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What is a Webinar & How Does it Work? A Full Guide on Webinars

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What is a Webinar & How Does it Work? A Full Guide on Webinars

A webinar is a powerful tool for businesses to generate new leads and for educators to reach a broader audience.

But what is webinar? How do they work? And what are their benefits?

Let’s have a look.

What is a webinar?

A webinar is a workshop, presentation, or lecture that’s hosted online via webinar software. 

It can be conducted by a person, organization, or a group of individuals. 

You can think of a webinar as an online seminar or web seminar. 

Webinars can be pre-recorded (on-demand webinars) and then shown to an audience at a later date, or they can be held live. 

We will use the following terms throughout this article to describe the people involved in a webinar.

  • Moderator — A person responsible for running the webinar smoothly. They respond to chats, upload webinar materials to the webinar room, solve technical issues, etc.
  • Host — A host is responsible for organizing and conducting a webinar, introducing speakers, and carrying out Q&A sessions. 
  • Speaker — A person responsible for presenting information during a webinar. Another name for a speaker is a presenter. 
  • Attendee — A person who registers and joins a webinar intending to gain knowledge or training. 

Webinars are an effective way of generating leads, interacting with your customers, and building relationships with them. 

Some of the best webinar software in the market include Riverside.fm, Livestorm, and WebinarJam.  

What is the meaning of webinar vs. seminar? 

A seminar is a live, in-person event where people gather to learn about a particular topic and share ideas. 

A webinar is an online seminar (web seminar) that allows you to present information or training to a live audience.

Previously, it was impossible to host a large-scale virtual event or online event and host hundreds of people. However, thanks to webinars, that’s not the case anymore.

Nowadays, businesses prefer webinars over seminars because they’re cheaper and just as useful.

What is a webinar series?

What is a webinar series?

A webinar series is a set of webinars related to each other topic-wise. 

The same speaker or organization typically presents a webinar series. It’s a great way to provide comprehensive training on a particular subject. 

A webinar series is more effective than a standalone webinar for the following reasons:

  • The more your attendees engage with your webinar content, the more they’ll trust your brand. 
  • Providing detailed information on a topic makes you come across as an expert.
  • Customers who attend every webinar in your series become loyal to your brand over time.

How do webinars work?

Webinars can be pre-recorded or live. Up to hundreds of people can attend a webinar.  

In a live webinar, the speakers and attendees can interact with each other. Some of the tools for interaction in a webinar include text chat boxes, polls, surveys, screen sharing, emojis, interactive whiteboards, etc.

In a webinar recorded beforehand (pre-recorded webinars), the attendees can view the webinar; however, they can’t interact with the speaker.

Webinars that are effective require speakers who can keep attendees engaged and informed. Some speakers talk using only the camera, whereas others share slides on their screen or use an interactive whiteboard.

Webinars are hosted on a webinar platform. Each webinar app has different features. 

To attend webinars, you’ll need to register for it on the webinar landing page. To participate in webinars, you will need a stable and fast internet connection and download the required webinar software on your phone or app. Alternatively, you can use a browser like Chrome or Firefox. 

What is the purpose of a webinar?

So what is a webinar used for?

A webinar is mainly used for marketing or teaching. They educate and instruct the audience on a certain topic.

Let’s look more closely how why businesses use webinars (and why you should use them too). 

Brand building

By hosting webinars, you can target a specific audience demographic and build your brand with them. 

When you host experts on your webinar who share industry-specific advice, people will start to trust your brand more than your competitors’. Influencers who spoke on your webinar will share its content on social media, which further increases your brand value.

Lead generation and engagement

Webinars are popular because they allow attendees to interact with domain experts and other attendees. 

Your webinar attendees become high-quality leads (or new customers) the more they interact with your brand.

According to ReadyTalk, 20-40% of webinar attendees become qualified leads. And ON24 reports that 76% of marketers vouch that webinars helped them reach more leads. 

Creating a webinar event makes people fork over their email addresses — which helps you add them to your mailing list. Even if they join your webinar only once, they’re more likely to buy your product and service later. 

Educating the audience about products and services

Webinars are one of the best tools to inform your customers about your product and services. Marketers prefer it over social media because it provides real-time interaction.

Positioning yourself as an authority

Webinar marketing is one of the most powerful ways to boost your authority. When you answer your customers' questions, they begin to view you as an expert.

Reaching a larger audience across the globe

Your audience does not have to travel across the globe to attend your webinars - they can join from their home. This allows you to gain a brand following all across the globe.

Benefits of hosting a webinar meeting

Boosts Brand Awareness

Promoting your webinars and having people attend them makes you more known in the industry. 

Cost-effective

In-person events aren’t easy to organize. They’re also expensive to host. 

You’ll need to rent a space, choose a food catering service, come up with lodging for attendees, and more. 

