What Is a Webinar? 2021 Guide

What is a webinar and why everyone suddenly needs to know that? Well, 2020 has been a chaotic year for everyone.

But out of the chaos has emerged several realities that, for better or worse, are here to stay. These include a surge in work-from-home jobs, more global connections, and the lack of an excuse to call your grandma every Sunday. 

Underpinning these interactions is are two refurbished components of the digital age. These are webinars and videoconferencing software. 

Webinars have been used to educate, inform, and generate leads since the start. Now, in the work-from-home era, they’re more vital than ever.

So, we thought it prudent to ask: what is a webinar?

Introduction: What is a Webinar? 

A webinar – formed by pushing the words “web” and “seminar” together – is a live, online presentation that includes audience interaction. This may take the form of polls, chats, two-way presentation, or other methods. 

There are many varieties of webinars and webinar services on the market today. These web-based events may include:

  • Presentations (including slideshows and voiceovers)
  • Videoconferences
  • Employee or client training videos
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Educational lectures

It’s important to note that a webinar and a webcast are not the same thing. 

A webinar must be live and allow for audience participation. Evergreen webinars technically count because they can – and do – include audience participation, even in a prerecorded setting. (We’ll talk more about evergreen webinars below). 

On the other side, a webcast is a prerecorded session that streams either online or via television. In a webcast, there is no opportunity for real-time feedback from viewers.

Webinar definition

If we would define a webinar in just two words, it would be an “online seminar”.

A webinar is a type of online meeting which involves live discussion and presentation. So webinar definition is pretty simple!

Three Types of Webinars

While there are several ways to distinguish among webinars, there are three essential “types.” Each of these has their pros and cons, as well as a time in which they may work better than the alternatives. 

Live Webinars

Live webinars are often used by digital marketers who want to drive conversions.

Live broadcasts are beneficial because they give presenters a change to build engagement. In turn, this can increase trust in building a beneficial buyer-seller relationship over time. 

Plus, real-time events often have higher audience numbers – and why wouldn’t they? Humans are social creatures, and we want to know that when we’re listening to someone talk, they’re talking to us, not a generic audience. 

The main downside of a live webinar is the amount of time you have to spend planning and preparing. 

Live events require more work (and practice beforehand) to ensure everything is perfect. This includes not only the presentation itself, but any technical issues or merging software. But without proper preparation, you increase the risk of your presentation going wrong in front of your audience. 

A secondary concern for live webinars is the potential cost. 

Most hosting platforms limit the number of attendees per event based on your pricing plan. Thus, if you have more signups than seats, you’ll have to shell out extra cash to hold your event. (Or turn away some of your audience, which presents its own risks). 

Evergreen Webinars

Evergreen webinars, also known as automated webinars, are great for maintaining consistency. This makes them ideal for those who are perfectionists or nervous in front of a camera. Plus, since you can schedule them anytime, they’re perfect for digital marketers who lead busy lives. 

One of the biggest benefits of an evergreen webinar is that you can spend less time focusing on a single webinar. While you may spend extra time planning and filming, once it’s ready to broadcast, all you have to do is add it to your replay calendar.  

Done the right way, an evergreen webinar can look live without you spending hours a week in front of a camera. Not to mention, you can still keep a firm handle on your broadcast. 

And of course, the ability to play to your audience on their time is a big bonus. Whether you need to contend with time zones or different time slots in the day, scheduling to the needs of your consumer base is a popular option. 

The biggest downside of evergreen content is that they often come at a conversion cost. This is in part the result of not having a moderator present to close sales. 

Furthermore, some viewers may drop out of a webinar if they realize it’s not live. Thus, the primary challenge of curating perfect evergreen content is building an event that drives conversions and keeps your audience engaged. 

Hybrid Webinars

Hybrid webinars are a combination of live and evergreen content. There are several ways to mingle live and recorded content depending on your needs. 

Typically, the introduction of a hybrid webinar is a chance to come on camera live. In this time, you introduce yourself to the audience and hype them up for your content. 

Once you’ve proven to your viewers that you’re present, you can transition to the prerecorded part of your webinar. For digital marketers, this often includes a combination of content and sales pitch. 

But because you’re not live on camera doesn’t mean you’re not present. While your content is playing, you can interact with the audience via chat, text, and polls. Plus, you can moderate offers, timers, and more to push conversions. 

And if at any time you need to stop your presentation and jump in line, it’s easy to do so. 

The conclusion of a hybrid webinar can either be live or recorded. In this section, presenters can answer questions, address concerns, and encourage viewers to invest in the product. This further reaffirms the “live” feeling of the webinar. 

The downside of hybrid webinars is that they’re more technically challenging than live or evergreen content. Thus, you may need more planning and practice to get through the process without a hitch. 

What is a webinar: How Does a Webinar Work?

Webinars are built in and hosted on various webinar platforms, such as On24, EasyWebinar, or even Zoom. Using a dedicated platform, you can share video, images, and documents with your viewers.

