Webinar Features and Functions - How to Engage a Scientific Audience was the third in our six-event marketing science webinar series.
Our webinar partners from InsideScientific shared their expertise and took questions from our live audience. We were delighted to be joined by:
This blog post includes a transcript of the key points as well as links to the full on-demand webinar.
Watch the full on-demand webinar below.
When to ask your questions
(Sarah) When planning a webinar, you need to be thinking about the type of information you want to get from your registrants and your attendees, and at what stage of the webinar planning process you want to collect that information.
And always be thinking about the value of the content that you're offering and what it's worth to people, what should they trade to get that content? In this case, it's usually information.
You can gather this information before the webinar using your registration form, during the webinar using polls and after the webinar using a survey.
Let's look at the registration form. Based on a 2020 survey, registration forms are most effective and most likely to be completed if they have five to seven fields after name and email, so keep them short.
On our registration form we asked you if you've ever been involved in a webinar, and if so, how many? About 75% of you have been involved in at least one webinar and many of you have done over 10. The other question that we asked you was about features that you use regularly in your webinars, and the two most popular features mentioned were polls and surveys.
We took this data and we used it to inform the topics of conversation for today and it allowed us to prepare information that's relevant and customized to our audience, which is really the most important part of doing these webinars and we're encouraging you to do the same thing.
These webinars are for lead generation, but your leads won't be very high quality if you're not giving your audience content that they want and content that they ultimately need to make a buying decision about your products.
For example, we do a lot of case study webinars for our clients that are just about the science. We do way more of these than we do product focused webinars. But we know from our clients and their experiences that the leads that they get from these science focus webinars are just as good, if not better than product focused webinars. These science focused webinars allow the potential customers in this case, scientists to see the value that these products provide in a currency that's familiar to them, which is data.
These are educational tools, as much as they are sales tools, and you can't have an informed buyer without providing that information.
78% of companies that produce webinars do not use polls and we think that this feature is severely underutilized. Polls should be used to gather the most crucial information from your audience because they've agreed to be on the webinar with you, usually for 60 minutes and they will participate.
I took data from all of the 2021 webinars and did some analysis on poll response rates and compared them to survey response rates. 71% of live attendees respond to at least one poll question while only 26% of those same live attendees fill out at least one question on the survey. So polls are a great way to get participation from your audience, it gives them something to click on.
We did one webinar where the speaker was presenting about the research involving fainting. And before he got into the science, we ran a poll to ask the audience how many of them had ever fainted before and then we shared those results with the audience. This gave the speaker information about who he was presenting to, but it also changed the whole dynamic of the webinar because the audience felt included and they felt engaged and he presented information that was ultimately relevant to them, especially the people that had fainted.
It's great if the platform that you use to host your webinars has this feature, but if it doesn't, you can achieve this by verbally announcing those results as they come in to get that same effect.
Lastly, we suggest that you limit the number of polls to three to five per 60 minute webinar. Nobody wants to feel like they're in a live pop quiz during their event. So if the speaker wants to include them in their presentation to get information about their audience, they should be encouraged to do so, but you should probably limit the number.
Last but not least, surveys. So in the same number crunch about our 2021 webinars, only 26% of attendees answered at least one question in the post-webinar survey. This is quite low compared to the registration form and the poll response rates so keep this in mind when planning these questions. Many people won't answer them, but they still need to be made available.
The survey is a great way to garner feedback from your audience and the best way to get higher response rates is to mention that there is a survey early on in the webinar and show them how to find it, mention it more than once.
Attendees need to be funneled toward that survey to get those high response rates and once they're at the survey, don't make it complicated or lengthy to fill out, five questions or less is ideal. People won't spend 15 minutes after a 60 minute webinar filling out a form.
I calculated the response rates for multiple choice questions versus text input questions, and the results are actually pretty staggering. Of the people who answered at least one question on the survey, multiple choice questions were answered 98% of the time while only 32% of text input questions were answered. So moral of the story here, keep the forms basic, simple, and quick to fill out and you'll get better response rates.
The other thing to consider when you're looking at your webinar platforms is that survey response rates are much higher if the survey is integrated into the event and accessible during the event.