If the event is held abroad, attendees find it equally difficult to travel long distances and spend money on flights and accommodations.

A virtual event (online event) or a webinar is cost-effective for both sides; organizers can purchase affordable webinar platforms, and attendees can join for free. 

It helps repurpose content that can boost your SEO

Webinars can be repurposed to create clips (audio and video) that you can add to social media. If you’re looking for a webinar platform that excels in repurposing content, you should check out Riverside’s webinar software. Riverside has a Clips feature that makes repurposing long-form content into highly shareable short-form content easy!

Using these clips on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube can boost your SEO on these platforms, which in turn helps you reach more people. 

Different types of webinars

Live webinars vs pre-recorded webinars

The main difference between a live webinar and a pre-recorded webinar is that the former is presented in real-time, while the latter is recorded in advance. 

In a live webinar, the webinar hosts, speakers, and attendees interact in real-time. Through live webinars, businesses can connect with their customers and answer their questions, which helps build trust and engagement. 

By pre-recording webinars, you can create near-perfect ones since you can edit out the mistakes and re-record sections of the webinar. You can also edit webinars in post-production.  

Different webinar formats

Single-speaker presentation

Single-speaker presentation is the most common type of webinar format. It involves a single speaker presenting information to the attendees through a live presentation. 

Webinar format — Panel Discussion

A panel discussion is one where multiple speakers discuss a topic or answer questions from the audience. 

Panel discussions are more engaging to the audience as they hear multiple perspectives on a topic. This format excels in boosting your authority as you have various experts doing the legwork of increasing your business's credibility.

There is a downside to this format — it can be more challenging to organize and manage.

Webinar format — Interactive Q&A

An interactive Q&A webinar allows the audience to ask questions and make comments in real-time. This format is usually live, although it can also be recorded and played back for on-demand viewing.

This format helps you get to know your audience better and build a stronger relationship with them. 

With this format, you can ask your audience to prepare their questions and send them to you beforehand, which gives you enough time to prepare quality answers. 

Webinar format — Interview

In an interview webinar, a person interviews another person (or multiple people) about a particular topic.

Interview formats are an excellent way to leverage the authority of experts and influencers and grow your brand. The involvement of popular influencers also eases the skepticism of skeptical audiences. 

Different Webinar Topics

Employee training webinars

An employee training webinar teaches employees about a particular topic. 

Training employees online minimizes the need for in-person training. Employee training webinars also help to train employees across the globe. 

Product Demonstration Webinars

A product demonstration webinar demonstrates a product's features to an audience.

Product demonstrations are a prime opportunity to showcase how your product differs from your competitors. You can answer any questions or objections about the product to gain the audience's trust.

Educational Webinars

Educational webinars aim to educate the audience on a particular topic. Typically, they include slides that explain a topic in detail.

The format simulates a classroom setting where attendees can ask questions. 

Educational webinars are better than any other type of webinar for establishing authority, as they demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.

You can repurpose educational webinars to create an on-demand online course. The only cost is the time you have to spend preparing the slide and recording the webinar. 

How to create and host an effective webinar

Step 1: Figure out the right platform

What is a webinar platform that you should get? 

It depends on your business's needs. 

To host a webinar on the right software you need to ask yourself: 

  • What’s your budget?
  • Do you need a platform that can handle a handful of people? Or one that can handle 100s?
  • Does the platform help you repurpose content for social media?
  • Do you require the following features when hosting a webinar?
  • Private chat
  • Screen sharing
  • Poll
  • Local recording
  • Automatic scheduling
  • Integrations
  • Whiteboard
  • RMTP

If you don’t know where to start, check out Riverside. With local recording, live calls, up to 1000 audience members, and even more viewers with custom RTMPs it covers everything you need to get started.

Step 2: Come up with a topic

Your next step is to develop a topic that aligns with your goals, no matter if these are marketing and sales goals or simply goals to educate others.

Here are some other ways to select the right webinar topic:

  • Choose a topic that is entirely new to your audience. This will entice them to join your webinar. After all, who wants to attend a webinar on a subject they can easily research online?
  • If you’re a product company, make a webinar about a product feature your competitors lack.
  • Each and everyone in your audience has a burning question that they want answered. 

Figure out what those questions are. Check out Reddit and Facebook forums to see what questions people in your niche ask, and then make a webinar around those topics.

  • Come up with a catchy and curiosity-driven title that makes people want to join your webinar. Hubspot has some great examples of webinar titles

Step 4: Select the host, speaker, moderator, and other members of panel

Figure out who will host, moderate, and speak for your podcast and reach out to them to start booking them for your webinar.

Step 5: Choose a date and time

Your audience may all be in different time zones, so you’ll need to choose a time convenient for all. You’ll also want to take into account when your speakers are available.

