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How to Plan a Science Webinar

Our inhouse marketing science team recently got together with Andy Henton from InsideScientific to put together a webinar to tackle all things webinar related.

1. Planning a science webinar

2. Webinar software

3. Marketing a science webinar

4. Running your event

5. Engaging your audience

6. Post webinar production

Frank Barker hosted the event and was putting the questions to Andy, Elizabeth Rudy and Danny Layzell.

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Watch the full version by clicking the link below, listen to our podcast version above or read the following transcript.

Planning a Science Webinar

FB: How do you plan a science webinar?

DL: The first thing to think about is why do you and your organization want to run the webinar in the first place? You'd be surprised how many marketers would struggle to answer that question in the middle of a series of webinars that they've been running for several months.

Once you know your why, then you can set your objectives and decide a way of measuring whether or not you've met them. E.G. today we're running the 1st in a series of educational webinars intended to support marketers within science, engineering, and healthcare.

So we're going to be looking at:

  • Number of attendees
  • Retention rate
  • Survey feedback
  • Spikes in organic or social traffic after the webinar

The key is to use the metrics that really relate to what it is you're trying to achieve as opposed to ones that are perhaps easier to collect.

Once you know why you're doing the webinar, what you're going to provide and how you're going to measure success, then we can look at how you're going to market the event. The best place to start is with our title. Consider what problem you as an organization are trying to solve.

A great title will help to set the agenda, generate curiosity and interest and will help you to better market the event. Once you have your title, then you can start looking at who the best speaker within your space for that particular subject area.

Plan Your Webinar Strategy

FB: You're talking about finding the right speaker and the subject area. Andy I'm going to turn to you for this one. How do you find interesting engaging people and interesting engaging subjects?

AH: In the world of content marketing all content is good, but arguably there are better topics and certainly more suitable presenters.

When we talk about planning a webinar, planning with the end in mind is key.

This goes into selecting the right speaker as well. You should be able to then generate a short list of suitable presenters within your circle. These might be people at your company or key opinion leaders in the application areas. Typically when we're planning a webinar with our clients we say, create a short list and work from that.

Somebody who is the brightest or a recognized in that application area or that subject matter isn't necessarily the best webinar presenter for you.

If you can understand your why and start listing out key deliverables, like KPIs that you want to be hitting, you can then go back to your speaker and say, is this person or is this group of people going to help us meet those objectives?

And another tip here is if you have a presenter that's uncomfortable and they're not a natural presenter but are the subject expert, then bring in other people that are a little bit more outgoing. So that rounds out your webinar as far as production process is concerned.

FB: Elizabeth, I'm going to bring you in on this one. What's the difference in approach when you're running a virtual event?

ER: Investing in some technology or software is going to be the obvious first step. You need some software to run your webinars or virtual events, but you'll probably have a little bit less of a logistical burden when it comes to planning than with in-person events.

You don't have any booking of travel, booking spaces, manning booths, and things like that so you'll have a little bit more time to research what software and platforms are best for you.

One of the biggest benefits of virtual events is that you can really repurpose your content and make it accessible for months or years, after the virtual event.

This also means that part of your planning process definitely has to be considering what content will work best, what content will age well and will still be relevant months and years after. So think what content will be able to be repurposed in a good way?

Virtual events also make data collection much easier than many in-person events. Part of your planning process can be to make sure that you have a good idea of what data you do want to collect and ensure that your registration forms, your landing pages are set up to collect the information that you do want to collect from your registrants.

That information, all that data that you do collect is something that you can send on to your sales team and hopefully generate some quality leads. Franky I know you spent a lot of time with the sales team so can you just talk a little bit about the importance of bringing sales along for the journey? I know we use sales as part of our marketing for this webinar. So could you just elaborate a little bit about that?

FB: I think first and foremost it's great to bring people with you and foster that buy-in right from the front end.

As with anything in life, you can turn an average plan into a good plan or a good plan into a great plan or even a great plan into an outstanding plan if everybody just backs it, if everybody buys into something.

