Webinar – a neologism for “web-based seminar” – is a presentation, lecture, workshop, or seminar that is transmitted over the Web. It can be conducted for different purposes, like lead generation or marketing or training or product demonstration, but one key aspect of any webinar is that it’s interactive. As opposed to webcasts, which are pretty much a one-way thing, webinars usually let attendees comment, ask questions, and share their personal opinions to the host as well as to the other members of the audience.

Webinars: who knew that technology would grow this fast and allow us to leverage these neat video conferencing tools today? Yes, it all sounds pretty remarkable. If you’re a small business owner and Internet marketer, we’ll certainly understand if you’re fascinated about what webinars can bring to the business.

The question is: do webinars actually work? And will they work for any business or enterprise, regardless of size? Here are several thoughts on webinars as we continue to explore the viability of this Web-based tool.

Advantages of a webinar

  • Webinars offer relief amidst strained budgets and cut down on travel expenses. They are low-cost and scalable, and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars just to book the grand ballroom of a posh hotel to hold your very own sales or marketing conference. You’re also saving other people and other organizations money and allowing target audiences to attend without having to spend for airfares and accommodations.
  • A webinar can be a great lead generation tool, too. It helps you bridge gaps and reach out to customers who may have otherwise been too remote for you to target. By its interactive nature, you also get to build and facilitate relationships with people who matter to your business. And, if you manage to engage effectively with your attendees, you’ll be sure to get follow-up plenty of E-mails and inquiries.
  • Webinars offer a cost-effective opportunity for you to showcase your brand and establish your leadership in the industry. That’s because the very act of speaking – online or in person – positions you as an expert. It also helps reveal your business personality and make you look more credible. As a webinar presenter, you can really make an impression with your knowledge and skills, thereby enhancing others’ perception of the product or service you are offering.
  • Thanks to today’s web conferencing technologies, a webinar has so much more possibilities and far fewer limitations than a “tele-seminar”. You can do more than speak in front of a camera: as a presenter you can use screen-sharing technologies, play slide presentations, interact via live chats, and show off the flashy live graphics that your IT department has been working on for awhile.

Disadvantages of a webinar

  • Webinars aren’t for everybody. It really depends on the nature of your business and the kind of people you’re targeting. Even if you think webinars are the perfect tool for you, one session would still take a lot of preparation; you have to work out the kinks internally before rolling it out to the public.

  • No matter how interactive a webinar can get, it still pales in comparison to traditional seminars. Because attendees are at their computers instead of converged in one room, it’s easier for them to get bored or distracted. So make sure you seize the opportunity to engage effectively. It’s a make or break kind of thing, but if you’re the type to thrive under this kind of pressure then you’re already one step ahead of those who’d never try webinars.
  • Webinars can be pretty risky, especially if you haven’t mastered the nuances of great presentations. You may have an awesome product or service, but if you turn off your attendees with a bland presentation, they might look past what you’re offering and leave feeling utterly unimpressed.

If you think a webinar is going to work for you, here are some excellent tips to help you get ready.

  • Before you proceed with all the other preparations, make sure you know what exactly you’re hoping to get from hosting the webinar. Is it to generate new leads? Is it to introduce and demonstrate a new product offering? Or are you looking for clients who want to pay for a follow-up consultation or future workshop? Don’t organize a webinar just because you can. Make sure you outline all your communication and marketing objectives as a first step.
  • Remember that content is still king. The webinar is only a delivery stream, and unless you have something engaging and relevant to talk about, those flashy presentations will not hold your attendees in thrall.
  • It’s always good to plan everything ahead. Oversee all details, big and small. How are you going to make sure that there won’t be any technical glitches? How long is the webinar going to be? A general rule is to limit your webinar to 90 minutes – anything longer than that will have attendees itching to get out of their seats or wanting to get on with their E-mails and work stuff.
  • Invite other experts in the subject. They will not only lend more credibility to your webinar; they will also make the session a lot more interesting and keep your webinar from being too monotonous. Actively involve the attendees, too, and make them feel free to interact with you, ask questions, and share their two cents on the matter being discussed.
  • Actively promote your webinar and remind attendees of its schedule. You can do this via E-mail, social media, and even blogging. It’s recommended that you send out reminder E-mails at least twice: once immediately after registration, and then another on the day before the event. Also post all the details – like schedules, benefits, speaker list – on your official webinar page.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. A polished presentation shows that you prepared well, and that you made the effort to make the webinar worth the attendees’ time. A presenter who doesn’t appear to know what he or she’s talking about will make attendees want to log off as quickly as they can.