Step 6: Practice your webinar

If you’re able to, it’s a good idea to have mock webinar sessions with your speaker, moderator, and host so they can be prepared when they go live. You don't want your audience to watch your team stumble on a webinar, so make sure your panelists are familiar with the webinar features.

Step 7: Promote your webinar

Create a landing page (a webinar registration page) where people can sign up for the webinar. Run ads on social media that take people to that landing page. 

Sending out emails to your email list is another way to promote your webinar. Continue sending reminder emails after the initial mail, so people are reminded that there's a webinar going on (people are busy, so they need reminding). 

In every reminder email, tease the webinar's content to entice the audience to attend.

Step 8: Host and record the webinar

Your webinar should run smoothly if you and your team are prepared for it and are familiar with the webinar software.

Keep your audience engaged through questions and polls, and facilitate audience discussion in break-out rooms to engage them even more. 

It’s a good idea to record your webinar. You can share this recording with your audience after, or with those who couldn’t attend.

Step 9: Follow up with the webinar participants

Follow up with webinar participants as they are warm leads likely to convert. You will also keep your brand fresh in their minds by doing so.

A great way to follow up with them is to gather feedback. Some feedback questions you can ask are: 

  • Is there anything you can do in the future to improve the webinar? 
  • Is there something about the product or service they didn’t like?
  • Do you have any suggestions for improvement in our product and service? 

Another post-webinar pro-tip: Send a recording of the webinar to the attendees.

Step 10: Repurpose your webinar 

Your webinar content should be repurposed so it can continue to help your business or brand grow.

There are several ways to repurpose your webinar content. 

  • You can transcribe your webinar and turn it into a blog post or an article. 
  • You can choose the best bits of your webinar and share them across social media like YouTube and Instagram.

If you’ve ever come across podcasts from Joe Rogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, or Tom Bilyeu, you’ll know that they frequently do this. By using a webinar platform designed for making short-form clips, you can easily repurpose your webinar — without having to spend money on a post-production or editing team. 

  • Additionally, you can create an ebook or a workbook from your webinar content.
  • Finally, you can create a video course from the content. 

How to participate in a webinar session?

Here’s how you participate in a webinar as an attendee:

  1. Join the webinar link 5-10 minutes before —  a good practice in case you face last-minute technical issues (audio and video issues). You can use the app or join via a browser.
  2. Once you click on the link, you may have to enter your name, email, and webinar password.
  3. Watch the webinar and participate with live Q&As, call-ins, or other interactive features.
  4. If possible, we suggest you save the recording of the webinar so you can also go back to it and revise some of the content in your own time.

Can other people in the webinar see you?

It’s up to you whether or not other people see you. Before joining the webinar, you’ll get an option to switch off your camera and mute your microphone. If you do so, other people can’t hear and see you. Some software doesn’t show audience members at all, and only show the speakers and the host of the webinar, or those who are talking. When you join a webinar like this, you generally don’t have to worry about being seen. 

Best practices for creating an interactive webinar

  • Introduce yourself — When starting the webinar, introduce yourself to the audience in a friendly way. It’s important to create a warm and interactive atmosphere from the get-go.
  • Create breakout sessions — Organize breakout sessions (if it makes sense to do so) so your audience can interact with one another and build a sense of community among them.
  • Ask questions — Ask questions. This will initiate a two-way conversation between you and the attendees.
  • Use polls and survey features — These help you figure out your audience’s wants and needs.
  • Quizzes — Quizzes make webinars exciting. You can increase the stakes by offering the winner discounts and prizes. It's all for fun, so don't force anyone to participate if they don't want to.
  • Chatbox — Make good use of the chatbox to interact with the audience and answer their questions.

FAQs

How is a webinar different to a webcast?

The main difference between a webinar and a webcast is that a webinar is interactive, while a webcast is a one-way communication.

The audience can ask questions in a webinar, but they cannot do so during a webcast. 

Additionally, a webcast is an online event that involves 1000s of people, whereas a webinar involves only 100s of people. 

Do I need to be on camera for a webinar?

You don’t need to be on camera for a webinar if you don’t want to. You can interact with other people only using a microphone. 

You can also hide your background with a background image or video. Alternatively, you can only turn on the camera when talking or introducing yourself.

What is a webinar meeting?

A webinar meeting is similar to a webinar, but there’s a bit more interaction involved between the speakers and the audience — much like a meeting. 

Is a webinar like Zoom?

A webinar is slightly different from a regular Zoom meeting.

A webinar is more like a seminar where a speaker delivers a presentation to an audience. And while the audience and speakers can interact in a webinar, it is usually limited to a Q&A session.

On the other hand, a Zoom meeting is more collaborative and conversational in nature and there is continuous dialogue and interaction between all members of the audience and the host (if one is present). 

Note that Zoom does have a webinar feature and that this is different from a normal Zoom meeting.

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