You've got to find out how you get the buy-in, bring them along with you on the journey from the front end. The sales team are day in day out dealing with the customers. They're finding out what people's challenges are, they're understanding the pain points. So when it comes to webinars that's the first place we go.

Webinar Software

At the start of the registration process we asked what your science webinar platform or webinars software of choice is. And if you can see here, so from over 300 respondents we've got 36% of them use Zoom, which is fascinating. And then there's a really long tail because other makes up 27%. You've got GoToWebinar nearly a 1/4 and ON24, Webex etc. So more of the maybe heavy-duty broadcast style platforms are in the long tail.

Webinar software

Andy, I'm just going to ask you once we've got this graph up. So what would you say are the main differences between the ON24 is and the Webex style versus say a GoToWebinar or Zoom?

AH: The two main webinar platforms or styles that would be used are:

  1. The ones where you have a download. It's a program running on your computer that allows you to, share a screen and therefore you can go through whatever you want with your audience, That's a Zoom or GoToWebinars style. What's nice about it is you're not loading content into the backend, your real-time sharing what's going on your monitor. There are infinite possibilities to somewhat pivot during a live event.
  2. On the other side, you have a broadcast style. What you're typically doing with these is loading in content to the backend and its web based. So you're not downloading apps and your audience isn't downloading apps. They're visiting a web page and they're experiencing a live stream, a pre-recorded event or a blend. The other thing with these broadcast platforms is it allows people to maybe move into the direction of a broadcast style preparation of their event and content.

FB: What should we be looking for in a webinar platform? What do we look for before we set up this webinar?

DL: It's going to be very specific to your organization and the type of webinar session that you're trying to run but the first thing to remember is that the technology you're investing in should help you make life easier and do the things you actually want it to do.

Often people perhaps select a technology that they've seen Facebook ads for, it might have been recommended to them by a colleague, but what they use it for might be completely different. So what it is that your organization needs. We sat down and we planned out this webinar series, and then we decided what we needed the software to do for us and then selected one on this basis.

So what's important to you could be:

  • Bespoke landing pages
  • Automation capabilities
  • Run live simulated events and live sessions
  • Polls
  • Q&A's
  • Multiple hosts
  • Number of registrants

There are loads of different variables of what you might want the software to do so sit down with your team and plan your webinar out, then decide what you need the software to do for you, and then select on this basis.

Remember that your tech can't make up for a lack of subject knowledge or planning.

So the software that you pick should be there to support your efforts, but not lead them.

AH: An important thing particular this year with everything that's happened is just the reliability and ease of use for your audience. One of those key variables that I think is so important is what's the user experience.

FB: User experience is paramount. I saw a great clip of Jeff Bezos on LinkedIn from 1998 when he was obsessing over the user experience, but it's no different today. You've got to make sure that it's as easy as possible in a world full of noise. If it's not in my calendar I'm not watching it or I'm not attending it basically.

I suppose how important is it to garner that information at the front end and how important is the registration process again, thinking about ease of use and UX?

ER: The registration process is super important part of the overall planning process. You want it to be user-friendly, you want it to be fairly quick and straightforward for people to register. The last thing you want is to drive someone away after they've clicked on the registration page because it was too lengthy or too complicated to complete.

There's a balance that you want to hit between making your registration process good for the user/participant, but also getting that information that we want to get.

During our registration process we asked what your biggest challenges were, what platforms you use to get that information that was really valuable to us whilst being conscious of not bombarding registrants with more questions than were needed.

This data helped us to curate our content and really formulate ideas around what we wanted to deliver during the webinar so that we could make it as useful and actionable for our registrants.

Embedding the form on your website landing page will let you keep your registration page really on brand and make it easier to remarket to people who have visited this page.

FB: What market intelligence data can you obtain with polls and surveys?

AH: The first point of market intelligence collection starts typically in the reg form. Ask as few questions as possible so you don't deter registration, but enough so that you can start putting a registrant into a marketing persona. E.G. who is an equipment user, a director, a planner in a lab, a pharmaceutical company or whatever your target market is.

