Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

In today’s business environment, people are just not traveling. So how do you get the message out? One way is the webinar. I have found webinars to be very effective, if you know how to do them properly. This post will cover some practical advice to executing a successful webinar.

  1. Pick a topic that will "bring people in." Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch, so make sure the topic is timely, relevant, and informative. I suggest using a topic that is getting a lot of buzz, but adding an element that hasn’t been covered a lot. This gets people thinking about what it means for them. For example, if social networking is a hot topic, then talk about "how social networking applies to a specific vertical market." The application of a trend to a specific business case is very compelling if you…
  2. Bring the appropriate speaker to accompany you.  It is common to bring in an industry analyst, a customer, or a well-known personality to headline the webinar. Interview several potential speakers to make sure that: 
  • They are seen as an authority by your target audience.
  • They will work with you to craft the appropriate presentation. You can’t tell an analyst what to say, but if their opinion of your topic jives with your company messaging, you will be in a much better position to present a cohesive story to your audience.
  • The speaker’s employer will work with you to help promote the webinar, within their corporate guidelines. For example, you will probably issue a press release and secure the webinar rights for future use. Make sure your speaker and their employer will provide a quote for the press release and agree to let you use the webinar materials. And definitely verify the costs up front.
  1. Make your presentation informative. Don’t do a straight sales pitch. People hate being sold to. When you talk about market opportunities and technical challenges as well as some ways to address them, you will find your audience more engaged.
  2. Run a campaign to "get people in the seats." Media companies often provide services to both promote the webinar and to run the production facilities. Using a one-stop solution prevents things from falling between the cracks and I highly recommend it.
  3. Select a production company to run the webinar. Whether you use a media company to run the webinar or you pick a separate production company, here are things to check before you select a vendor: 
  • Verify the kind of file types they support. All shops will do Powerpoint, but if you want to incorporate video, or a product demo, not all vendors will do this.
  • Make sure that the vendor supports, and is willing to do a pre-record. I can’t stress this enough – see below.
  • Check about ownership of the webinar materials. Some vendors will charge for the digital rights to your own webinar.
  • Clarify the capabilities (and costs) associated with syndicating the webinar, post-webinar.
  1. Here is probably the most valuable piece of advice. I highly recommend that you pre-record the webinar. Despite what the production company will tell you about how "it always goes smoothly" – here are some real world "horror stories:"
  • The analyst gets stuck in traffic and doesn’t show up on time
  • One of the speakers has a power outage in the middle of their presentation
  • A speaker has a bad phone line connection
  • Unexpected background noise makes the presentation unintelligible
  • One speaker goes so far overtime, that the vendor has no time at all to make a presentation

When you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a webinar, you don’t want to leave anything to chance, so definitely pre-record.


On the other hand, when you pre-record you do lose some of the spontaneity, so here is what I suggest:

  • Record the webinar in front of a live audience. This adds some of the tension needed to make the presentation sound "live."
  • Even though the webinar is not live, rehearse before you present. When you don’t, the presentation typically sounds monotonic.
  • Review the webinar with the production company before the webinar airs. Fix all the problems before the webinar goes live. For example, make sure the audio and video are properly sync-ed.


Good luck.