Humanize the process
And ultimately to humanize data collection, it's not really about how you collect the data, but it's actually what you do with it afterwards. So our advice is to think of ways to say thank you to your audience for their time and the information that they've provided that aren't typical. Show them that you care and show that what they have to say matters to you.
So some of our clients, for example, like to ask attendees in polls or in the survey, if they're users of the product or equipment being showcased in the webinar. And if so, one of the great ways to make people feel appreciated and seen, especially your users of your product, is to send them a little something. It can be as simple as an invitation to an exclusive LinkedIn users group that you can create for free, or it can be a little fancier and you can send them a little user care package or something like that.
And if you tie that little care package with swag in it to social media, you can ask them to make posts to show off their new swag, and it's really great for company image and for social promotion.
Or you can gamify your survey responses to allow people to be entered to win something in a draw, for example.
What's in it for the marketer?
And finally, what's in it for you as a marketer? Obviously lead generation. But if you plan your questions properly you'll be able to score your leads and prioritize them based on quality and relevance, which is really important for the follow-up process. And you'll produce better webinars. Your audience will keep coming back for more because they felt they got something out of the event that they couldn't just get off your website.
You'll also have market intelligence. You'll gather information on what works, what doesn't work, who's paying attention to your content, who's listening, and you can target those groups moving forward in a long-term marketing plan. So that's ultimately the goal of humanizing and extending that experience for people.
The Use of Engaging Media in Webinars
(Andy) I'm going to spend some time talking about using media effectively and the registration journey and I'd like to start with a discussion around media in general and how to plan to use different types of media effectively in your webinars.
In science, engineering and technology verticals we all know there's an abundance of technical jargon and perhaps a comfort for presenters to deliver their message as a cluster of bullet points and tech specs, and even paragraph text and this typically results in the presenter reading over their slides, which is both boring and anticipated and therefore your audience tunes out or disengages.
And while I do believe a certain amount of this technical content is required, I would argue that it's overused and this is something that should change in our industry.
The presenters need to remember that you're telling a story in media, whether that be images, gifs, video clips, these are the tools that will get people watching and listening, connecting with you as a presenter and better comprehending and retaining your message.
So the first pro tip, I guess I would like to share is focused on planning your webinars to include captivating images, clear and concise charts and graphs, and most importantly, video clips.
To do this effectively you first have to consider the technical capabilities of your webinar platform. For example, in the platform we're using today, slides must be uploaded as PDFs, which means any transitions, motion graphics, videos that are embedded in say your PowerPoint or keynote file, these are going to be lost.
On the other hand, our enterprise level broadcasting program that we use pretty much for all client projects, this does have the capability to read transitions, animations, play embedded video files. There's things that everyone's familiar with, I would say in our industry from PowerPoint. And so ensure you know your technology and how it handles these media assets before you move on to step two, which is story boarding your presentation.
Almost all webinar platforms now have a solution for uploading or streaming video, and as such, this should absolutely be part of your presentation storyboard. But really the important point to consider is that in general video has not been the traditional choice for scientific publishers.
Educational content, particularly lab methodology has historically been limited to written word supported by a few relevant photos now found in peer review journals or methods publications. But this is changing. One example would be digital publishers like the journal visualized experiments. It's no surprise that this journal was created by scientists about 10 years ago now, out of frustration that they were unable to complete crucial experiments based on the instructions provided in text articles alone.
Simply put, it's my belief that technology professionals are thirsty for educational video content that will help them succeed using the tools you market, sell and support. While we were doing some research as part of preparing for this talk and just even reviewing our own experience over years of producing webinars, we still see for some odd reason that there's a hesitation or challenge to get started with video.
The 2020 ON24 benchmark report stated that almost 60% of those that choose not to include video as part of their webinars attribute this to a lack of budget or skill. This no longer makes sense. Creating engaging media doesn't need to be hard and in 2021, this definitely applies to video. Smartphones, light stands, gimbals, I mean, all of these are accessible and affordable, and this is often all you need to create effective media as part of your webinar.
So this low tech video creation approach has been used by our webinar team and our clients to produce fantastic product tutorials or walk-throughs, how to videos and even bring in other faces to the webinar that don't need to play a live presenter role, or perhaps they just simply need to be in two places at once. So it's a better use of getting them involved in the delivery.
