You can do a lot more on the web than simply put up a static web page telling the world what kind of widgets you sell. And one of the best ways to use widespread Internet connectivity is to host live content programs that are a mix between TV broadcasts and seminars. The term for these programs varies from “web conference” to “webinar”, but there are really no differences other than syntax.
A webinar, or “web seminar”, allows you to hold a live presentation for a group of people without everyone in the same room, or even the same state. With a webinar, attendees watch a presentation (much like a PowerPoint slide show presentation) and simultaneously listen to the speaker(s). Attendees also can offer live input back to the program (like a conference call, or via emailed questions). The events are usually recorded for archival purposes and can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours. The audio portion can be provided via a dial-in conference line, but many commonly stream it over the Web along with the visual part of the presentation. Some companies are even adding live video to their webinars. You can use webinars for:
- Training – Businesses find it cost efficient to talk to outside technicians, sales staff and others about their services and products over the web, rather than doing a road show or arranging travel for everyone to be in the same location.
- Marketing – webinars can be a great way for potential customers and sales executives to interact. You get the benefit of being able to present a massive amount of information, while your potential customer enjoys being able to take in the information on their own terms at their own desk.
- General business discussion – The PowerPoint presentation has long been established as the core of business discussions and collaborative meetings, and the webinar format brings employees together without moving them from their desks.
Find a providerSure, you could host your webinars yourself, but unless you've got a very Web-savvy staff with plenty of time on their hands, you're probably better off outsourcing to a specialized company that can handle logistics, hosting, archiving and results tracking.
Start creating your presentationWebinars are usually patterned around delivering slide-type content. Fortunately there are common business programs for helping you put your content in that format. Webinar solutions providers usually convert your slide presentation into their own format, so you don't have to create the presentation in one specific program.
Liven it upYou're asking for people to sit at their desks for a period of time to stare at a slide show and listen to the discussion either via their PC or by a call-in line. Don't let them fall asleep. Make your presentation lively and design your slides well in addition to providing great content.
Get it archivedMost webinar solution providers will handle the archiving for you, and if not, you may want to look at a different solution provider. Typically the archive versions offer an audio recording that simultaneously updates images on the web page the viewer is on. It's not a video or film as much as it is an audio file that is playing while graphics (the slides themselves) change at specific points in the audio program.
- Don't operate in a vacuum; check out some webinars yourself before you try to do one for your business. Make a checklist of what you liked and what you would have put in the PC "recycle bin".
- If you're mainly conducting a one-way presentation, don't forget to get your audience involved at some level. You can poll them with some systems, and you're well advised to host a question-and-answer period at the end, just like you would at a real conference. Remind your attendees to submit questions during the presentation.
- Involve others. Pass the microphone around virtually. Webinars bring people together, and you can use different voices from your business to emphasize different issues, elements or attributes.