Boring Webinar? Make Minor Tweaks to Boost Engagement

A new report analyzes webinar viewing habits. Take advantage of a few trends to increase the likelihood that members register, attend, and engage with your virtual events.

Maybe you’ve been there: sitting through another boring webinar that seems to drag on and on. If so, there’s a good chance it was on a Thursday. According to a recent survey, 28 percent of organizations host webinars on Thursdays. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are also popular webinar days.

It’s a small data point, but it could be a big reason why your members will either tune in or tune out of your next webinar. If you’re hosting an uninspired webinar on a Wednesday afternoon, there’s going to be some competition.

“The best time for a webinar is one fitting in with your audience’s schedules,” according to the Webinar Benchmarks Report [PDF] by ON24, a webinar host, which surveyed more than 200 users and analyzed almost 23,000 webinars. “But as a rule, lunchtime to early afternoon works well. If in doubt, and you’re in the U.S. and covering multiple time zones, shoot for 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST).”

It’s not just the timing that matters. Like many other technologies, webinars have been in a constant state of change, much of it driven by disruptive forces like consumers’ habits and expectations for streaming online video. Meanwhile, high-speed internet and access to unlimited data plans make it easier to join a webinar from virtually anywhere a smartphone has service.

Webinars are also being tricked out with interactive features, like live audience chat, polling, video integration, and always-on streaming.

If your webinars are experiencing declining viewership, it could be time for some tweaks. Here’s how to turn a boring Wednesday webinar into a much more dynamic experience for your members.

Add pauses and interactions. A lot of information is thrown at viewers in an hour-long webinar. In the ON24  survey, the average webinar was 58 minutes long—two minutes longer than in 2017.Somewhere in that hour, participants need a moment to cognitively digest what they’re learning.

Approaching a webinar in smaller increments—possibly four 10-minute sections, each with a pause built in—could give attendees the space to reflect on what they’ve learned. These stops also allow for audience interaction. In the survey, seven in 10 respondents said it’s better to build webinars with live or interactive features, including chat-based Q&A or live audience polling.

Integrate video features. Another way to turn passive viewers into engaged participants is with video. Consider adding an edited video clip to your webinar or take advantage of screen-sharing to demo a process in real time. (ON24 has an infographic [PDF] listing several ways video can be used in webinars.) Last year, 38 percent of webinars featured some type of video, a 72 percent year-over-year increase.

Use playback options and channels. Conversion rates from registration to attendance are always a challenge. ON24 says a “good” conversion measure is to get 35 to 45 percent of registered attendees to show up to a live webinar. Remember that your members are busy people, so it makes sense to offer playback options so they can stream a webinar at a time that’s convenient for them.

The survey confirms this: More than a third of attendees (36 percent) said they only watch webinars that are always on and available for playback. Associations are smart to curate previously recorded webinars on a website or across video streaming sites, like YouTube and Vimeo.

Do you have tweaks or changes that have helped drive members to webinars? Share your comments below.

(Moostocker/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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