I had a call today from a client saying that they were thinking of recording a webinar for playback without ever bothering to put on a live event with an audience... What did I think of the idea?
I see nothing wrong with this approach. Obviously you give up the opportunity for interaction through polls and questions. But you also remove the attendance barrier of forcing people to attend on your schedule. When you decide to work in this medium you have the option of pretending that it's a recording of a live webinar and including fake audience questions. But I think you should treat it as a different beast. You are now creating a webcast, meant to be viewed by a passive audience. That means concentrating on a few differences in details from a live webinar. First, your event time should be shorter. I usually recommend no more than sixty minutes for a live event including all intro, questions, and wrap-up. For a recorded event, 30 minutes becomes the maximum, with 10-15 minutes optimal. People don't have a sense of obligation to stay with you as they do when they are in a "live audience." You also need to really ramp up your vocal energy levels, as your voice becomes the thin thread of connection keeping the listener involved.
Make sure you have a strong call to action at the end of your presentation, moving the listener easily into the next stage of interaction with your company. That may be presenting white papers for download, displaying an interactive feedback form, or giving them a chat window or telephone number to speak with a representative immediately.
Of course you should also record your live events as a matter of routine. If you are putting all the work into them up front, you might as well get the benefit of reusing them after the event date.
If you are making decisions about live versus recorded events, NetPoint Live from Webcast Group offers an interesting option that they don't talk about on their website. You can prerecord the main part of your presentation and then wrap it on event day with live introductions at the beginning and Q&A at the end. It gives you a chance to avoid flubs during your content delivery and to avoid boredom and burnout if you give the same content over and over. The audience never has to know that you have switched to a piece of recorded content... You just introduce the speaker during your live introduction and hit the play button, taking over again at the end for the live finale.
Companies that regularly use public web conferencing as part of their overall communications strategies usually keep a roster of upcoming live events and recorded materials available on their website. That lets them take advantage of the benefits of each avenue of communications.