At a time when seemingly the entire world is at home, online conferences and webinars have taken center stage, with many businesses learning to adapt to this unexpected turn of events, with a willing global audience ready to attend in just a click.
Video conferencing software, in particular, has been growing at an exponential rate, with Zoom’s number of users soaring by 10 million since December 2019, while Microsoft Team’s service now has 44 million daily active users; a huge increase from the 20 million users back in November 2019.
This growth demonstrates the huge potential for marketers to pivot their strategy and create an online event, sharing their experience and expertise on a worldwide scale. However, one of the main challenges that now presents itself in these extraordinary circumstances is how to stand out.
With practically every other company on the planet jumping on the online events bandwagon, how can you make yours a success?
How to organize your own successful conference was the subject of discussion in last week’s #Semrushchat, where we were joined by special guests Olga Andrienko and Anton Shulke, as well as our insightful community.
Olga Olgandrienko is the Head of Global Marketing at Semrush, who came up with our groundbreaking Global Marketing Day conference, which is a live, 24-hour virtual event, broadcasting worldwide. Anton Shulke is our fantastic Video Content Lead at Semrush; he is the brains behind all of our informative Semrush webinars.
In this guide, we will share all the best tips discussed in our #Semrushchat and provide advice on how to create an online event that truly stands out from the crowd.
Identify the Purpose of Your Online Event
Before anything else, you need to consider the goals and vision of your online event. For example:
Leads or awareness?
Do you want to generate leads for your products, course, or services, or promote awareness of your brand by developing thought leadership and name recognition? The answer to this question will determine the best software to pick for your online event.
Anton Shulke, @anton_shulke:
For leads, always opt for software that engages your audience and allows you to easily complete an analysis of the traffic and registrations you receive, so you can better determine the overall event value.
Below, we have the best webinar software for lead generation highlighted in the #Semrushchat:
Olga Andrienko, @Olgandrienko:
“It depends on your goals. If you run webinars for lead gen, always go for software that ensures you get to engage your audiences, track their watching time, run polls. @GoToWebinar or @on24.”
Easy to use for all experience levels
Great customer engagements via polls
Simple for all participants to interact with presenters through chat, with virtual raising hand options
Can stream webinar worldwide
Excellent customer analytics tool
Perfect for webinars
Very accessible: engaging users through polls and resources within the platform
Data-driven platform on both a group and individual level
Auto-generates emails to those registered
If awareness is your main goal, and you aren’t looking to invest in tools, the platforms recommended were:
Great for reaching a wider audience
Can engage thousands of people through its live chat feature
Allows you to link to a number of different resources, such as Restream, OBS
You have the recorded video to use after the event, providing an excellent way to continue building your brand.
Webinars are easy to set up
Ensures your audience can be a lot broader than just your contact list.
Best Platforms and Software for Hosting Online Events
Here are our standout tools and software, as well as recommended favorites from our special guests and community members in Semrushchat:
Jim Fuhs, Digital Marketing Consultant #SMWL20, @FuhsionMktg:
“It really depends on your desire for audience interaction and where, but
Olga Andrienko, @Olgandrienko:
“We use YouTube, but it’s not the perfect solution. We know who has registered for the webinar, but not much else. Benefits are bigger exposure and appearing in YouTube search after the webinar is finished.”
- Zoom: Great all-rounder and good quality, especially for online conferences.
- Webex: Flexible conferencing solution, can be used in any browser.
- YouTube: Free and versatile platform as you can link it to many different sources.
- WebinarJam: Excellent functionality for producing an entire livestream event with maximum control.
- GotoWebinar: Known for its ease of use and reliability.
- Adobe Connect: Control over layouts and functionality of webinars, including branding and content.
- RingCentral Meetings: Incredibly user-friendly for video conferencing and high-quality.
- BigMarker: Easy setup and well-organized webinar platform.
- On24: Best for hosting data-rich webinars and creating personalized engagement strategies.
- Zoho Meeting: Affordable online tool for web conferencing, great for lead-nurturing webinars.
- Streamyard App: For streaming to multiple platforms at the same time.
Who is your audience?
Prior to crafting a targeted nurturing campaign for leads, increasing awareness, or conducting speaker outreach, you need to know your target audience. This task is critical; it will allow you to position your business and the products or services you offer to the right people with your online event.
To start with, establish the main goals, challenges, or motivations your buyer persona is facing, and then aim to produce an event that discusses and provides solutions to a particular issue.
What is the aim of your event?
Is the webinar supposed to educate, entertain or inspire the target audience? Your tone of voice, messaging, and metrics will all be greatly impacted by the overarching aim, so don’t forget to consider this.
Free or paid online event: How do you decide?
