Webinars served as a powerful digital marketing tool prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are even more so now as people have become increasingly comfortable with video-based interactions for business and personal purposes.
With the public's willingness to attend, companies of all sizes are identifying more and more opportunities to host a webinar. This increase in participation also brings heightened expectations around webinar quality. To successfully reach your customers, webinars must be crisp, polished, and free of technical issues like muted audio or glitchy video that create a poor experience for participants.
There are two approaches for webinars — live and recorded — with clear pros and cons that need to be weighed when deciding which option will meet the goals of your company and audience. Each webinar format requires a different approach for setup and management.
By and large, customers and attendees prefer to take part in live webinars where they can interact as an audience member, ask questions, and build a connection with the presenter. The human moments that come from live events — like a presentation not loading quite right or the host receiving immediate feedback from participants — offer opportunities to learn, adapt, and improve in the moment. This makes sessions more like a classroom with a communal feel for all involved.
Recorded webinars are beneficial because they aren't tied to anyone's schedule, and they can be made available at any time across any relevant marketing channel. Recording in advance also offers the chance to get the production perfect before distribution with the opportunity to edit and the flexibility of doing multiple takes. Prerecorded webinars can also be formatted into smaller sections that will work as individual content pieces for social media, increasing their utility and amplifying the brand's message.
Once you know the designated format, you can evaluate your equipment needs. On the audio side of the equation, the main components are headphones and microphones, with preferences dependent on how stationary and interactive the host will be with other presenters or attendees. For a professional-level webinar, it is best to use a combination headset microphone or a lavalier mic that can be clipped to clothing if the session will have a TED Talk-style, on-stage format.
For video, consider whether an upgrade over standard installed webcams is necessary. Any external USB camera should have a resolution higher than 1080p, up to 4K, with the highest frame rate possible and a field of view ranging from 60 to 90 degrees. Lighting is also of great importance to creating a pleasant visual experience; consider a mountable ring-style light as the minimum enhancement. For companies planning to frequently host webinars in a dedicated space or studio setting, two- or three-piece tripod lighting kits can provide the flexibility to move away from the desk into a staged, commercial-quality scene.
Another attractive option is the Bose Videobar VB1, which features a 4K ultra-HD camera, six beam-steering microphones, and optimized sound for all participants. This all-in-one utility makes the webinar setup process easier since the various components are integrated for an efficient and quality experience. Additionally, the host and presenters can move around a room and still be seen and heard without negatively impacting the result.
The popularity of webinars has also led to an escalation in features and functionality among webinar software services. IT leaders charged with selecting the best software for their companies face myriad combinations of options that may or may not be useful for their goal to host a webinar. As a rule, platforms playing for enterprise-level customers have tight security protections and are designed to be as intuitive and easy to use as possible, with licensing packages running from a few hundred dollars to more than $2,000 per year.
Platforms need to be compatible with high-quality 1080p (or higher) video capture and have settings and safeguards in place to easily connect with microphones and speakers involved in the featured presentation. Producers looking to host a webinar will want to look at the available back-end features for audience engagement prior to the session, such as email (for reminders and sharing relevant materials) and social media, to grow the audience base.
One other crucial area of concern is the overall ease of use for attendees, especially if the platform isn't a widely used tool like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Options around sharing recordings and documents, interacting through internal chat, and providing advance reminders for the webinar are must-have functions when it comes to current webinar software.
By starting with a clear objective and preparing with the right format and equipment, webinars will be a powerful asset for your marketing channels that will pay dividends well into the future. Planning ahead and asking the right questions early in the process can help you stand out and connect with your market in a valuable, relevant way.