• For every hour of online content that is delivered, it takes at least four times that amount to execute a successful online experience.
  • Since there’s no clear end to ongoing instructions to work from home, now is the time for these firms to step up their game and deliver better online events.
  • You might want to host a webinar presenting your solutions and their features, but this isn’t what is important to customers and prospects right now. Context matters!

By Ryan McAbee

Introduction

Now that much of the world is under stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our homes have become our world. Most of us are now craving new ways to communicate and connect. This abrupt shift to remote working has catapulted online conferencing and webinar services forward, so much that the term “Zoombombing” has entered our collective lexicon. Print service providers and industry vendors are using these same platforms to stay in front of their customers and prospects as in-person meetings and events continue to be cancelled or postponed. Unfortunately, webinars are failing as the print industry’s new B2B streaming service.

As an industry analyst, I have hosted, moderated, and attended countless webinars. I know firsthand that creating and delivering high-value, actionable content while keeping an audience engaged is not easy. For every hour of online content that is delivered, it takes at least four times that amount to execute a successful online experience. Fortunately, video streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+ offer some useful guidelines for delivering the best possible experience. These streaming services know all about providing content that people want to consume (hello, Tiger King!). In most cases, they are delivering hours of content that tells a broader story. It can usually be binge-watched on any device at any time. As a result, the customer has complete control.

Tips for Delivering a Successful Online Event

Online conferencing and webinars are new to many printing companies and vendors. Although some businesses might view this as an opportunity to extend into new areas and try something new, the problem is that it is often painfully obvious that printing companies and vendors are not experienced with delivering quality online conferences and webinars. Since there’s no clear end to ongoing instructions to work from home, now is the time for these firms to step up their game and deliver better online events. Here are ten tips for delivering a successful, impactful online event:

  • Start with the “Why?” It’s time to be honest—why are you hosting the event? Is your webinar simply designed to promote your company and solutions? That’s perfectly fine if so, but make sure you’re promoting it appropriately. Rather than pulling a “bait and switch,” set clear expectations up front and be sure that the invite and title match the content.
  • Find the Audience. Who is the target audience (e.g., existing customers, prospects, industry players), and how do you plan to get the metaphorical butts in the virtual seats? You can create invitations using your internal list, but it might be necessary to engage a partner if you hope to reach a broader audience. Provide enough lead time for attendees to register, then send consistent and repetitive reminders to those who have registered.
  • Context is Queen. Just like in-person events, online events need focus and purpose. They should reflect an awareness of what is going on in the industry and the world—especially in today’s uncertain times. You might want to host a webinar presenting your solutions and their features, but this isn’t what is important to customers and prospects right now. Today’s businesses are in survival mode, so they need support and ideas for moving forward. Your events should provide information that acknowledges this context and offers information on how your company can help.
  • Content is King. The content of the online event provides context and valuable information for attendees, while also keeping the audience engaged. Think of your delivery as a movie arc where the beginning introduces the characters and situation, the middle adds some drama (conflicts and challenges), and the ending provides a resolution. In a B2B setting, the introduction typically references the current state of the industry, and often uses market research as the example. Make sure the presenters can interpret this information accurately and make it validate the current situation. The middle should identify the core issues or challenges, highlighting what they are and why they exist. For the ending, you can then reveal how your service or solution can help to address any issues.
  • Be Creative! There is no written rule that says online events must be an hour in length and supported by a PowerPoint-type presentation. The event could also be a video conversation between you and a customer or industry expert. It might be a roundtable discussion with multiple participants on a timely topic where everyone is sharing best practices (perhaps navigating government assistance programs). Experiment and embrace the trial-and-error process until you find a format that works for your audience.
  • Two Heads are Better than One! Sure, we’ve all heard this saying, but there’s a reason why it prevails. Few people, unless they are A-list comedians, can keep an audience entertained for an extended period without support. Having more than one voice at an online event adds a conversational element and also breaks up the monotony. There’s no reason to go it alone!
  • Master the Platform. It’s important to learn how to use the online conferencing tool. If you practice and master the features beforehand, there’s less of a chance that you’ll be fumbling through the live event. Make sure you know how to mute/unmute audience members, respond to questions, record the session, and insert interactive elements like polls. Also be able to intelligently end the session so you don’t commit perjury or say something embarrassing!
  • Remember that Video Killed the Radio Star. Stay-at-home orders on a global basis will fundamentally change the way we communicate remotely. As our homes have become the centers of our worlds, face-to-face interactions with other human beings are more important than ever. Every public-facing webinar should have a video feed of the presenters. Yes, this might require cleaning up, dressing appropriately, and finding a quiet spot in the house, but all of that is necessary in today’s environment. If you’re uncomfortable with displaying your surroundings, remember that some video conferencing platforms can apply a green screen effect with a virtual background to hide what’s around you.
  • Enable Self-Service Bingeing. By the time you’ve reached this point, considerable time has already been put into hosting an online event. Don’t limit the long tail of replays by forcing viewers to register and taking days to share the replay link. Choose a user-friendly replay service with options that enable you to download the content or control the replay speed. If your online video conferencing service doesn’t offer these capabilities, post the recording on YouTube or your company website. Once you’ve created several recordings, group them by theme so you can create a series that encourages binge-watching.
  • Follow-up Fearlessly. In all my years of attending industry webinars, only one company took the time to call me after the event. If you’re collecting contact information during the sign-up period, put it to good use and reach out to your clients! The method of contact doesn’t necessarily need to be a phone call—any form of follow-up can make an impact in today’s environment.

The Bottom Line

Whether we like it or not, instructions to work from home might remain in place for quite some time. This is not the time to shy away—printing companies and vendors must maintain relationships with their customers. Since they can’t do this physically, it must be done virtually. Follow the steps above so you can deliver memorable, impactful online events that keep your clients engaged!

In today’s age of digital engagement, marketing services are more important than ever. Keypoint Intelligence offers tools to help drive your business toward success. To find out more e-mail deanna.flanick@keypointintelligence.com today!

Ryan McAbee is a Director for Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends' Production Workflow Consulting Service, which focuses on providing technology, business, and market insights to clients in the Digital Marketing & Media and Production Workflow markets. In this role, he is responsible for conducting market research, market analysis and forecasting, content development, industry training, and consulting with print service providers.