What is a webinar?

A webinar is a live event held online. More specifically, it’s a real-time presentation with audio, video, and/or multimedia components. Often times, people wonder what is a webinar, and how is it different from a video conference. While similar to video conferencing, a webinar is usually instructional or educational and also highly interactive, making it a popular format for everything from B2B marketing sessions to classroom lectures.

When it’s time for a webinar to begin, attendees click or tap on a link to view the proceedings within a webinar software client. Modern solutions make it easy for attendees to join and participate in webinars from any desktop or mobile device, as long as they have an adequate internet connection.

In the context of businesses that support employees, customers, and partners across multiple locations and time zones, webinars can connect everyone at one time, in one place. Since they’re virtual, they can efficiently scale to thousands of concurrent attendees, helping organizations reduce travel and venue costs while broadening their opportunities in areas such as sales.

Learn more about Webex for webinars.

Does a webinar have to be live?

While a lot of webinars either begin as a live event similar to a scheduled meeting or are held only once, they can also be recorded for later viewing and distribution.

For example, a company could link to a webinar recording’s registration page in its blog posts, email campaigns, and social media updates as part of a concerted content marketing initiative. In this way, webinars are more than just a valuable source of information for attendees – they’re also a forum in which organizations can reliably reach and convert customers and generate revenue. Many companies monetize webinars at registration.

Numerous possibilities exist within the webinar format. They range from an organization using a recorded session to build its email list after a product launch to simply holding a one-time event such as an internal all-hands meeting. Whether live or recorded, webinars are useful at multiple parts of the sales funnel and are uniquely effective at sustaining audience attention.

How does the audience register and attend a webinar?

There are three main steps any webinar participant will need to complete before they can view the session. The organizations hosting the webinar can manage these details within their webinar software:

1. Receiving the webinar invitation
Holding a webinar begins with creating and sending an invitation to the intended audience, typically through email. A webinar solution can enable automated email management, with customizable HTML and text templates, for invitations as well as confirmations, reminders, and follow-ups. Email isn’t the only channel over which to promote a webinar, however. Social media updates and blog posts are also common methods for raising awareness of either an upcoming webinar or the existence of a recording.

2. Registering for the webinar
Once someone accepts the invitation in their inbox or clicks on a link elsewhere, they’re taken to a webinar-specific landing page, where they can enter key details like email address, phone number, and credit card or PayPal information, if the webinar is monetized. This collected participant information is often used to score and track leads. Overall, the webinar landing page is pivotal. It should have a compelling headline and concise copy that communicates the value of the webinar, along with its duration and some background on the webinar presenter(s).

3. Joining the webinar
With the registration form filled out and submitted, the registrant is ready to participate or view the recording. Ideally, the webinar experience will be seamless on any device. Attendees should be able to hear the presenter’s audio clearly, view any live streaming video, see any shared content such as annotated documents or slide decks, and take advantage of features such as polling, live chat, and threaded question-and-answer functionality.

How these three steps are handled is crucial, since webinar attendance rates hover in the range of 40% to 50% of those invited. In other words, the design of an email invite or the interface of the webinar software itself can be the difference between someone joining and getting something out of the session or not showing up.


Types of webinar presentations

What is a webinar’s typical format? The answer is, there’s flexibility. A webinar presenter can choose from many possible formats, suitable to a wide variety of use cases. Here are a few possibilities:
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Panel discussions
Moderated conversations between panelists, especially ones with different perspectives on the same issues, are good for sustaining audience interest while also giving them useful information. Plus, they work well with interactive webinar features such as real-time polling to gauge viewers’ reactions.

SME interviews
An interview can be useful for a nurture campaign, as the subject matter expert being interviewed can provide deep insights about a particular product, service, or market. Audience polling can help reveal where participants are in their journeys, so that interview questions can be further refined.

Multi-presenter presentations
A webinar doesn’t have to be a lecture from one person. Multiple presenters can take turns, sharing unique perspectives along with different types of content. This highly engaging arrangement could take the form of someone explaining the high-level benefits of a product, and then their co-presenter diving into its technical details.

What is a webinar best practice?

An effective webinar presentation goes beyond a static slide deck. To drive a truly interactive experience that increases audience engagement, there are many techniques that can be used, including:

  • Multiple live streaming video feeds of the presenters and panelists.
  • Rich content and screen sharing, including multimedia.
  • Live Q&A to track and answer incoming questions from the audience.
  • Interactive polling to monitor interest and attention.
  • Private or public chatting and messaging with panelists or attendees during the event.

In addition, webinar planning and execution best practices include the ability to support:

  • Thousands of participants in video or audio-only sessions.
  • Integrated audio connection options for attendees including via VoIP, global teleconference, or broadcast.
  • One click recording.
  • Automated registrant approval and filtering.
  • CRM integration.
  • Follow-up analysis.
  • Secure data encryption.
  • Audience participation across any platform or device.

What happens after a webinar ends?

Much of the value of a webinar is in its real-time, interactive nature or – if it’s recorded – in the informative and easy-to-follow structure of its contents. At the same time, it’s useful as part of a long-term nurture and content marketing campaign.

An end-to-end solution such as Cisco Webex Events makes it easy to analyze attendance statistics, send participants to a post-webinar landing page, and integrate data into CRMs and marketing automation systems. A recording of the webinar session itself can also be promoted across multiple channels to support customers at different points in the sales funnel.

Webinars provide distinctive advantages over in-person events and meetings, thanks to their high versatility, affordable costs, and extensive scalability.

Learn more by getting started with Webex Events for webinar hosting today.