Consider the software programs that will likely come into play here for editing media. A little tip of the hat here, we've enjoyed using Canva quite a lot over the past year at InsideScientific for a number of creative jobs, not really video editing per se, but maybe making short video clips and animations for social media, so more on the promotional side of webinars.
And naturally there probably will be some video editing software that you'll have to look at. We use a product called HitFilm. And I would say we've all quickly become comfortable with that program.
On the subject of video, let's shift to an example of an animated video that was shared during a virtual conference that we hosted in partnership with the Academy of Surgical Research.
One of our keynotes, Mark Orea, shared this video that explains two approaches his group uses during fetal surgery.
What's clear from this example is that methodology and procedure is much easier to understand when presented as a video. And when using video as a presenter, you typically create an opportunity for people to lean in, watch and listen.
Humanize the process
First, I'd say the most important thing to remember is to turn on your webcam. The webinar itself is live video production, and when people can see the presenters and read their body language, see a smiling face, there's naturally a human touch and higher engagement. Next, when using captivating media, consider bringing in your audience to the experience in conversation.
For example, review a workflow or a chart and then stop for questions and clarification, watch a video clip like we just did seconds ago and then pivot to discussion immediately around what everyone watched and answer questions. And of course, think about producing video for use during your webinar that brings in other colleagues and customers. Bringing in these faces online presents an opportunity for inclusion and community.
What's in it for the marketer?
As we consider the extra effort required to create engaging media as part of our presentations, I'll end this section with a quick note on the value these efforts provide. One important point is to remember that the schematics charts and videos you likely want to create for a webinar will certainly be used elsewhere. And if you don't have these media assets already, you likely should. Second, I think we would all agree that video leads to the best comprehension and retention of more complex subjects.
And this is very important for scientific audiences especially when you're trying to ensure your target audience understands procedures, methods, best practices, and ultimately the value proposition of your product, your lab instrumentation for most cases with our clients. The overall impact. We've heard it a thousand times by now, but video continues to be the top performer online in terms of engagement, and it works the same in webinars.
Therefore, video definitely should be a part of your presentation strategy and a feature or function that you review when shopping webinars platforms.
Q&A session 1
Q: We use Zoom as their webinar platform and it's very limiting for playing videos. Do you have any experience with Zoom?
No, we do not have any experience really as a webinar production from using Zoom. In the early days, we did use GoToWebinar, which I would say at the time was very comparable. But for the type of work we provide, it tends to just be missing some features and flexibility that the term I use or we would use is broadcast or enterprise level broadcast software.
And this is where the option to bring in high resolution videos and ensure that they play out clearly to all your members of the audience to pivot from a talking heads layout for web cam to different scenes, if you will. I mean, these are the type of more advanced features that were available in enterprise broadcast software. That's what our clients wanted years ago so we've really kind of ingrained our service using those platforms.
But as I say that, it doesn't mean that Zoom, GoToWebinar, WebinarJam, what we're on right now is BigMarker, we use Engage, we use ON24, we use WorkCast, they're all quality products, it's that they have different strengte hs. And you have to plan with the end in mind. You have to think, what do we want in our webinars and then decide what technology aligns with those objectives.
Q: Why we're using BigMarker today and a different software for your clients?
We use Engage for clients because it tends to align more with our client requests. Streaming high res media effectively to an audience, accommodating large audiences, creating immersive and fully branded environments. It's just a better platform to address the variety of requests that we get from a client.
Now, we're using BigMarker today becuase it better meets our own needs. We like working with a platform because it allows us to pivot and interact with the audience a little bit more.
We love the flexibility to move from slides to video screen-share, talking heads and try to create the most engaging and dynamic experience for our audience.
Q: What video software do you use?
- Premiere Pro
- OBS Studio
Q: Are polls suitable when doing simulated live webinars as the audience might not be able to see the results depending on what platform you're using?
If we are going to do a sim live, we do actually like to pivot to a live Q&A. So there are certain poll questions that you will want to share the answers with your audience and then there are certain ones that you don't want to. So during a sim live event, at the beginning when it is simulated and it is recorded, we tend to use the polls that we don't want to share the results.
And then at the end, when we pivot to live, the pivot point actually, is our poll section right before the Q&A. So at the end of the recording, the presenters finish their presentation and we actually pivot to a live poll. And when you do pivot to a live poll, you can use those results slides. That's one little hack for that.