To get started with a webinar, you first have to sign up with a webinar hosting platform. Then, using their tools, you build your webinar, add content, and decide which features to use. 

But before you go live with your presentation, you need to curate your audience via advertisement. Most platforms have a feature to build landing pages where your audience can sign up. Or you can integrate with a third-party platform if you don’t like the tools available. 

After that, you blast your upcoming event to your mailing list and social media pages. Pretty soon, you should see the sign-ups start rolling in. 

Then, when the time comes, all you have to do is go live with your presentation! 

Of course, it’s not as simple in practice as this article makes it sound. To build a good webinar, you’ll need to spend hours designing your content from top to bottom. This includes knowing your topic, planning the timeline of your presentation, and knowing how to market yourself. 

But those are lessons for another day. 

Common Webinar Features

You can’t answer the question of what a webinar is without discussing the different ways to share your content. 

While live, video-based webinars are the most common, there are many add-ons to make your presentation pop. These tools help to keep your audience engaged in your content. In turn, this increases the likelihood of newsletter signups and even conversions. 

For instance, to truly be a webinar, you have to have an element of audience interaction. While the tools vary from host to host, some common ways to encourage participation include:

  • Q&A functions
  • Surveys and polls
  • Live chat and text chat
  • Promoting an audience member to co-host
  • Interactive whiteboards

Aside from audience interaction, there are many other ways to spice up a webinar. 

For instance, recording or linking videos in your presentation changes up the format. Including video of other speakers or content also gives the audience a break from hearing your voice alone for the duration of the webinar. 

Not to mention, this is a great way to include and take advantage of audience testimonies for your product!

Slide decks are another great way to bring life to your presentation. When used in the proper way, a slide deck can enhance your talking points and provide a clear visual to viewers. Plus, you can include downloadable slide decks for your audience to “take home” with them. 

And let’s not forget about a fundamental component of many webinars: screen sharing. If you need to show what you’re doing, interact with your audience, or “throw the mic” to a co-host to enhance your point, screen sharing makes it easy. 

Not to mention, sharing your screen makes it easy to show videos if your webinar hosting platform does not include video linking. 

Common Uses for Webinars

The audience you address dictates the type of webinar you put out, as well as the materials that you include. While webinars can be used for entertainment purposes, there’s almost always a teaching or learning component. This is true even in business. 

Depending on your industry, then, you may use webinars to:

  • Generate new leads through webinar signup forms and post-video marketing
  • Build a reputation as a voice of authority (thought leadership)
  • Educate an audience about your business, product, or niche
  • Onboard clients, customers, or employees

Typically, in digital marketing, webinars are a prime driver of lead generation and conversions. 

But that’s not always the case. 

Even (and especially) as a marketer, it’s important to be a thought leader in your industry. Clients won’t trust you if you don’t prove that you are trustworthy. While raking in the dough is your goal, you should also strive to build long-lasting connections.

Webinars are a great way to encourage this process – and they’re quite effective, too.

Why are Webinars Effective?

Webinars are a useful tool in part because they are cost effective – and very convenient.

Think about it. 

If you were to rent out a big conference hall – especially in the era of social distancing – you would immediately be out hundreds of dollars. 

Then there’s the cost of renting or maintaining presentation equipment and the software on which it runs. 

And, if your event is high-profile, you may be expected to offer food, drinks, or free handouts. 

With webinars, that all goes out the window. 

Once people sign up for your webinar, all you have to do is show up in front of the camera on time. Assuming you have practiced for your big moment, the webinar itself is a matter of talking and taking questions. 

And, since modern webinar platforms are rich in features, no one will feel like they’re missing out on “the real deal.” You can present many types of content and interact with your viewers, similar to like an in-person event. 

Then, after the presentation is over, there’s no more obligation on your end. Everyone can get up from their respective devices, stretch, and grab a snack from their own fridge. Those who want to sign up for your product or business are free to do so. 

For everyone else, there’s no loss – other than time – for attending your event. 

This combination of convenience and cost-effectiveness has made webinars an attractive idea for years. Now that the world is social distancing and wearing masks in person, they’re that much better of an idea. 

Pros and Cons of Webinars

Now that we have a better idea of what a webinar is, we can address their pros and cons. 

Pros of Webinar Marketing

  • Online events that can be viewed from anywhere
  • Cheaper (and safer) than renting a venue 
  • Convenient for both hosts and attendees
  • Can mix live, recorded, and hybrid events 
  • Adaptable to any purpose, from digital marketing to education
  • Dozens of interaction tools to engage your audience

Cons of Webinar Marketing

  • Requires some technical understanding to execute effectively
  • You’re in charge of your own promotion and advertising
  • Engaging your audience is your chief priority – and easier said than done
  • You won’t know how well you did – or didn’t – do until the conversions roll in

At this point, you know all there is to know about what is a webinar! Check out the menu above or on your right for other great posts.

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