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How to Set up a Webinar: A Complete Guide and Checklist

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Setting up a webinar doesn't have to be complicated

People who are new to webinars ask us all the time:

How do I get started? Where do I even begin?

We get it. We were there once as well. Webinars seem daunting. Just going live is scary enough. And for many, running webinars look like a lot of work.

This is why we created this article and checklist. It will help you and your team get started with webinars. Or simply run your them more efficiently. It will save you tons of time and rookie mistakes. And hopefully, make things a bit less scary.

We first created this content checklist as a part of our first big webinar series. It helped us stay on pace and made sure we didn't forget anything. We still use it today to run our webinars.

A screenshot of the webinar check list hosted on Notion
The webinar checklist, you'll find it at the bottom of this article

For every part in this article, there's a separate page within the template. From registration pages, to cover images, promotion emails and also reminder emails. It's there.

As you searched for this checklist, you probably want to know more about running webinars. This article is that. Read on to find out how a we (Contrast, a webinar startup) with no authority in the webinar market, ran their first successful webinar series.

Wait what!?

Yes, we're a webinar company that didn't have a clue on running great webinars. It's weird. But true. So we hired Dean Waye. He runs over 200 B2B webinars a year. He's a Contrast fan. We're a Dean fan.

Why didn't we have a clue? Well, we're a small team of 12 people. We're all engineers and product people. We don't have any marketing people. So we hired Dean. Somebody that could not only help us run better webinars, but also our customers. And of course, readers like you.

How we got started: the webinar checklist

Our experience with webinars before starting

We mostly ran product update webinars with the product team. These were very successful with customers and quite successful with people deep in our funnel. Most of the people who watched one of our webinars became customers.

We thought this was a great start. But not enough.

We didn't have success with a webinar strategy higher up the funnel. And as internal strategies started to shift, we said: let's run a webinar series that gets more people to know about Contrast.

Historically we had quite a bit of trouble getting people that didn't know Contrast to sign up for our webinars. Which wasn't weird to us. We were just a small company without any authority in our industry. Besides, more people already had a webinar product. So why should they care?

Image showing a webinar with 3 people from Contrast presenting the latest product updates
One of our product update webinars that we run.

Set goals for your webinar before you start

Hiring Dean wasn't cheap. So we set ourselves very clear goals in order to decide whether this webinar series would be a success or not. This is what we decided:

  1. We should be able to get at least 150 registrants of people that do not yet know Contrast
  2. We need to get at least 3 customers by running this webinar series
  3. We need to reuse this content in different ways so that it continues to drive value

Setting clear goals helps you align with other stakeholders and decide how to improve your webinar game later on.

How to set up your first webinar

Keep it simple by choosing the right webinar format

Today there are a million webinar formats to choose from. Live, on-demand, Q&A, Video podcast, Interview, simulive and many more. To keep things straightforward and get the most hands-on experience without complicating things, we decided to run live events with a replay. We recommend you do the same.

What should you talk about during your webinar

To understand what our potential audience would like to see, we simply asked them. Most of them told us something along these lines:

My webinars are great. Contrast is great. But I know I could even do better. I just don't know how.

We looked at how other people were running their webinars. What we concluded is that most people reach a certain level with their webinars, but then don't improve content-wise. And from the data, we know that this leads to less engaged people. Less engagement means less warm leads. Which means less deals closed.

We imagined there must be more people that have this exact problem. So we decided that was our topic. How to run webinars that get better results.

We figured we had so much to say and at different stages of the webinar, that we decided it had to be a content series. A sort of webinar 103 class for people that already run webinars and want to improve.

Image showing a registration page for a webinar on Contrast
The registration page for the first episode in this series

Looking back, we're super happy we chose this topic as it was highly successful among our target audience. Marketers that already run webinars but are stuck on how to get better. With over 250 signups to the first webinar, we exceeded our goals.

This was without doing something extremely smart on promoting the webinar. Later more on that.

Hint, next to a great topic, you also need a great webinar product to run great webinars ;-)

How to promote your webinar

It starts with a great topic and registration page

Taking Dean's expertise, we quickly drafted 3 topics for our webinar series.

  1. How to grab your audience's attention in the first five minutes?
  2. What does your audience think and feel?
  3. How to get the audience to fulfill your CTA?

Yes, these were topics our customers often asked us about. Heck, it was even topics we wanted answers to ourselves. I think when you're coming up with your webinar topics, run webinars on the topics that get you excited. That's your golden ticket.