As an online event organizer, you need to decide whether you want to make it a free or paid event.
Webeo Global, @Webeo_Global:
“Think it completely depends on what the webinar will be providing and the business goals. Each category will have pros and cons. However, free webinars are great for thought leadership and generating leads.”
Lead Forensics, @LeadForensics:
“We only create free webinars. However, it can all depend on the content and the goals of the webinar. Do you want leads? Are you providing thought leadership? Etc.”
When we posed this question in this week’s #Semrushchat, the overall consensus was that given the current pandemic, free online events were the way to go.
More broadly speaking, these are the main points for both free and paid events that you need to think about.
Free Online Events
Typically generate more leads, providing additional opportunities to promote your products in greater numbers.
Excellent for businesses trying to develop brand recognition and thought leadership.
The downside is that the audience may be less committed to listening attentively.
Bill Slawski, @bill_slawski:
“We haven't hosted any online events, but I have participated in a number of them, and free ones are good ways to build an audience and spread ideas and information.”
Paid Online Events
Attendance is usually lower, but people are more likely to listen attentively due to investment.
Preferred option if teaching a specific skill, personal consulting, or providing a subject matter in the presentation.
Value proposition of the event needs to be clear: for example, providing case studies that aren’t public.
Bernie Fussenegger, #Digital360Chat, @B2the7:
“As a participant, if I’m paying, I do expect to have solid take-aways and know there will be other like-minded that are serious to be there.
With Free…they are great, but many end up being a big selling of services and are a little lacking on substance.”
Additional Ways to Monetize Online Events
A frequently given tip in our #Semrushchat was to host free online webinars or conferences but promote exclusive content or access that is available for a fee afterward. For example, this may be personal consulting services or software.
MahdiAli Khanusiya, @mahdiali_:
“I suggest hosting a free webinar. To make money, you can offer a paid product at the end of the webinar.”
How to Choose an Online Event or Webinar Topic
Here is how to research and get the content creation process going for an online event that will wow your audience:
Tools such as the Semrush Topic Research tool generate a list of potential topics, providing the top headlines, questions, subtopics, and related searches for your chosen word.
Topic research websites such as AnswerThePublic show you the most commonly asked questions on your topic, based on autocomplete data from search engines.
Research the key questions your audience is asking on social media that experts in your online event could discuss and provide solutions to. What expertise would be most useful, and what does your audience want to know more about?
Look at the agendas of postponed or canceled conferences in your area of expertise. Pick topics that were scheduled before lunch, as these are usually the keynote topics that tend to get the largest attendance. The only exception to this being bigger conferences, which are typically created with the most important subjects discussed in the closing sessions.
Check out the competition: what webinars or conferences have they recently held, and what are they planning? This can be a great way to find gaps in your chosen topic that have not been covered.
Use Google Analytics to analyze existing site data and find a topic based on a variation of existing content.
How to Structure Your Online Event or Webinar
Create a longer introduction with engaging questions if you decide to have a waiting period while people join the event. If you have guests, then this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce them and get them to dive deeper into a relevant topic.
Keep it to a concise presentation length. With most online events, it should be at least 20 minutes but no more than 35, otherwise people lose focus.
Have a Q&A session that involves participants and answer their questions at the end. Be prepared to have a few initial questions ready yourself, as sometimes people can be reluctant to ask the first question, and typing speed can vary amongst attendees.
Highlight key information. Don’t forget to clearly mention where your audience can discover more about your services, company, and guest speakers (if you have them).
Self-hosted or Involving Guests: Which is Better?
Go it alone if the online event is for personal branding, or you have a spokesperson for your company — this was the main recommendation in this week’s #Semrushchat. However, if you do go solo, make sure you include breaks and lots of useful information, as it can otherwise be monotonous and ultimately disengage viewers. This applies, no matter how great the host is!
Having guests can make the online event more entertaining, and they can provide additional insights on your subject matter. Bringing in guests can also help increase the level of event interaction and boost the overall audience base.
Bill Slawski, @bill_slawski:
“Having guests means effective collaboration, and broadening your audience, and getting diverse viewpoints and perspectives. Those things are valuable.”
In terms of the most popular format for online events (including for audio-only), one host and one speaker is chosen most often. This might mean you decide to have someone from your company as the host and then have one main speaker.
Hybrid formats were also highlighted in our #Semrushchat, working particularly well when you have a presenting speaker and then guest experts who comment on the topic or answer questions after the event.
Selecting Guests For an Online Event or Webinar
If you decide to invite people, remember that when it comes to discussion panels, not all experts make for great guests. For example, some might take up all the air time or may not be confident speakers, so choose wisely.
How Long Should An Online Event Be?
