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What You Need to Know about Webinars, Webcasts and How / Why they Work

It’s easier than ever to engage members face to face regardless of geographic challenges and Associations are taking note.  

At TAS we now provide Association Management Services to more than 50 associations. Of course, no single association is the same but many of the challenges they face are. Common concerns include attracting millennials, providing valuable member benefits and engaging members that may not be able to attend events in person.

The latter is a problem that is actually a relatively easy fix and it is clear that many are proactively responding to the issue.

According to The Redback Report Findings 2017 [i]52% of online event uptake comes from the ‘For Purpose Sector’ which they note as Association, NFP and Charity, compared with the 2016 results that is an increase of 13%.

But for some associations the concept can seem complicated, costly and confusing so let’s try and simplify it!

The terminology:

A webinar – a seminar or other presentation that takes place online and allows participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions, and sometimes answer polls.

A webcast – an online broadcast in which a live event is presented to a large number of web users from a website. Often used for briefings, seminars, and celebrity interviews, webcast allows interactive user participation. Also called netcast, netcasting, or webcasting.

Videoconference – the holding of a conference among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals.

How are they different?

Webinars are a highly popular option for a virtual seminar. A designated presenter, MC or keynote speaker delivers a presentation whether by PowerPoint or webcam. Depending on the number of attendees, comments and questions from attendees are usually submitted via a chatroom in real time and then addressed by the presenter. Larger or complex webinars may also require a moderator who can control which chatroom messages are displayed and discussed.

Webinars are most engaging when they occur in real time. Some webinars are recorded to be shared with additional delegates at a time of their choosing however this does not allow any question and answer opportunities and thus limits the level of engagement.

A webcast is more commonly used to extend the reach of physical events. For example, it is a growing trend to film conference sessions. These recordings can then be edited and uploaded to websites or member portals. They can also be broadcast in realtime so far flung members may enjoy a virtual version of the live event.

In their report, Redback Conferencing use a simple explanation of the differences between the two options.

Webinar: When Content is KING.
– Presenter logs into a computer and speaks to slides, sometimes with a small webcam
– Attendees log into software to watch/participate

Webcast: When Video is KING.
-Presenter either presents to a live audience or in a studio behind a desk
-Attendees log into a branded microsite and watch/participate”

Videoconferencing is more applicable for smaller meetings. This is already a popular option with Boards and Committees to offer the feel of a face to face meeting despite geographical challenges.

The Opportunities:

  1. Accessibility – Probably the most attractive feature of webinars and webcasts is the opportunity to deliver the same information to all members. National and state associations and societies can utilise online webinars for a number of purposes:
    • Professional development
    • Delivering Accreditation programs
    • Education
    • Sharing of strategic plans / survey results etc.
    • Member engagement

The Redback Report Findings 2017 notes that the most popular reasons for joining Digital Events were Learning & Education (33%) and Professional Development (31%).

  1. Sponsorship – Money matters in the not-for-profit sector and looking at growing revenue streams should be an ongoing activity. Online events offer multiple sponsor opportunities including:
    • Branding opportunities (on the video with a bug / super or in the backgound)
    • Naming opportunities
    • Supplier speaker opportunities
    • Increased reach by shared databases

Providing members with accessible platforms does not need to come with a large price tag for an association and looking at different sponsorship opportunities and packages can offset the set up and coordination costs.

Additionally, associations may pick and choose webinars and webcasts to sell beyond their membership depending on the content and potential relevance.

  1. Cost – Speaking of cost, online events can, and generally are, be offered at a fee. Some may be factored into a larger membership fee but typically a registration fee system would be set up in the same way as a physical event. There are obvious cost efficiencies in being able to reach more people in more (any) locations.
  2. Engagement – Ultimately making any member benefit more accessible should increase the uptake of said benefit. However associations shouldn’t rely on the delivery system alone. Content is still and always will be king but having a greater reach and delivery of this content should assist in maintaining a dialogue between an association and its members.

The Cons:

There aren’t a lot. One of the biggest ‘cons’ is that the platforms offered do not allow for face to face networking. This, in our experience, is always a key attraction of events. As such, associations should not look at replacing their current events with online events but rather offer them as an extra. It would not be logical to replace events, the purpose of webinars and webcast is rather to increase the reach of the existing events and provide key information and access to all members not just those based in major cities.

Marketing your webinars and webcasts

As with any association activity planning is really important. Putting in place a marketing campaign to support webinars and webcasts will definitely increase the uptake. Redback Conferencing identify in the 2017 Report that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the most popular days to attend webinars. This is supported by a similar study from the US, the ON24 2017 Webinar Benchmarks Report[ii]  surveyed attendees from over 16,000 webinars and notes Wednesday (27%) and Thursday (28%) as the optimum days to run webinars although Tuesday was not far behind (23%).

The ON24 study also identified the best days to promote a webinar via a promotional email are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with each receiving 22%.

Results from both studies also confirmed that the best time of day for a webinar was at 11am, or ‘mid-morning’.

Redback broke down viewing times per sector which revealed that 70% of the ‘For Purpose Sector’ pay attention for an average time of 45 minutes.

It is important to note that sometimes timing can be out of your control – for example if the webinar or webcast is occurring simultaneously with a live event then the physical event obviously takes precedence as the online event is an extension of the physical one. However, ensuring consistent messaging to delegates regarding the online events is key.

ON24 identify more than 15 days as an ideal promotional time for a webinar or webcast but go on to note that a significant number of webinar attendees only register on the day of the event itself.

“Driving registration is critical to building and maintaining a successful webinar program. But how can you get more people to register for your webinars? If you’re only promoting your events for a week or two, you may be missing out on nearly half of your potential audience. Almost one in four registrants sign up for a webinar more than 15 days before the event. And don’t forget the day of the live event — 25% of webinar registrants sign up that day.”

ON24 go on to note that longer promotional periods, with more opportunities to advertise the online event will likely lead to greater audiences.

Both Redback and ON24 provide information about marketing and pricing and both are well worth a read. ON24 (read the full report here) look at the survey sample as a whole and provide benchmarks for before, during and after a webinar. Meetingsnet have summarised the ON24 Report into an article titled 10 practical ways to maximise your webinars.

Redback (read the full report here) breakdown their results by sector which, given their sample had a strong association presence, is invaluable. They also offer a range of other reports which are free to download and comprehensively prepared. Topics include presenter skills, creating compelling content and more.

The summary:

Webinars and webcasts are increasing in popularity – particularly amongst associations. Not only can they offer a solution to a problem but when run well they can create a new revenue stream. Digital events open new doors for member groups in terms of accessibility and member engagement. Now with that problem solved let’s move on to attracting millennials and providing valuable member benefits…

At TAS we assist with and conduct numerous webinars and webcasts for our clients. We also manage and develop supporting marketing campaigns to ensure best possible outcomes for our clients.