Mar 21, 2010

The Nuts and Bolts of Setting Up a Webinar (Part II)

In Part I of this two-part series on webinars, I discussed why webinars are an effective marketing tool for lawyers and identified suitable topics for webinars and free and low cost platforms to support webinars.  In this Part, I'll go through the nuts and bolts of setting up a webinar from start to finish.

1.  Choose your weapon.  As I suggested in Part I, test drive a few of the webinar platforms to figure out which ones work for you.  The platforms vary in price and features but what's most important is that you (or your staff) feel comfortable with the interface.  (One of my personal favorites for features and ease of use is DimDim).  Once you've decided on and registered for a webinar service, you can start planning your first webinar. 

2.  Decide on a topic for your webinar.  For prospective clients, pick topics that are timely and don't usually receive adequate attention at other seminars.  Remember - because webinars are so inexpensive to host, you can keep the topics narrow.  You may attract a smaller number of participants, but chances are, they'll be much more interested in the event and more likely to retain you.  To select topics for existing clients, why not ask them what interests them?  Clients will feel flattered that you've sought out their input and will appreciate your continued responsiveness to their needs. 
3.  Pick a date.  Choose a date for the webinar anywhere from four to six weeks out.  A shorter time frame will cut down on your ability to promote the webinar.  

4.  Pick a time for the webinar.  The best times for a webinar will depend on your audience.  If your target audience includes a 9 to 5 working crowd, an evening or weekend will work best.  For a national audience, a time slot after noon is necessary to ensure that West Coast participants will be awake in time for the call.  Limit webinars to no more than ninety minutes and preferably, aim for 40 to 60 minutes of content with 15 minutes available for questions.

As for your own schedule, try to set the webinar on a day that you won't be in court or at other meetings.  Though a webinar is only an hour and can be conducted from your office, you're better off hosting it on a day with few distractions.

5.   Set Up Registration:  Once you've set a presentation date, it's time to start marketing your seminar.  Prepare a snappy announcement and post it on your blog, website or a separately created landing page.  You can use auto-responder programs like Aweber or Constant Contact for registration, or even something free like Google Forms.  
These programs will capture registrants names and emails so that you can send them the log in information for the webinar. 

6.  Start marketing.   After you've set up the registration, begin promoting your program.  Use social media applications like a Facebook fan page or Twitter.  Disseminate information about the webinar through your newsletter as well as any listservs in which you participate (if they allow promotions).  Reach out to bloggers who cover the topics that you'll be addressing in the webinar and ask whether they can get the word out to readers.  You might also consider advertising on Facebook.

If you're targeting a consumer audience, don't limit your promotions to the Internet.  Depending upon your audience, consider announcing your webinar in school or PTA newsletters, through leaflets or fliers at the local coffee shop, bookstore and library and perhaps even through an inexpensive ad in a small local publication.

7.  Prepare the Webinar.  Once the marketing for the webinar is underway, begin preparing your materials as soon as possible, for two reasons.  First, getting the prep out of the way early on means you'll have less to worry about when the webinar date approaches.  Second, you may decide to send an outline to participants in advance to provide more details about the topics you'll cover. 

8.  Send Out the Access Information.  Two days before the webinar, send out the access information to participants.  Some of the services - such as DimDim can transmit an invitation for you, or you can simply send an email yourself.   In addition to sending the numbers to call and/or codes to enter to access the webinar, you should also provide participants with an alternative way to get in touch with you (such as email) if for some reason, the webinar disconnects.

9.  Test Run.   It's always good to do a quick test run a day before you put on the program whether you've used the product or not. Sometimes, companies may change the features of a webinar platform and if you don't check it out in advance, you may find yourself fumbling on "game day."  Also test out your recording options and run a sound check.  If the sound comes across weak, you may need to plug a microphone into the computer.

10.  Webinar.  Giving a webinar can be tricky since unlike an in person event, you can't judge reactions.  So stop from time to time to ask participants to send in questions.  Err on the side of keeping the webinar short.  Many people budget a limited time frame - typically not more than an hour - for webinars, so try to keep your presentation short, while allowing time for questions.   

Definitely record the webinar, either using tools included in the platform or screen capture programs like Camtasia (for PCs) or Screenflow (for Macs).

11.  Post Production  Once the webinar ends, there's still plenty of work to do.  For starters, you should email participants with a short survey (also something that can be done with Google Forms) asking them to rate the program and for testimonials (be sure to ask for permission about using them in your marketing materials). 

Next, save a copy of the recording and arrange to have the audio transcribed.  That way you'll have both a visual summary of your talk (on CD or thumb drive) as well as written materials for those who don't care for video.  If you're pleased with the product, you might consider selling the recording bundled with the tape and a written transcript or making it available on your website.

CONCLUSION  Though all of these steps to put on a webinar seem complicated, they become much easier over time once you've mastered the learning curve.  In fact, you may become so adept at webinars, you might decide to hold a webinar for colleagues or clients on...what else?  How to put on a webinar!