We quickly got our designer to design cover images that we could use on the registration page. People often make the mistake of wanting to put all the info in the cover image. Instead, we recommend to look at a mix of YouTube cover images and the webinar templates from Canva.

Image of a webinar cover where the topic is Q&A
Playful, yet serious. The cover image to our final episode.

If you have a copywriter, great. Get them involved. If you don't, like in our case, keep your registration page short and snappy. But focus on why people should be joining your webinar. Bullet points of what people are "getting from the webinar” work wonders.

Oh, and keep the word β€œwebinar” out of your registration page. Some people say it reduces your sign-up rate by 5%. So we obediently didn't.

We of course used Contrast for our registration pages. With a text editor that feels similar to Notion, it's easy to create a modern page in minutes that convert.

How to get people to register for your webinar

You should start by testing the registration page messaging with your colleagues. We had great input that helped us tweak it a bit. Then we sent the webinar to our customers before going global with the promotion. More people were signing up than we expected. So we decided the messaging and registration page was working.

We didn't think it was necessary to change anything. With other webinars, we had less success when testing the messaging. We then quickly changed it to a different angle which usually resulted in better sign-up rates.

From here, we went global with the distribution strategy. Activating our social networks, with most signups coming from LinkedIn. We also used LinkedIn Events. Which wasn't a success. We'll tell you why in an upcoming article.

Most employees at Contrast are also active in different communities. Lots of these communities have a special channel or section to share things about content or events. We used these quite a bit with different levels of success. We recommend that everyone tests communities out.

Finally, we used our network on LinkedIn to specifically target marketers with our message. We automated this and sent messages like:

Hey, you're a marketer. You're probably running webinars. You probably want to get better. We're hosting a free webinar on how to: {link}

Also this was very helpful in getting registrations. Please bear in mind that there's not one way for promoting your webinars. For every company, it's tweaking and finding out what works for you. However, we think the above is a great starting point for many.

What you need to set up a webinar

You need 2 things. A great webinar product and a check list that helps you go through setting up the webinar step by step. Don't worry about making mistakes. You'll make them and find out about them along you go β€” and of course do better the next time.

Here's a quick check list of things that you need at a minimum:

  • A webinar platform. πŸ‘‹ Hello, that's us
  • A speaker
  • Camera, microphone and computer
BTW, you should read this on how we create professional looking webinars

That's all there is. That together with the checklist, is all you need.

How to host a webinar

This was pretty straightforward. We had experience running live webinars, so the nerves were somewhat under control.

We decided on a setup with Dean Waye (BestDamnWebinar) and Tim Minton (CEO at Contrast). They would steal the show. Luuk was there to engage the audience.

This is probably the best setup for a webinar. Wait do I really need 3 people? Hear us out. With just a single speaker, there are no dynamics. The webinar will feel like a monologue and people will drop off. This will crunch any confidence the speaker has left.

On the other hand, you don't want the speakers to be running the entire show. They should be focused on speaking after all. Having somebody in the background that chats, handles the Q&A, etc. is super valuable and generally leads to better participation from the audience.

The host role

So this was my (Luuk) job. I prepared chat messages beforehand. This makes it easy to reply to questions you know will come. And keep people engaged.

  1. πŸ‘‹ Hey everyone. Great to see you all here. My name is Luuk. I'm a product manager here at Contrast. Today, I'll be the host in our chat.
  2. What are some mistakes you made when opening the webinar? I've been on a few and always tell the audience where the chat is.. πŸ˜€
  3. It's time for questions. Please don't hold back, we will answer everything.

Make sure to welcome people in advance. Ask them to drop questions. Even if the Q&A hasn't started yet. This works because one question usually leads to another. This keeps the chat active and gives you time to plan the Q&A section a bit better.

Image showing a webinar with two speakers during the Q&A section
The Q&A section in one of our webinars with our beloved Q&A feature

You might think all the attention should go to what the speakers say. But you're wrong here. By engaging the audience during the webinar, you actually get them to listen and pay better attention.

Here are a couple of ways you should be engaging with your audience.

  • Obviously the chat. Ask questions. Reply to people. And of course emojis πŸ‘‹πŸ˜πŸ’‘πŸ™βœ…
  • Polls. Start with a less serious one. How are you feeling today?
  • Topics to give pace and context to your audience.

What happens after your webinar

Not everyone will show up live to your webinar. The average in the industry is about half. For us, it was about 35%. This means you need to promote your replay as well. In fact, we had more people watching the replay than the live webinar!