The next step is polls, and these are straightforward. Asking questions of your live audience gives you market intelligence and it's also engagement for your event. Remember to try not to make polls only about you. It's so obvious to your audience when you just keep asking questions that help you with your objectives. Especially if it's very blatantly sales and marketing speak. Polls are a fantastic opportunity when planning science webinars to further go deeper into problems people are having and then their opinions and perspectives, because this is the way to bring people into the conversation.

The surveys are really for a few things.

  1. It's how did we do?
  2. What should we be doing next?
  3. How can I further qualify you in the marketing or sales funnel?

Make sure in your surveys you are at least asking a few questions that are going to allow you to say, well, what's the next step? How could I deliver the next piece of material for this person? Are they looking for a demo? How far along are they? Are they just still exploring? What would they like to hear about next, right? In their educational journey?

When you're in that planning process of your webinar, think about what you want to collect from your attendees and registrants and think about how call to actions can be part of that as well as polls and surveys.

Marketing a Science Webinar

FB: Danny, can you go into a bit more detail about how we've marketed this webinar?

DL: We planned out the full marketing journey and had very clear communication touch points along that journey. Each touch point was an opportunity for us to showcase the brand, showcase our knowledge and start building relationships with people who we wanted to attend.

We started by publishing several educational blogs about webinars to our website and promoted them through newsletters and social media, etc. To get the word out, get the ball rolling, making sure there was interest in the subject before we launched the session.

Once we were happy that this was going to be a good subject to focus on we concentrated on getting the word out and driving traffic to our registration page. Our sales team played a massive role, they are the face of the business, they're speaking to clients day-to-day, so they had a huge part to play.

marketing a science webinar

We also used emails, newsletters, social media, more blogs, display advertising, LinkedIn ads and our website to promote the event. We used fairly straightforward messaging to communicate what we were doing, what insights we would be sharing and who would benefit from attending.

Once someone was registered we provided some additional resources on our thank you page, including an eBook, some more blogs, another video and then we automated a thank you email with the important calendar reminder, start time in different times zones etc.

Finally, three email reminders one week, one day, one hour before the event. So as many people as possible who registered actually turned up for the session.

Marketing after the event is just as important. We will be sending the recording out to those who have attended, those who haven't been able to attend as well and we'll hopefully continue the conversation over on social media after the session.

FB: What about post-production editing? In terms of chopping it up into little consumable bits.

DL: We'll break it down into five or six or eight to 10-minute videos about specific subject areas.

We often talk about how people would rather digest information on their own terms and in shorter blocks.

So we'll have one on planning the webinar, one on just on software so that when people have a very specific question or problem they need help with they can find a very focused video that will help give them the answers they're hopefully looking for.

AH: There's content gold in a webinar recording. You can spin it out into an FAQ written, you can chop it up into little videos, you can write new blogs on it that redirect back to specific snippets of those video clips to answer questions. We are predominantly doing webinars in this industry to answer questions, solve problems, within a technical space and repurposing content is not something I see enough of in general.

Plan Your Webinar Strategy

FB: We've had one specific question about targeting China. So what advice do you have for targeting specific markets? Let's just open that up into not just China, but say you wanted to target a specific country or region. What would you say to that Andy?

AH: Start with the obvious. If you can bring in local presenters that speak the native language, that's always best. They're available in the time zone, they can speak the language, they can communicate best with your audience.

If someone who speaks the native language is not available, then certainly presenting or preparing the content in English is fine. But then it's a matter of tailoring the entire event experience, right from registration forms, through to marketing your emails. Deliver them so that they're being received by your target audience during the opportune time, during their workday, have the emails written in their native language if possible.  

Tailor the entire experience to them so that they can get more out of it.

In our space we typically see more content in English and I would say some projects we've had the opportunity to consult on have usually gone in the direction of running the webinar live in English for the audiences whether that be multiple time zones.

The next action is then creating on demand copies of the webinar, either doing voiceover translation, or subtitles. Or you can host the event in English with subtitles and have a moderator that's bilingual so that the Q&A session or little breakouts can be planned as part of watching the video back to dive deeper into the subjects and clarify things for those that aren't as strong in the original recorded language. But simply tailor the experience to them.