Even if you can't share the results, something that is humanizing about using a poll in a sim live is that you can mention why that information might be important. For example, "we're gathering this information about our audience because we're interested in learning more about you in this way or that way." You don't necessarily have to share the results to share why that poll is being asked, so that's another way to pivot around not being able to share the results.
At least share some of the reason why you're asking them this information and why it's important.
Q: Do you think simulated live or 100% prerecorded webinars are good?
It depends on the objectives and not a good or bad type of thing. It's more about planning with the end in mind and also what are we working with. If people aren't available on the day that you want to stream the live event, or if they're in a different time zone, sim live makes a lot of sense. They don't need to be up at 2:00 in the morning presenting live.
Some presenters want to be on the live webinar chatting with the audience so they will prerecord the presentation and attend live.
I think just really this comes down to what are we trying to achieve and what do we want to get out of the webinar and what are your KPIs. And if engaging your audience and asking tons of questions as they fly in as a presenter is one of them, then perhaps consider just pre-recording your whole delivery and being up front about it.
Q: Is there an ideal length of webinar?
45 to 60 minutes. If you're going to go over 60 minutes, it better be a riveting Q&A.
Don't deliver a 60 minute lecture and then expect people to stay on after to participate in a Q&A. We like to do kind of 50 minute max by the time we get to the Q&A and even a longer Q&A is better so we always suggest a 40 minute lecture to be the ideal.
Huge point there. We book meetings on the hour, so if you're planning a 60 minute webinar, which is very common in our technology space, because you need some time to get into the weeds on technical subjects and that's fine, that's why people are interested and they show up. Our viewer percentage rate at InsideScientific for years running is 95% of the webinar. Every single one done is 60 minutes.
Be as succinct as possible. Plan a good amount of time for Q&A because that's what people show up for. And then if you can, give them five minutes of extra time even, even after answering the survey, give them back five minutes to get to the next thing of the day.
Webinar Registration Journey
Webinar confirmation pages and emails
(Andy) These are both features and functions that will likely be included in any webinar platform that's competing for market share today. However, I would bet that most organizations do not use these tools to their full potential.
Many webinar platforms allow you to fully customize your confirmation emails so that they not only reflect your brand, but also can include links or attachments to the next thing you want your registrant to experience.
The same is true for confirmation landing pages. A great example that comes to mind is leading webinar registrants to past webinars of similar subject or other content pieces like blogs and podcasts.
Webinar waiting rooms
This is a key opportunity to drive more engagement as part of your webinars during those few minutes before we officially kick off the webinar. This emerging feature is often referred to as a waiting room and usually allows the upload of custom media, either slides, video, or a combination of the two.
For those that arrived early today, you would have been greeted as you know by a rolling set of slides that just provided some background about Sarah, Hayleigh, and myself and information about our digital egg game that we are running today.
Every minute, touch point or opportunity to connect and engage with your registrant has value. And if you're shopping webinar platforms, I would look at this feature in the spec list to consider how your team might use it to provide extra value.
On demand webinar promotion
This is such an important part of effective webinar planning and overall strategy, because somewhere around 60% of your registrants will likely not attend the live event.
Don't get upset about this, this is the nature of live webinars. This is right on point, but it does mean that the on-demand archiving of your content and the means of data collection and interaction and engagement, all that value you're trying to drive as part of your webinar production, it represents tremendous value to you. You can't just think the webinar happens and then we move on.
In an ideal situation, most, if not all of the engagement tools available during a live webinar should be available in the on demand experience, but obviously not all webinar platforms are made equal when it comes to on demand archiving. We decided to create a quick tutorial of how we handle this at InsideScientific. So let's watch that now together.
The first thing that comes to mind when considering the on demand user experience is polls. We've talked about the importance of collecting data and in this case, polls run within this window here, the same as they would have in the live webinar. Also if we elect to share the results of polls, the results will share, but the data will update.
Finally the ability to 'ask a question'. What we like about this is we have the flexibility to change how the submissions are handled. And simply put what we do in this case is we redirect all questions that come in on demand via email. So these emails would go to the presenters and the host of the webinar so you can have a direct line of communication with your viewer.
Integration of third party tools
(Hayleigh) There are so many that it can be really overwhelming and it's hard to decide what you should or even want to invest in. Today we're just going to touch on a few to get you thinking about how you can extend engagement to new platforms before, during, and after your webinar.
