If we try (unsuccessfully in most cases) to distinguish “webinars” from “webcasts” or “web conferences”, one of the important pieces of functionality for a webinar is usually advanced registration for the event. A collaborative group meeting may be scheduled with a simple link for all the participants to use, and a classic webcast may be pushed out to a massive audience with an attitude of “whoever wants to watch it, can.” But a web seminar for training, marketing, or lead generation relies upon getting people to sign up in advance so you can send reminder messages, track attendance, and conduct follow up communications.
Given the importance of registration for a public webinar, I am constantly surprised and depressed at the woeful capabilities provided by technology vendors to support this vital function. Some major vendors who trumpet the use of their product for webinars make you pay significant extra money to get any registration capabilities at all. Others provide only the most rudimentary fixed format registration pages.
One vendor forced the first registration field to be “Full name.” This meant that I couldn’t even separate first and last name fields for sorting, use in communication templates, or export to a CRM system. What on earth were they thinking?
When vendors offer me the ability to customize registration pages, it rarely meets my expectations for design flexibility. Customization most often ends up meaning that you can slap a small logo in the upper corner of the page and add a few text entry fields after their own required fields (with their own labels). You may think that “First Name” and “Last Name” are applicable for any occasion, but if I am dealing with a mixed Western and Asian audience, I prefer to use “Given Name” and “Family Name” so that my registrants and I aren’t trying to guess which name order format we’re using.
I usually have no control over where my additional custom fields get placed on the page and I can’t place additional descriptive text with them to add instructions or explanations. I don’t think any vendor has enabled conditional display of registration fields (eg: only show “State/Province” if the Country is USA or Canada). It is vanishingly rare to find a vendor who provides pre-populated dropdown fields for things such as Country or State/Province. Many of them won’t even let you put in 50-60 dropdown selection choices if you had the patience to try to load the field yourself.
All the way back in 2007, I gave a rave review to MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Handbook. I have yet to find a vendor that lets me implement many of MarketingSherpa’s suggestions for registration page design. That means I am losing potential registrants just because I can’t use best practices to encourage completion of my registration form.
There are some third-party registration and audience management tools that are built to work with web conferencing products. In the best cases, these offer additional design flexibility for registration pages and a reasonably easy to implement integration with your chosen web conferencing tool. But you end up paying for the use of the tool – sometimes a lot more. And you have to worry about support, billing, and training from two different vendors. That’s not knocking the third-party providers… I’m glad they are around to fill a needed functionality gap. But come on webinar vendors… Shouldn’t you be trying to put those other guys out of business? Give me the functionality I need as a part of your product!
It is getting harder and harder for webinar technologies to differentiate themselves from competitors. Registration page design is wide open for that kind of differentiation. Let me customize my registration page. REALLY customize it. Text and background colors, all field labels, placement above/below/beside other fields, pre-built dropdowns, conditional field display, graphics in line with other items. Wow… You could sure show that off in your marketing and sales demos!