FB: There's a common thread customer experience, make sure that you serve the customer 100%. It is all about giving the best customer experience possible in whatever industry you work in. Whether that's digital marketing or life sciences, material science, it's about making sure that people find the answers to their problems.

We've actually just got one of the original registration questions on how many webinars people are planning for 2021. We've got 43% of people planning one to five webinars, so that's great. And then 27% of people are planning between 6 and 15, with 9% in the 16 to 25 bracket and then an ambitious 4% who are doing more than 25. It would be great to hear the challenges of running 25 webinars. You must have a great team but I'm sure there are pitfalls. And in terms of preparing the content and keeping people engaged, we'd love to hear where your choke points are. And then there's 17% who didn't know.

Running Your Event

FB: Elizabeth, do you have any rituals that you like to go through before you're presenting?

ER: My number one tip is to always do a dress rehearsal or a dry run of your webinar, or more than one really is best. Even if you've practiced on your own a lot and you feel 100% comfortable with your own content that you're ready to go.

If you're doing the webinar with other colleagues or guests you definitely want to do a rehearsal with everyone altogether. I think it's great to be able to first of all, develop a bit of a rapport and know how the conversation will flow with your other guests. Things like making sure you're saying your guest's names correctly and things like that can all be fixed during rehearsal. Checking audio and visuals will also go a long way into making your webinar look and feel a lot more professional and polished.

I like to record myself talking and answering some of my questions before a webinar as well. I know a lot of people don't like to listen to themselves back, but it's very useful.

It's good to see what you look like when you're delivering questions.

I also do a little bit of a vocal warmup before a webinar, especially if you're doing a webinar early in the day. You definitely don't want to sound like you just rolled out of bed and have that vocal fry and that croaky voice. That's just a little pre webinar ritual that I always do.

FB: I think everybody's got a phone, everybody got a laptop, it's so easy to record yourself so that you can listen back and see what your verbal ticks are and see how many hesitations you put in. And it just helps you to perform and hone your performance. So Andy, have you got anything more from a technical perspective, how do you ensure that everything runs smoothly on the webinar?

AH: Practice runs and tech checks. What we really try to stick to at InsideScientific is doing tech checks very early, so that we get it out of the way and we find out if there are any big challenges. Sometimes presenters and planners think, we can get to, does your microphone, or does your webcam work on our platform later. But the sooner you can confirm everything works the better. Every meeting you can have on the platform, you can get people comfortable so that people start focusing on their content.

A smooth webinar production is where everyone's comfortable with their content, which means giving those people as much time as possible in the planning process to perfect their delivery, to practice it, to record themselves.

So tech checks, tech checks, tech checks, do them early.

Then there is the practice session. It's important because often presenters have gone through their delivery and they've talked out their notes in their head and that is completely different than saying it aloud. So live practice runs where you can actually say, this is a practice yes, but let's do it as if it's live. Let's all speak up, let's plan our delivery, let's be on webcam, consider the body language you're going to use.

It doesn't need to be complicated. We need you to be solid on your content and an engaging presenter. So especially for those that are new to webinars or trying to scale, just walk before you run and then your webinars will continue to be smooth.

Engaging Your Audience

FB: What tactics do you employ for keeping your audience engaged?

DL: We have already mentioned the importance of a great user experience. So great user experience, be as useful to your audience as possible. Provide answers to the questions that they have, deliver what you said you were going to in your pre-event publicity.

Be enthusiastic about your topic and proud of the fact that you're the expert.

It's normal to have nerves when you're presenting, but be happy, be proud that people actually turned up to listen to what it is you have to say.

Other tactics like we've tried in this event:

  • Polls
  • Infographics
  • Surveys
  • Q&A
  • Floating heads style

Any way that you can change the dynamic and keep your audience on their toes is a good thing.

FB: What about for more complex topics. Andy say in science in particular, how do you engage people there?

AH: We can all appreciate the trend in science to do the I'm talking at you for 45 minutes, and then you can ask me questions at the end. That comes from the history of the science industry, how authors share their work. So we've done tons of them.