First step, a calendar management or a meeting booking automation tool. We use Calendly a lot and we encourage our clients to take advantage of a tool like this too. It can be a great CTA during a live webinar and during post-webinar actions and you can make it personal or you can make it one, for a team or a group of people like sales or marketing, for instance.
This allows the person booking your meetings to see available times on your calendar and even in their local time zone.
So it takes all of that back and forth of trying to coordinate a time and streamlines the entire process. But most importantly, it puts that request in the hands of your customers and clients, rather than leaving your sales team in the driver's seat to make cold calls and emails. Saying that, to truly optimize a tool like this, it's critical that you take advantage of custom questions.
Asking the person booking a meeting for as many details as you can will help guide this meeting.
Based on the AZoNetwork state of scientific marketing report, we know that the great majority of you are already using social media marketing, both paid and organic with relative ease. Only about 20% of the respondents to the survey said that they experienced any challenges with social media marketing. But is there room for improvement and how can you truly take advantage of this relatively cost effective tool?
There are certainly some very obvious reasons and examples for using social media marketing. First and foremost, before the event to drive awareness and registration for your event, during your event you can gamify your webinars by inviting viewers to engage and participate to win a prize. Some platforms allow you to integrate a hashtag feed. So if you take a look at your chat panel now, you'll see the #MarketingScience.
You can tweet directly from within this webinar room and engage your audience in two places at once. This can create a sense of FOMO for the people who are missing out live, but it also allows them to interact and join this conversation from a different platform and it encourages attendee networking.
After your webinar, you can use social media to drive awareness to any on-demand content. As Andy mentioned, you likely have about 60% of your overall registrants to re-engage at this point, and what a better platform to do that.
You can also create private networking groups for attendees to join and interact and network with each other. Going the next step, something that's becoming more popular as digital platforms are evolving is live streaming. This is an interesting option to explore if you are not looking for and excludive experience.
This option could be favorable if you're looking to engage a wider audience through a different or more casual and accessible platform. Think about where you want that conversation to be happening? Live streaming can be useful for engaging a primary or a secondary audience and creates a social network around your event. This can also play into your greater marketing strategy too.
All of this boils down to customization. With social media, be present and engaging. They're the online environments to be social and to network and they're not intended to be one way conversations. So connecting with your clients and prospects, re-sharing their posts and celebrating their work, these mini moments can have a huge impact on creating a sense of community around your brand.
And lastly, we've touched on this quite a bit, but offering giveaways, contests and special offers on your platforms to your followers can be impactful way of humanizing a digital platform or tool.
Now what's in it for you as a marketer? Lead generation, of course, engaging prospects and leads is why we do everything that we do as marketers. More interactions and touch points with leads and customers is important to staying relevant, but the message doesn't always have to be about buying.
Being active on social platforms means sharing different types of valuable content, white papers, customer publications, FAQs, interviews, blogs, podcasts, you name it. The more you post, the more people will see your name and connecting with your audience in a more personal and casual way allows you to better understand them. But what I feel is the biggest reason for using these tools effectively is to continue a two-way dialogue beyond your main event.
Taking advantage of external tools can make all the difference between a static standalone webinar and having a completely engaged audience for not only one event, but for future events and other content too.
Q&A session 2
Q: Should we be gating our on demand webinars?
We gate almost everything that we do for a certain amount of time. And that is for lead generation.
There's not a right or wrong answer when it comes to gating and it has to actually include the more comprehensive view of what type of content are you producing as a company and what do you gate? Not everything you produce as content deserves people's contact information in exchange for access.
But then there's a sliding scale of what type of really valuable content do we maybe ungate? How we typically handle client work is that the webinar is exclusive, requires registration. There's a six month period, I say is most common where it's gated and still requires registration and then log in. And this is so that we can collect more leads during that on-demand period and more market intelligence.
How long are they watching? What handouts are they clicking? What CTAs are they clicking, etc. Poll responses, all that great stuff. That's, I'd say understandable or acceptable in our industry for access to a webinar that's 60 minutes. But then also at the six month mark, you're hitting that point where you're like, "I probably have something newer in this subject area that's being published."
