Today's guest speaking shot was with Citrix (makers of GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar). Eric Bensley from Citrix and I tried to do a brief overview of considerations when producing a webinar on a budget. We had several hundred attendees and a long Q&A session. There was no way to keep up with all the questions submitted from the audience, so here are answers to some of the ones we missed.
Q: Are there any good resources on the web for cleaning up audio files?
A: I use Goldwave. It costs $45 and you can download it immediately. The software is immensely powerful and can import and export just about any audio format. But the learning curve is steep for figuring out what the different effects do. I've been using it a long time and I still find new tricks every day. This is not a tool for casual users. Many people love Audacity and there are several others available. I just haven't seen a need to switch from what I've got.
Q: (Many people asked about the use of video in webinars. Here's a general answer.)
A: GoToWebinar isn't oriented towards native display of streaming video feeds. Some other web conferencing packages include this capability (usually at a higher cost). Adding video to your events adds quite a few additional concerns for the presenter and adds more things that can go wrong technically for smooth transmission and reception of the signal. Video can be a powerful tool, but it can cause headaches if you don't prepare appropriately. I'll be doing a webinar in October concentrating on the use of video in web conferencing. Check back on my Upcoming Events page later this month to find details and registration.
Q: How do you make resources/information/handouts available to webinar attendees?
A: You may wish to attach them to your Thank You emails after the event or you can host them on a web server and let people download them. I often do both, just in case a user's email reader blocks attachments. And some web conferencing technologies let audience members download files while they are still in the session.
Q: Do you recommend distributing your presentation after the webinar?
A: Not by itself. A well designed presentation shouldn't work as a stand-alone document. Otherwise there would be no need for you to act as a presenter! Reference documents need to have additional information. If you can't create a separate white paper or collateral piece that gives the information in a reference format, then add notes to your slides in PowerPoint that explain the concepts being presented. Print the Notes pages to a PDF format and send that as your leave-behind.
Q: What is the maximum price you would charge for a one hour webinar?
A: Sorry, there is no answer to this question. A highly technical training session that lets a professional get a degree or pass a major exam could be worth big money to them. General interest business subjects might be valued at less than $100. You'll have to do some comparisons, try some promotions, and see what works in your case. I see many webinars in the $50 range and I see many in the $300 range.
Q: What's the best way to deal with a presenter who has exceeded his or her allotted time?
A: Most webinar technologies allow private chat messages between the presenters/administrators that can't be seen by the audience. In your rehearsal sessions, make clear to the presenters how these work and tell them you'll use them if they are talking too softly or are running short on time. However, novice presenters often forget to look at the message area. I have had to come on the line as a moderator and say "Jim, I'd like to interrupt just for a moment to remind our audience that they can continue to ask questions in the chat panel. We'll be moving to our Q&A session in just a minute or two as Jim finishes up his presentation."
Q: Have you used social media sites to promote a webinar?
A: I haven't tried putting an ad on Facebook or MySpace, as I don't have an account that garners any significant traffic. If you have access to a wide circle of online "friends" or you have a heavily visited social site, this is a great free way to add promotion for your event.
Q: How many slides is too many?
A: I shoot for an average of one slide per minute. If you are flipping rapidly through slides, some of your audience will be lagging behind you (slower networks or overloaded computers). If you sit on one slide for too long, they get bored and attention wanders.
Q: Is there an ideal number of attendees? How do you consider a live webinar "successful?"
A: Once you get up to 100 attendees or more, it can be difficult to maintain a high level of interactivity and personal response to questions (as we saw in this heavily attended webinar). If you know you'll have a large audience, it can be worthwhile to put additional subject matter experts in assistant roles to answer and triage questions during the presentation. But the ideal number for you and your measure of success is based on your individual goals for the event. Some of my clients are delighted with 10 serious sales prospects asking a lot of questions in a demo. Some want to see at least 500 registrants because they are focused on building lead lists. Everyone is different.
Q: How often should you email your list and how far in advance should you announce a webinar?
A: There are different schools of thought on this. I have heard marketing experts recommend up to five contacts to promote attendance. You can run the risk of annoying your audience though. I typically believe in one or two invitation emails, an automatic confirmation message upon registration, a reminder message the day before, and a reminder message the day of the event. I try to start announcements for a webinar one month in advance of the date. That gives online mentions time to get indexed by search engines. I have seen email invitations generate a quite acceptable response as little as one week before an event, so you have a range to play with.
Q: (Many people asked how much they need to budget overall for a webinar. Here's a general answer.)
A: This is a tremendously difficult question to answer. Competing technologies differ wildly in cost. If you run many events, you can often amortize the cost of an "all you can meet" license arrangement. You have many options on your audio expenses, marketing expenses, and your use of outside service providers versus handling everything in-house. I tried to cover the basics of where you'll spend money and what ranges you can expect in a public webinar that is archived at this link.
Q: What is your favorite post production clean-up tool?
A: For audio clean-up, I use Goldwave. For video editing, resyncing the audio and video, and publishing to easily viewed formats, I use Camtasia Studio. It has its quirks, but I haven't found anything better overall.
Q: Can you stimulate attendance by positioning a webinar as "Exclusive to customers" rather than "Open to anyone?"
A: Yes. Exclusivity is a wonderful tool. Telling people that they are part of a select group invited to get benefits that aren't available to others is immensely appealing. That's why you get invitations to appear in "Who's Who" business books for a modest fee. If you can figure out a good way to do this, it can drive up response rates and attendance rates.
Q: What is a good ratio between registrants and attendees?
A: For general interest, public webinars (such as lead generation/marketing events), you can generally plan on a 33% attendance rate from the registrants. Anything over 42% is very good. If you really target a specific group (work that exclusivity angle) you can get 50-55%. Paid registrations usually result in a 90% attendance rate.
Q: Do you recommend using an exit survey as a reference tool?
A: Yes I do, but you have to work on framing it so it has benefit to your audience. The easy way to do this is to bribe them. Offer something to everyone who completes the survey (eg: a white paper), or raffle a prize from completed entries. But you can get more participation by reducing the number of questions and stating them as a "How can we better serve you?" question instead of a "Tell us how we did?" question.