It's 2023 now and to our surprise, webinar platforms still do not offer this option out of the box. You deserve better than that.

Anyway. If you've chosen the right webinar platform, it will help you send out emails to your registrants that the replay is now available. The best webinar platforms will help you:

1. change the message, and;
2. decide who to send it out to (people that attended live, or not or both).

For every email, we repeated what we had mentioned in the webinar. To give people more context and reason to watch it.

Some people will tell you that you shouldn't care about getting registrants to watch your replay. They will tell you β€œyou already have their email". But they're wrong. Do you think Apple stops caring if people use their product after having bought it? Exactly.

With the replay on our hand, we repeated almost exactly what we did before. Emails, LinkedIn and communities. This gave us an additional 30 registrants. People tend to be less excited about a replay than a live webinar. Just keep that in mind.

Use data to improve your webinars

To improve your next webinar, look at the data of the webinar you just ran. Most webinar platforms give you some metrics on attendance rates. Not more than that.

One of our engineers, Karim β€” is a YouTuber. He built the analytics on Contrast. Guess where he got his inspiration from? That's right.

We used this data for a couple of things. Firstly, we want to know if we're beating the live attendance rates. Remember, the average is about half. Not happy? There's probably something wrong with the way you promote your webinar. For example, ads drive a lot of registrations but are notorious for having low attendance rates.

For us, live attendance rates were not great because of targeting people in multiple time zones. But the replay attendance easily made up for that.

Then we use our view performance data to better understand what people find most interesting. Dean promised us that he creates webinar that people watch until the end. As you can see, he delivered on that promise.

A screenshot from Contrast that shows the average view time for a specific webinar
Video performance inside Contrast for one of the episodes

For lots of people starting with webinars, the graph will drop sharply at the beginning. With Dean it goes up. This is exactly what our first episode was about.

Use this data to understand what people found interesting and how you can better engage them the next time you run a webinar.

How to convert your webinar attendees to actual customers

Ouch. This was a little painful for us. While we succeeded in getting many more people into our pipeline than we expected. We unfortunately only got 1 real customer from this webinar.

So far that is. Because we're still promoting the replays of course. With lots of people watching it. So fingers crossed for the future.

To qualify the registrants we did the following. We downloaded all registrants and their engagement data. With that, we created different groups:

  • People that watched multiple webinars. This is a high signal that they resonate with the problems you're speaking about. And if done right, the problems you solve with your product
  • People that participated in the chat. We connected the chat messages to these people so it was easier to do outreach. Talk about what they talked about ;-)
  • People that watched 100% of one webinar. Great signal.

We could have been more aggressive reaching out to people that perhaps engaged a little less with the content. In the end, we believe it's not worth diluting our brand with being spammy. People will find us when the time is right for them.

How do I know if my webinar was a success?

Remember we set goals for ourselves in the beginning? Well let's review them now.

  1. At least 150 registrations. With over 250+ signups we can tick this off βœ…
  2. At least 3 customers from the webinar. So far we only got 1 ❌
  3. Reuse this content. Very successful and still creating new content from it βœ…

All in all, we're very satisfied with the webinars 102 series that we ran with Dean. It was our first try at reaching people that didn't know about Contrast yet. More people signed up than we had hoped for. Participation was great. And working with Dean, helped us improve our own webinars as well.

Today, we're much better at running webinars and giving our customers advice. Also, it helped us create content like this. Content that hopefully will help also people that are not Contrast customers.

Mistakes to avoid when you host a webinar

Series with multiple episode can work, but be careful with the timing

We planned weekly webinars. This was too much content too quickly for many people. It also left us very little time to promote the next webinar in the series. We did have less registrants on the other episodes in this series as a result of that.

Promoting it as a webinar series

There's pros and cons to this. People love to get free stuff and more free stuff is always better. So potentially more people signup to a series. However, you could also use every episode to promote it in different ways and by doing that increase the reach.

Exhausting our marketing channels

We put a lot of energy and marketing effort into promoting the series. Because of that, it was later on difficult to promote the other episodes. There was a certain webinar fatigue. Spreading the series out over multiple weeks could have helped with this.

Using absolutely zero visuals

Mistakes because of pride happen. Also to us. We wanted to be so engaging that we didn't want slides. We could have used some slides.

Your free webinar check list

Here it is, the content template we used still use today to organize our webinars. Also, you should join the new way to run webinars by signing up for a free account on Contrast.