I find this attendance chart very instructive:
There wasn’t much detail associated with the graphic. Just a well-deserved bit of boasting about MediaPlatform’s ability to stage a very large online event with excellent Quality of Service and Quality of Experience for the customer. This one had around 35,000 concurrent viewers.
Sure, that’s more audience than most of us can ever dream of pulling in on a standard marketing or training webinar. It’s a different type of use case, and that’s why you might not have heard of MediaPlatform. It’s not in the same market segment as Webex and Zoom and GoToWebinar.
Still, we can use this huge event to illustrate a concept that is universal, but easier to see here than in smaller webinars.
Let’s assume you follow best practices and log in to your webinar/webcast platform well before the scheduled start time to make sure the presentation team is prepared and all equipment is performing adequately. As the start time draws near, at least one member of the team will say “Why don’t we wait a few minutes for latecomers to get in?” It sounds reasonable. You want to reach as many people as possible, don’t you?
And sure enough, if you look at the chart you see a sharp increase in the number of attendees during the first few minutes after they opened the room. But let’s dig deeper in our analysis (which is a little tricky because we don’t have the source data or the ability to zoom in on our view).
First, note the time code markers along the x-axis. They didn’t open the room right at 11am. They opened it at 10:58. So the sharp rise between the first two dots is from 10:58 to approximately 11:00 – no doubt representing people who connected early and were just impatiently waiting for something to happen.
At that point, representing the advertised starting time, they had 2660 people logged in and listening. A mere drop in the bucket when compared to all the people who would eventually join. But 2660 people! People who were so invested in the topic that they had made sure to be there right on time (probably ahead of time). Do you want to annoy 2660 of your most interested audience members by telling them that they are not important enough to talk to yet? That instead, you are going to wait a while longer to see if more people show up?
If so, how long do you wait? How many is enough for you? Look at the rest of the curve… Concurrent attendance goes up and up and up for 40 minutes!
Just start on time.
Fulfill the promise you made in your advertising and promotional materials. It clearly indicated when you were starting. If people join after that, they understand that they might have missed something. In fact, they BETTER have missed something! Otherwise they’ll just show up late for your future events, secure in the knowledge that you don’t start on time anyway.
It’s easier to see with large numbers, but it applies to any public, open-attendance web event. A portion of your audience respected you enough to believe that when you said you would start at 11am, you would actually do so. Don’t repay their trust with disrespect and dismissiveness. Work with the people who want to work with you. The rest can catch up later. They knew what they were doing.