There was a time when the greatest thing you could do with a webcam was this:
And impressive as that may be – enjoy having that little ditty stuck in your head for a while – technology has come a long way, and so has the way we use it.
Case in point? Making webcasting and webinars part of your marketing strategy.
Now, if you’ve never done something like this of your own, it’s easy to write it off as one of those extra fancy things that only extra fancy marketing types do – like sending out nifty swag, or sponsoring a space jump.
(Because who doesn’t have the resources for that, right?)
But broadcasting your mug and your wisdom all over the Interwebs isn’t necessarily as niche as you think – in fact, more than 60% of marketers use webinars and webcasts part of their overall strategy.
This past year has normalized the video call and perhaps helped us a little to get over the fear of our face on video.
Knowing that this sort of thing is a good idea doesn’t tell you how to actually DO it, though. So what exactly do you need to know about how to start a webcast? What are the actual steps to hosting a webinar or broadcast of your own?
Let’s start at the start!
What is webcasting?
Webcasting is a live stream of a meeting or event you host online. It can be either an audio or video stream. Viewers can interact with you to ask questions over a chat function but will not usually be seen by the meeting host.
Webinar vs. webcast: what’s the difference?
A webcast is a presentation or event that is broadcast either live or has been prerecorded. Live interactions with the audience are minimal. A webinar tends to be a more interactive live stream between the host and audience.
How to make a webcast
Choose your topic
It’s easy to forget how good you are at what you do – but boy, you’re good!
(Okay, no more ancient memes. This is starting to look like an email forwarded from a weird uncle.)
Seriously, though, you’re darn good at what you do – it just doesn’t feel like it because, well, it’s what you do!
While the things you know about your industry may seem rudimentary to you, and while the things you do may feel routine, they’re actually really interesting to other people. It’s easy to take your own expertise for granted!
Don’t write off an idea for a webinar just because you think it isn’t impressive enough – odds are, it could be jampacked with insights your audience would love.
In fact, your audience can tell you exactly what you should be talking about, if you know how to listen.
Even if your fans never ask you questions about your industry explicitly, you can still get an easy idea of what interests them the most – a quick look at your Google Analytics, for example, can show you which of your blog posts are the most popular. (That’s how we decided to do a webinar on finding the best times to post on social – our most popular blog post addresses that very subject.)
Hint: Don’t choose a topic that’s too big for a single lesson! Most people prefer webinars that are 30-45 minutes long, and on average, a viewer tunes in for less than an hour.
When you’re choosing a topic, though, don’t just think about what information you want to share – think about how you want to share it.
Finding the right program
The good news is, you have a lot of options for hosting a webinar.
The bad news is, you have a lot of options for hosting a webinar!
Don’t let the whole tyranny of choice thing stop you before you get started, though – the different platforms you can use to broadcast yourself on the web all have unique things to offer. Ultimately, the right program for you depends on what type of webcast you want to host.
Take WebinarJam Studio, for example – a program we’ve been using for some time ourselves. While it comes at the cost of an annual subscription, it also has serious horsepower. WebinarJam makes it especially easy to do things like:
- Set up a registration landing page
- Track stats for signups and attendees
- Broadcast a screenshare (perfect for slideshow presentations)
- Record and share webinar replays
These are all things that matter to us specifically because of our goals and our presentation style – but that doesn’t mean they have to matter to you.
No matter what sort of webcasting you think you’ll be most comfortable with, there’s a program out there for you. Whether you want something in-depth like WebinarJam, or something super casual like Demio or Go To Webinar, you can easily find a program that suits your strengths.
Even if your webinar/hangout/webcast/whatever doesn’t require attendees to register beforehand, you should still give them plenty of notice ahead of time.
(After all – they’ve got lives to plan.)
Email is ranked as the top method for promoting a webinar, with stats saying it can be useful to start promoting as early as three weeks before you broadcast.
This is one of those moments when you’ll be glad you invested the time in boosting signups for your email list, and in establishing a newsletter that people will get excited about reading. Without a captive email audience, you’re cut off from one of the most valuable ways to promote a live event!
But that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can do.
Social media is a darn powerful tool for promoting your webcasts, particularly because even more so than email, it makes it easy for your followers to spread the word. While programs like Blab and Periscope are especially focused on the social aspect of a webcast, even those like WebinarJam allow you to include a sidebar chatroom for your viewers to use while they watch.
The result? Tuning in to a webinar or webcast is increasingly social and interactive. Gone are the days of sitting quietly and being yammered at – webcasts are participatory events, and the people in your audience will want others to participate with them!
Promote yourself in a way that makes it easy for those people to get others to join them. Take a cue from one of our fave webcasters, Ian Cleary, who uses Twitter to grow an audience before he goes on air (take note of the retweets):
Before you ever get that far, though, you have one big mystery to figure out.
Knowing what comes after
Long before you ever even announce your webcast, you have two big questions to answer.
First, what happens to your audience after it’s over?
Once you switch off your webcam and enjoy the most cathartic exhale of your life, what becomes of the people who tuned in?
Do they get…
- Added to an email list?
- A special offer or promotion?
- A replay link (either via email or social)?
- Solicited for feedback?
- Invitations to future webinars?
- A pony?
This may be easier for you to determine after you answer the next question:
What do you hope to accomplish with this thing?
Maybe your webcast is promoting something specific, like a new course or a product launch:
Maybe it’s a way for you to build your email list, or to gather demographic information about your audience.
Even if all you want to do is reinforce your expertise and authority, that’s a HUGE deal.
78% of businesses say that determining the ROI of social media is difficult, and this is a prime example of why. If your webcasts aren’t directly promoting something specific, you might not be able to figure out a clear, direct, concrete number that explains just how “worth it” they were.
But just like sending a free newsletter or publishing blog posts, hosting live events can do a lot to build trust between you and your audience, and to help establish an ongoing relationship. The ROI for this type of marketing may be indirect, but that doesn’t make it any less worth the effort. Even if nothing “happens” to your audience after your webcast, you’ll still have done something that made a difference – you just might not realize it right away.
Recommended reading (and viewing, of course)
Convinced you should be taking this webcasting thing a little more seriously? Good – because there’s a lot to learn, and a lot of great resources for learning it!
Here are a few of our faves for getting started:
Conquer your fear of public speaking with these foolproof techniques – We love Ramit Sethi because he tells it like it is (and offers darn good advice). His public speaking tips are perfect for introverts and first-timers.
21 Pro Tips For A Packed House at Your Webinar – Donna Moritz of Socially Sorted shows up in this post yet again, and with good reason! Her tips for making the most of your webcasts will make you look and feel like an old pro on your very first go-around.
Got a favorite webcaster of your own? Someone whose webinars you never, ever miss? Let us know in the comments below (so we can watch ‘em)!