a webinar’s views have the potential to occur long after they go live. One recommendation is to create a page on your site where you host earlier webinars, an example is by DataRPM and its CEO Sundeep Sanghavi here, or with a Youtube page such as the one by popular Google Developer Addy Osmani.

As more developers recognize the powerful reach of broadcasting live webinars, audience attendance will increasingly depend on the quality of the webinars offered, and the extent to which webinar organizers effectively optimize their registration processes and content to match audience’s preferences and surpass expectations. Building a sophisticated webinar strategy should start by looking at what is working and driving the best results for others, and evolve into personally A/B testing strategies to ensure the best results for your webinar.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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