Over the past few years, the events industry has seen a rise in the prevalence of virtual events and webinars. In the association space, meeting online means that association members can still connect and share valuable resources and knowledge even when geographically separated. The success of virtual events in facilitating communication, engaging attendees, and fostering connection has solidified their use.
Webinars allow your members to reach each other no matter where they are. Additionally, your association can seek out speakers from around the world, helping members make connections with and learn from people they may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. In addition to providing a space for live connection, you can also record your webinars and upload the videos to your website or association management system to create a comprehensive collection of professional resources.
Your organization can take advantage of these benefits by following the necessary steps to prepare for the webinar, develop engaging content, and promote the event to your members. In this guide, we’ll walk through three strategies you can use to plan and execute a webinar your members won’t want to miss.
Prepare for the webinar
Taking the time to plan and prepare for your webinar is key to ensuring it runs smoothly and your members have a positive experience. But, it can be difficult to know where to start and how to navigate the basics of planning a webinar. Here are a few tips you can use to complete some of these first steps:
- Selecting topics. Choosing engaging topics is what will capture and keep members’ attention during your webinar. Access to resources and the opportunity to deepen their industry knowledge is a primary reason people why join associations. Offering webinars on relevant educational topics is essential to member recruitment and retention. A good way to get started is to research recent trends, technological developments, or major breakthroughs in your field and select a topic focused on one of those subjects. You could also use your association management software to research past events and determine which topics garner the most attendees.
- Sourcing speakers. Once you choose a topic, you’ll need to find an expert in your field who can bring their perspective and expertise to the webinar. While there are endless ways to source speakers, you can get started by asking members of your association to speak, requesting that members contact those in their professional network, messaging prospective speakers on platforms like LinkedIn, or using online speaker directories.
- Planning the agenda. Be sure to plan a detailed schedule that your webinar will follow and share it with everyone involved in the presentation. Estimate how long each section will take and assign times to keep everyone on track, ensuring you start and end on time. It can also be helpful to pad your schedule with a little extra time if you think there’s a chance certain speakers or sections might go over their allotted time or use this time for a Q&A between the speaker and attendees.
Once you create a detailed agenda for the event, organize at least one practice session for everyone who will speak during the webinar. Speakers will have a chance to try out their presentations without any members present, giving them an opportunity to make adjustments ahead of time. Plus, a practice run can help your association iron out any technical issues and other errors ahead of time and create smooth transitions between speakers and topics.
Ask attendees to get involved
A unique challenge associated with virtual events is keeping attendees engaged for the entire webinar to prevent members from dropping from the call early. To engage attendees during virtual webinars, give them the space to add their input and get involved during the webinar. A few ideas to try might include:
- Using pre-event surveys. Before the event kicks off, upload surveys to your social media pages, your next email newsletter, or through your association management software. Include questions like “which topics would you like to see in future webinars?” or “who are some professionals from the field you would like to hear from?” Then, use these responses to shape the content for the webinar.
- Encouraging co-creation. In a business context, co-creation involves collaborating with customers to create a service or product. You can use the principles of co-creation in your next virtual event to turn passive viewers into active, engaged participants. For example, using and engaging with the chat feature allows you and your speaker to gauge members’ responses and field questions throughout the webinar.
- Adding polls or Q&As. You can use polls or Q&A features, considered to be a part of co-creation, in your webinars to gather important information from members that could shape the direction your webinar will take. For example, you might ask what the top challenge members face in their careers and have the speaker present on the subject that earns the most votes. You can also hold a designated Q&A section of the webinar during which the speaker calls on specific attendees and answers their questions, making them feel recognized and connected with the event.
In addition to these strategies that keep viewers engaged for the entire webinar, consider pushing the most anticipated, exciting part of the virtual event to the very end. In this case, your keynote speaker or the opportunity to ask an industry celebrity a question should be the last thing on the docket.
Leverage social media
Ensuring your webinar is engaging and runs smoothly is essential to providing your members with an enriching, positive experience. To spread the word about your next event to more current and prospective members and to learn what you can improve for future events, make sure to leverage your association’s social media accounts.
Social media is an accessible, affordable, yet highly effective means of promoting conferences, events, and webinars. Announce the event ahead of time on all of your social media pages—generally, you should announce events at least one month in advance to ensure members can fit them into their schedules. As the event draws closer, post additional graphics to remind members to attend along with any other online marketing strategies your association uses.
Once the event wraps up, you can continue to use social media to your advantage. Encourage attendees to post about the event and engage with those posts through your association’s accounts. You can also post impactful clips from the keynote speech or resources from the event to show those who didn’t attend what they’re missing and encourage them to join future events.
Webinars are an effective tool your association can use to create additional value for its members, especially those who aren’t able to gather in person. With the right virtual event platform and association management tools, you can create a seamless, enriching experience and resource that members can reference again and again.
Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.