That's when I move to opening up this as a free resource now means the opportunity to almost re approach the media A to Z and say, "What can we do with this to almost reheat the pizza?"
We've got a whole 60 minute webinar that you could slice and dice into sections. We can make it available on a video channel, Vimeo, YouTube, whatever your platform of choice is and now you're getting after that original six month gating, a whole other marketing campaign, if you will.
Q: How can we convince speakers to participate and particularly high profile speakers?
I think the best way to make people want to do it is to highlight the benefits and then also highlight that you can streamline the process to make it as time effective as possible.
The meetings that you have are structured, they're on time, they're scheduled well in advance. All of those things help to convince very busy, especially high-profile speakers in their subject area, that it's something that's achievable for them.
And also don't ask them if they're available in six weeks, ask them if they're available in six months. Really plan early, give them time to make that decision and put it in their calendar, knowing that they have to do it, they'll make time.
Another thing to add on that is actually the current state of our markets. We're not traveling to conferences, and especially in the life science area, scientists, researchers, they build their own brand and their own success, drive funding, etc, by presenting. So whether you're working with a third... a partner like AZoNetwork, InsideScientific or running these webinars independent, I think there is... it's fair for you to say we'd like to help put you on a global stage.
We've ran webinars in the past year that have exceeded 2000 registrations, over 1000 people online. I would challenge any presenter in our space to say, "When was the last time you presented to a few hundred people in an auditorium about what you do?" And that's the key thing going back to what Sarah said earlier, we produce a lot of webinars that are focused on the application areas. So we really are sharing the science of the presenters by means to demonstrate what the products enable.
And so when it comes to speaker recruitment, that helps if you're saying, "Hey, we want you to come and talk about what you do," not as. It's not a testimonial, just showcase your amazing work, the vendor, the supplier wins either way. "We're going to help expose you," and there's value to the presenters, they jump on board.
Q: How do you suggest dropping a seamless CTA during a webinar?
Discuss the benefits or taking the action at various points of the webinar and again when you bring your audiences attention to the CTA.
Think about the user experience once they have clicked the CTA and make the most of this additional touch point.
Q: Is it worth while to splice it up your webinar content into highlights?
Taking that big piece of content that you created and cutting it up into little pieces helps people to engage it in different ways. It makes it a little bit more consumable, snacks versus meals and even using it in different ways. So you can transcribe it, you can put it into an interview, you can put it into a podcast, you can use it for a blog.
Something that we do regularly is produce Q&A reports. This is a transcript of the Q&A session and then also addresses questions that we didn't have time to get to live. So it's a great way to have your questions answered even if you run out of time like we will today.
A very succinct three minute review of the webinar or snippets fo key points also help with the on demand promotion.
Q: Can you advise on how to prevent registration details going direct to the spam folder?
We've definitely experienced this before, especially with scientists when they're using their institutional emails. Their institutions have intense servers that filter out all sorts of spam.
If this is happening to you, and it's happened to us, advise people to add the email address to the safe senders list. And you can actually put that information on the landing page or the registration form page itself to just warn people like, "If you don't get your email, please add this address to your safe senders list."
That's something that we definitely advise our clients to do if they're finding that people aren't getting their confirmation emails and their reminder emails. The other thing to do is limit links. Emails with a lot of links tend to go to spam folders so put only the links that you need and maybe leave out the ones that you don't.
If your automated emails are being sent through your webinar provider then you need to ask them how they are implementing their mass email.
Q: Do people ask questions in the on-demand webinars and how would it actually work in practice?
The usage is low but I would say what it can bring as feedback is extremely high.
If you have presenters a week later receiving kudos about something that can make their day, encourage them to present more, if these are people that work with you that are maybe a little bit apprehensive to get into the webinar presenting role like your tech experts, and they're receiving this information, I mean, that's great.
But I'd say comparatively, it's 10% of what comes in in the live.
I still think it's worth it. The value doesn't come from quantity, I think it comes from the quality of the interaction. Someone's watching it on demand and saying, "I really need to reach out." Can you imagine if that was a product webinar and you didn't have a way for someone who was super interested to connect with someone and take the conversation to the next step?
Thanks to Andy, Sarah and Hayleigh for sharing their expertise and to the audience for attending and taking part.
Webinar 4 in the Marketing Science series is titled: The State of Scientific Puchasing.
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