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From the Trenches

Planning a Webinar: Lessons Learned

Alecia Farley | June 7, 2011

The best laid plans don’t always work 100% of the time, but most of the time, they can prevent major problems.  I was recently tasked with coordinating all aspects of a webinar.  I’ve attended plenty of webinars in the past and I’ve coordinated numerous live events, but this was the first time I was responsible for blending the two.

Where to start?

My first step was to go online to see what advice I could find. HubSpot has a great series of posts on running a webinar.

We decided to host the webinar using GoToWebinar, so that site was my next stop.  They have a Support Center with articles, a user guide and videos.  I learned to use the software and walked away with more tips and best practices.

Planning and Preparation

The next step was to take the learning from above, get organized, and prepare our team.  I scheduled a test run with the entire team in the room that we would be using prior to the real webinar.  As I learned from my research, for my test I wanted all of the computers, phones, and materials we would need.  We had in attendance the speakers, the organizer (me), a social media monitor and a mock attendee.  We set everything up the way it would occur on webinar day with the exception of running through the entire presentation.  We even practiced recording the test.

The Big Day

The day arrived and we were all set to go.  We signed on the webinar a few minutes before the start time, and kicked off the presentation a few minutes after the start time….just as suggested.  As our speakers presented the material, our mock attendee waited to alert us if there was any trouble on the line and our twitter feed hummed with activity.  The official presentation ended within the time limit, and we received many wonderful questions from an active, engaged audience. We ended on time and all we had to do was send out our thank you emails with the link to our recording.  We did it!

Lessons Learned

We planned, practiced and successfully hosted our first webinar, but there were a few glitches that we learned from:

  • I’m glad we ran out test in the actual room we were going to host the live webinar (key word in this sentence is “were”).  Before we did the test, we found there was not a working phone line in that room…a little bit of a problem.
  • About an hour before the live event we did a quick run through to make sure all computers, phones, etc. were in good working form – and they were.  Ten minutes before the actual webinar we fired everything up and that is when one computer decided it could do nothing until it performed the latest updates.  Fortunately we had an extra laptop in the room and we were fine.  Lesson: Update your computers the day before your event, and/or have a backup ready.
  • Test your audio system – I mean really test it.  During our test run our presenters spoke over the phone for a minute or so and it seemed to work.  But the test was not long enough for our mock attendee to really gauge the sound quality.  As it turns out, our sound quality was fine, but could have been better.  (We’ll make improvements for the next one.)
  • If taking questions during the webinar, know exactly how you are going to receive the questions and get them to the speaker. Questions could be coming in through the webinar software, Twitter, and/or other sources.  Are you going to project them on a screen, write them down on paper, or send them to another computer near the speakers that is not showing the presentation? Have a plan.
  • Don’t just test that you know how to record the presentation, also test exactly how you are going to process the recording after the event for distribution to attendees.  You need to know how long to have the recording running before anyone begins to speak and after they stop; you need to know the exact format you are going to use and test it (we thought we knew but it didn’t work as we expected); and keep in mind that a full webinar is a big file – when you test the above on a 5-6 minute snippet it might not be the same as 45 minutes worth of content.  We ran into some challenges which we were able to solve, but we’ll be better prepared for the next one. By the way, if you’d like to watch the recording, you can access it here.

So there you have it.  Due to our planning and preparation we did a lot of things well and found some that we could improve upon for our next webinar.  Do you have any tips to share about hosting a webinar?  If so, please share them.  I have room on my list.

Related Resources

About Alecia Farley:

Alecia Farley is Project Director at Right Source Marketing, where she makes sure client projects run smoothly and on time, and improves and creates new internal processes to ensure that the Right Source machine runs efficiently. Alecia has a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from the University of Delaware. Learn more about Alecia on LinkedIn.