We often do not steer our clients in a different direction just because their subject is complex because the best way to deliver the content is stay on point, do the PowerPoint presentation, ask questions at the end. But I would argue mixing things up a little bit is needed more of. It would be very fresh and welcomed in our industry. It is the same complex topics but broken into just simpler things.

Start with a brief introduction of five to 10 minutes and then break out for a Q&A for five, and then jump back onto the content.

FB: I think above all enjoy it. You need to enjoy, during the webinar you don't want to fret too much about the technical stuff. You are the subject matter expert, so talk freely and talk with a smile on your face as well. Encouraging that conversation as well is great for reducing what I call webinar fatigue. Being able to differentiate yourself like that is incredibly empowering.

AH: I think it's really important that presenters spend more time thinking about how they should display what the important messages on the slide. These boring bullet points and words on the slide is not presenting. Support your message with charts graphs, embedded videos, keep it interesting. It's challenging to sit through 60 minutes of just looking at bullet points.

FB: I think that true in all content types as well. I've seen some great written word in terms of content for a blog, but if it's not well formatted, if the paragraphs are too chunky, if the text is wrong, if there's no videos, if there's no images, if there's no h1's, h2's, so that stuff. So good content can be ruined by poor formatting.

Post Webinar Production

FB: Elizabeth in terms of garnering feedback how do you get the feedback from the webinar attendees?

ER: You want to make sure that you're getting some measure of how satisfied your registrants were. It'll give you good things and tips for how you can improve in the future. First off I would do a short post webinar survey. I usually try to send that out as quickly as possible after the event has run so that feedback is given and everything's still fresh in everyone's minds.

Try to ask people about what you did well, what could be improved and then also just get that general measure of satisfaction with what you delivered. I also really like to look at retention rates. How many people stayed all the way through your webinar? This will help us to analyse our engagement.

Did people engage with you through your polls? The Q&A's, do people send in comments, etc.? These will give you a good measure of how satisfied and engaged people were.

Lastly I always like to ask people to engage with me or engage with the company on social media after the webinars run its course. So if you have participants coming to your social media pages leaving comments or to ask any more questions and continuing that engagement with you then that's another great measure of how successful you are through your webinar.

FB: Once the webinar's finished it doesn't just stop there. I know that we've had webinars where we've doubled the number of registrants or the number of viewers by six months afterwards because of the on-demand content. So Andy, what about post event marketing, what comes into your strategy there?

Plan Your Webinar Strategy

AH: Make the plan as it's not over. I'd actually argue that the webinar is about a three to six-month process potentially longer, depending on the gating plan. And what happens after is actually becoming more important than the live webinar.

Because you never get 100% attendance and arguably the trends are always slightly less than 50% live attendance of your entire registrant's pool as a data live webinar. The bigger chunk of opportunity to engage your audience have them watch the content, learn from it, answer your polls, can participate in surveys and everything.

There has to be an event marketing and distribution plan that's no different than when leading up to the live webinar. You have to have email, social, maybe some paid ads in there.

One tip I would suggest is make sure you're trimming your audience down. So what we mean by that is removing registrants, tracking those who have engaged the content so you're not pinging them over and over and over again about something they've already engaged in.

But a very important subject and I'd say moving forward for 2021 post event marketing should arguably be more important, if you were to compare pre and post that's when you're going to get additional registrant's and most of your viewers.

FB: Excellent. Of course you can contact us as at and And we look forward to hearing about more of your webinar challenges and questions. All right. And that just leads us to wrap up.

Thanks Danny, thanks Andy, thanks, Elizabeth.

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Posted by Danny Layzell

After growing up in the Ribble Valley, Danny has spent much of his professional career working in marketing & operations for international education. Danny is a chartered marketer with a degree in Politics and a level 6 diploma in Digital Marketing. Whilst working as a freelance digital marketer Danny was introduced to AZoNetwork. He joined the team in 2020. As well as digital and politics, Danny is passionate about most sports mainly rugby and cricket. He is also a life-long Manchester United fan and more recently became a Dallas Cowboy supporter! Travelling has become a real interest for Danny, and he dreams of travelling alongside the ‘Barmy Army’ (England cricket fans) in the future.  

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