Five things I’ve learnt from running a webinar series

Earlier this year I decided to put on a series of webinars based on the marketing strategy framework for social enterprises. How hard could that be?

Earlier this year I decided to put on a series of webinars. I’d base it around the four-part marketing strategy framework I’ve developed for social enterprises (and charities that trade, and purposeful businesses). A lot of the content plus the overall structure could come from my marketing strategy workbook.

I’ve facilitated some successful webinars for other organisations, so how difficult could it be?

Well… here are five things I can tell you about that:

1. It takes even longer than you think to create content for a series

You know how it takes aaaages to write a decent and polished presentation? Well designing the content for a series of interconnected presentations – even if you know the topics really well –  takes much longer.

Let me explain. The marketing strategy framework comes in four parts:

  1. describe your organisation’s current situation
  2. describe your target market (do some ‘persona’ analysis)
  3. lay out your objectives (qualitatively as well as quantifying them), and then
  4. write an implementation plan.

Developing the material (= PowerPoint slides) for the first three was pretty straightforward. ‘The current situation’ is a list of things that an organisation needs to document (although it can take a while to actually flush the list out). Next, I can quickly help you understand what personas are and why they’re important, and give you a simple process to follow. As for objective setting, well that goes into the category of “super-important topic, hella-dry to sit through”. A good one to illustrate with examples.

So far, so good. I got those three plus the overall framework nailed in two webinars.

My plan at this point was to do one session on budget setting, pitfalls to avoid, and some quick wins to look out for. Then another one on how to figure out what sort of content will resonate with your ideal target client. And finally, a session on things you need to get right when designing your implementation plan.

But I couldn’t get these to hang together across three interesting webinars. I struggled to find a format that would be meaningful and relevant for a group of people I’d not met, whose organisations I didn’t know, and which wasn’t going to take huge amounts of time to develop to a sufficiently high standard.

In the end I delivered four webinars (rather than the planned five) that covered everything except budget setting and pitfalls.

And the main learning points? Well I created a problem for myself by assuming that because the framework is made up of four connected parts, the webinars needed to relate to each other. In fact, I think each topic can be usefully offered in its own right – including budget setting and pitfalls. And that’s what I’ll do next time. There will be three big benefits:

  1. people won’t need to commit to all the webinars
  2. I can deliver them at an interval that’s less intense for me, and
  3. I can promote the webinars individually

Which brings me to my next point:

2. ‘LinkedIn Events’ isn’t designed for a series of events

On the face of it, LinkedIn Events is pretty good. You just fire up an events page, add the details and invite a bunch of people. Job done. The problem is that even if you describe the event as a series of webinars, LinkedIn only deals in one-off events. When people sign up to attend, they get sent notifications and reminders about the first one – which is great! But it doesn’t (as far as I can see – correct me if I’m wrong?) allow you to set up a series of events. So it doesn’t remind people about the subsequent ones. I think that’s partly why subsequent events in the series got a lower turnout than the first one.

Would I use LinkedIn events next time? Well if I’m going to run webinars regularly – like fortnightly or monthly, I don’t think it’s the right platform. It’s a pain to invite a specific set of people from your contacts list: too inefficient to do it every fortnight or even month.

3. People (probably) won’t turn up to all the webinars in a series

It’s quite simple this one, I was expecting too much from my network. Everyone’s busy, everyone’s juggling multiple issues. Committing an hour each Wednesday morning for a month to deal with marketing strategy (just one of many aspects of running a business) is asking a lot.

I also wonder how things would have played out if I’d charged for the webinars, Would fewer people have signed up (I had about 50 sign ups) with a greater proportion of them actually turning up on the day? Who knows. Maybe I’ll experiment with that in the future.

A few people did attend all the webinars and they got a huge amount of value from them. But decoupling the webinars and running them several times through the year will make it a lot easier for people to attend (and easier for me to deliver).

4. Zoom is a good platform, but…

I could not figure out how to screen-share my PowerPoint slides in slideshow mode (so I could see the speaker notes) and give delegates a thumbnail view of me. This sounds like a small detail but I think it’s an important one.

Either I’m a techno-numpty (entirely possible) or Zoom only allows delegates to see screen-shared slides, listen to a voice, and not see the speaker. Either way (numpty//disembodied voice) I’m not happy. If anyone can advise me please get in touch!

5. Running webinars is a great way to build content that you can use in other ways

I sometimes struggle to come up with good content ideas that aren’t connected to the client issues I’m currently working on. Developing these webinars made me look at content in a quite different way. I’ve certainly got no shortage of material now which I’ll be able to repurpose into other formats, and of course use in future webinars.

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