It should be no longer than an hour for a standalone event. If you intend to run multiple, interconnected sessions, then the time matters less, providing that the content is valuable and engaging the audience. But be realistic: don’t expect people to watch more than two 40-minute sessions at once.
How to Promote Your Online Event
Here are the best online promotion tips given in this week’s #Semrushchat:
Newsletters are a must. Promote your upcoming online event in them.
Send email reminders to existing clients, and those registered for the event.
Ask guest experts to share with their own network, expanding your reach.
Social media: share it with your network on relevant platforms e.g., LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook, and don’t forget to tag the speakers and special guests in all social media announcements.
Paid social media: setting up lookalike audiences is key, as these decrease acquisition costs but ensure your paid ads for webinar are reaching those likely to be interested in your event.
Reva Minkoff, @revaminkoff:
“Social media and email marketing are two of the biggest home runs when promoting to your community.”
Itamar Blauer, @ItamarBlauer:
“Share it with your network on relevant platforms e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit. Send an email out to your clients / include your upcoming webinars in your newsletter. The importance here is the relevancy of the platforms!”
How to Increase Engagement Through Social Media
We recommend using a slightly different social media approach for before, during, and after the online event:
Before the Event
Promote the event on all relevant social networks.
Alter social media for webinar or conference posts if it is being promoted more than 3 times. Include at least 2 images.
Tag guests in all social media announcements.
Select and post 5-6 posts on the related event topic, mentioning the online event.
Follow the guest's Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Support guest's social network activity via comments, Likes, or reposting.
Support all guest's posted content.
All posts promoting the event should have UTM tracking.
During the Event
Live-tweet throughout to draw attention to the online event or conference and increase levels of engagement.
Retweet great tweets about the event itself; promoting your audience is always a good thing.
Thank people for social shares.
After the Event
The host should gather quotes from the online event for post-promotion purposes.
Post with the link to the recorded event on all social media networks.
Post “video quotes” featuring the most interesting moments from the online event on social media.
Don't forget to mention and tag guests.
Fistbump Media, @FistbumpMedia:
“We keep everything pretty simple...
? New webinar email updates to all previous registrants
? Monthly #TBT webinar feature to all previous registrants
? Social Media (primarily FB and LinkedIn)
? Some targeted social media ads”
Download the Complete Online Checklist.
How to Ensure the Best Streaming Quality for Your Event
Follow the steps in our checklist below to make sure your online event is a five-star experience for your audience.
Good lighting is very important.
Use an HD camera — no pixelated images.
Invest in a good microphone — never use laptop mics.
Make sure all guests or speakers have the necessary equipment beforehand, allowing time for acquisition if they do not.
No distracting backgrounds: keep it professional, clean, and no personal items should be visible.
Make sure there isn’t any background noise.
Do a test before going live to check everything is working properly.
Turn off all your notifications.
Check that you have a strong internet connection.
Minimize open tabs.
Anton Shulke, @anton_shulke:
“Audio is more important than video! Never use laptop's mics — NEVER! A webinar is not an opera, just a headset will do. But it needs testing. Test it a few days before the webinar. If it is not perfect, push people to fix it. Not a perfect test = disaster webinar.”
How to Measure the Success of an Online Event
Don’t underestimate the importance of measuring the success of your online event. After all, you want to make sure that it was worth the effort and figure out what works and where there is room for improvement with any upcoming events. How do you do that? Follow our tips below:
Lead generation: You want to know the number of people who registered and attended your online event, as well as the percentage of new leads. Track those that have registered even if they do not end up attending the event.
Attendance rate: If there is low attendance but a high number of registrations, this may indicate you need to alter the time and/or day of the event.
Views: This can tell you how engaging the topic was.
Average watching time: Tracking audience retention enables you to make changes to your promotional strategy or presentation in the future.
Live chat activity: This can tell you how engaging your content was overall.
Social media reach: Measuring social interactions with your event is key as it shows the impression made by your event.
Feedback from participants, hosts, and experts: Integrate the responses you get to improve your online event strategy.
Tod Cordill, @todcordill:
“How you measure success depends on your goals.
Did you meet lead gen or revenue goals?
Were there any major technical issues?
Did the speakers make it worth the audiences' time/money?
Did you learn things that allow you to improve next time?”
Here is a quick and helpful PDF with all the above tips on creating your own online event.
We would like to say a big thank you to our special guests and savvy SEO community in this week’s #Semrushchat, providing us with excellent guidance on how to create a successful online conference or webinar. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Online events can vary considerably in-scope, so we haven’t covered every single question in this guide, but if you have one, ask in the comments, and we will be delighted to answer them. We would also love to hear what your main tips are for organizing a successful online event or webinar. List your top 5!