April 4, 2014

Forget travel: Conduct your webinars, live events online

These days, it’s unnecessary to actually pick up and travel to go to a three-day conference. Instead, you often can watch the event live. Goodbye to travel costs and standing in security lines at Denver International Airport. Hello to convenience and life according to your own timetable.

As a business owner, you might wonder: How can my business deliver useful content to prospects and interested audiences on the Internet? Here are the main ways of “edu-broadcasting” online:

Webcasts

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Webcasts are a one-to-many presentations online. There might be thousands of people in attendance. Webcasts are usually done live, recorded for later playback and remain available day or night for others on demand.

These are best for lectures, investor-relation presentations, technical training sessions, concerts, yoga classes and even sports drills.

Here’s something surprising: There are now “wedcasts” of marriage ceremonies that are held too far away for family members to travel to.

Webinars

Webinars typically reach a large audience over a widespread geographic area. They are usually live. There is an expectation that a webinar will allow two-way communication. Conversations are possible via polling and instant messaging. Participants of small groups can even be seen and heard on video screens on sites such as Skype Premium and Google Hangouts. It’s almost like being there! The sessions can be scheduled in advance or might happen impromptu.

Webinars can be real productions, complete with slides and music and multiple video cameras – just like a broadcast studio setup. Or they can be a lot less flashy – just one computer camera and a microphone and a few PowerPoint slides and you’re good to go. It’s also possible to share your computer screen with an audience that’s effectively “looking over your shoulder” while your mouse moves to various charts and graphs and spreadsheets.

If you want to go all out Hollywood, there are companies that have complete webinar studios and emcees at the ready in major U.S. cities. These fully managed webinar and webcasting companies even coach the presenters and provide administrative and management support from preparation to follow up.

Web conferencing

Web conferencing is used to conduct live meetings or sequences of live presentations online. In a web conference, you can sit at your own computer or device and connect to other participants and presenters via the Internet.

You can talk one-on-one with a customer on a web conference, share your screen, present concepts or advertising comps. It’s possible to record these sessions to refer back to later. You can either have your face visible or be visually “anonymous”; I prefer the latter since the camera on my Mac makes me look like I’m in a carnival fun house.

We’ve attended many three-day live conferences that have back-to-back seminars and full scale agendas with presenters who themselves “phone it in.” Even they are not “there” at a conference location; they are at their own computers anywhere in the world!

Streaming live

Sometimes events actually do still take place live, and you can access them via streamed video. U Stream is the most notable way to stream live video with “live broadcasting that fits your needs.” They offer a few different plans, starting at $99 a month. Some include social sharing as well as unlimited storage and high-definition streaming. Another resource for live streaming video web services is Justin.tv.

Whether you’ll be speaking from your desktop or from a fully lit glitzy studio, you want to put forethought into making webinars successful. That means careful planning to pull them off with aplomb – and not bomb.

Think about promoting attendance via social-event calendars and sending out emails to encourage registration. Thank attendees after the event. Solicit feedback via a survey tool such as Survey Monkey. Segment contact information for those who attended so they climb up a rung on the qualification ladder from “suspect” to “prospect.” That will make your sales management happy.
Delivering high-impact experiences is not easy. However razzle dazzle you get or don’t get, be sure to be ultra-useful to your audience and not a bit commercial. This is not the time for overt marketing pitches.

You’ll certainly want to do a run-through or two. Experience what it’s like to talk to an audience you can’t see or get body signals from. Try it out on a few friends or colleagues. Feel the pregnant pauses and how the technical details – such as Internet connections – can fail you, and what to do when the inevitable glitches happen.  Forewarn your audience when you actually make the real presentation:  “This is what we’ll do when things go wrong.” Always have a Plan B.

Don’t use your cell phone to dial in if you are the presenter. A landline is essential in this case.
The upside to all these potential problems? You can wear your bunny slippers and nobody will know. Oh, and you can often monetize these online seminars. That’s a bonus!

Laurie Macomber, owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing, can be reached at 970-689-3000.

These days, it’s unnecessary to actually pick up and travel to go to a three-day conference. Instead, you often can watch the event live. Goodbye to travel costs and standing in security lines at Denver International Airport. Hello to convenience and life according to your own timetable.

As a business owner, you might wonder: How can my business deliver useful content to prospects and interested audiences on the Internet? Here are the main ways of “edu-broadcasting” online:

Webcasts

Webcasts are a one-to-many presentations online. There might be thousands of people in attendance. Webcasts are usually done live, recorded for later playback and remain…

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