April 29th, 2020

6 Engaging Webinar Formats to Create More Compelling Content

According to InsideSales.com, 73% of marketing and sales leaders say webinars are one of the best ways to generate quality leads. Webinars have been around for years, and while the tool/tactic has gained traction, especially as a lead generation tool, the full potential is still underestimated and underutilized.

The word webinar stems from the combination of the two words 'web' and 'seminar'. The original definition of a webinar is "a seminar or other presentation that takes place online and allows participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions, and sometimes answer polls."

As marketers we've been a little bit, perhaps too, focused on that one aspect of webinars (lead generation) and in turn neglected the audience experience, participatory aspects, and opportunity to truly engage with the audience.

Here are 6 of our favorite out-of-the-box webinar formats and how you can leverage them:

1. The Interview Webinar

The interview format enables you to ask questions related to your field, relevant to your audience, to an industry expert. Rather than hosting a webinar yourself, the interview webinar provides the opportunity to create a more engaging conversational format about the topic at hand.

Webinar Experts in the studio
Subject matter experts: Leveraging experts is a great way to attract the right audience

Leveraging experts, influencers, and thought leaders for your webinar can be a very powerful tactic. The key to a successful webinar is to find the experts in your particular industry who have built an audience of engaged followers. The right influencer or expert campaign is one who can bring in the most value to your target group. Remember, your audience signed up to learn something and that it’s your task to facilitate and ensure that they do. 

"Partnering with relevant influencers to co-create content can open doors for brands trying to engage hard to reach and increasingly skeptical audiences. Those content collaborations can also help deliver an experience that is more credible and trusted than brand content alone." - Lee OddenLee, CEO of TopRank Marketing 

In fact, according to Edelman decision-makers are spending more time consuming thought leadership each year.

Each year, decision-makers are spending more time reading thought leadership; in fact, most do so for at least an hour per week.

2. The Ask Me Anything (AMA) Webinar 

Too often, webinar hosts simply run through their slides and script, hoping that their standard presentation is engaging in itself without encouraging a conversation with the audience. As a result, they miss out on the chance to make a meaningful connection with the audience and risk losing their attention.

The Q&A (questions and answers) or AMA webinar-style presents a great opportunity to tailor your show to your audience and demonstrate that you pay attention to their issues and concerns. In fact, according to biteable, 92% of webinar attendees want a live question and answer session as a part of the webinar.

To avoid awkward silence and the risk of running out of questions make sure you prepare a list of potential and back-up questions and remind the participants to submit any questions they have throughout the webinar. 

Live Questions During Webinar
Engage your audience: Live questions, polls and chat are great tools for engagement

Make sure you display the questions on the screen and read each question out loud so your participants know which one you are addressing.

Using polls during your webinars is also a great way to boost audience engagement and get them truly involved. The polls can help you to generate new content and get live, yet structured feedback from the attendees that you can center your discussion sound.

Finally, live chat can help take the audience interactivity to the next level and create a quick mini-community within the webinar.

3. The Panel Discussion

The panel webinar is a controlled and moderated discussion by a panel of speakers. The moderator is in charge of managing the panel discussion and should take a backseat letting the panelist converse and perform. However, must ensure that all of the panelists get a fair amount of time and thus prevent the more assertive speakers from dominating the conversation.

Most industry experts find panel discussions more convenient than presentations as they're more conversational and require less preparation. Hence, this format is more likely to attract great speakers.

A webinar panel can be a very dynamic form of content. In order to create more engaging content, you should try and source panel speakers who don't all offer the same perspectives, specific expertise, or on everything. By diversifying your panel you’ll more likely vary the discussion and create more captivating content.

4. The Case Study Webinar

Case studies can be highly effective at converting visitors to leads and move prospects down the funnel. The format is a great way to bring your case studies to life, either by repurposing your video or written case stories or creating an entirely new one. 

You can either interview the client or let them talk about their experience. However, the best case studies all have one thing in common: great storytelling. You should ensure that your speakers have a proper narrative and storyline including the problem, the resolution, and the (happy) ending.

Webinar Customer Cases
Webinar Cases: Invite and feature your customers or users on your show

When turning to webinars to present a case study or story remember that your audience relies on you to bring them valid insight, credible expertise, and meaningful advice on a subject. Your goal should not be to sell your solution but rather showcase a solution to a problem that in turn can inspire your audience in a similar way.

5. The Online Event or Conference

The online event or conference is a very cost-effective way to increase your attendance and extend your reach. The move to virtual events shouldn’t be seen as a short-term fix. The online event can work as an addition to your physical event and extend the event lifecycle leveraging existing setup incl. speakers, brand, and infrastructure.

According to Gartner, Technology and service providers spend an average of 11% of the marketing programs budget on third-party tradeshows. Eighteen percent of technology and service provider respondents, in the Gartner Tech Marketing Benchmarks Survey, ranked events as the best-performing calls to action of marketing-qualified leads, second only to content assets (20%).

In-person events will always have their place. However, the online conference can serve as a great alternative. Whereas physical events are bound to the local venue, the virtual well isn’t - increasing your flexibility, as attendees can join from all other the world expanding your global reach.

Markedspartner Norway
Markedspartner: A norwegian agency using online events to attracting hundreds of attendees

When hosting your event online you can give the attendees the opportunity to interact with presenters, thought leaders, and each other in a more meaningful way. 

“If you are shifting from a live event, try to add extra value to the viewers who are now tuning in online. Do an extra session. Offer more Q&A time. Give an extra special offer” says Emily Raleigh, Marketing Manager of Brand and Strategic Partnerships at HubSpot. “Find creative ways to add extra delight moments. Virtual events can easily lose one of the best benefits of live events: human connection. To mitigate that, keep the event engaging and get the audience involved." 

According to HubSpot and Gartner, there will likely be a rise of virtual conferences throughout 2020 and as reported by Forrester, event marketers from firms such as Adobe, Akamai, Domo, and even Forrester are turning to digital delivery — particularly for large conferences and summits.

“With the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolving, create a team of senior-level stakeholders that can monitor the latest developments and make timely, informed decisions regarding events,” said Christy Uher Ferguson, senior research director at Gartner. “Consider alternative options in place of a physical event, such as a virtual event or webinar.”

By hosting your online event via a webinar tool like TwentyThree you’ll also have instant access to live data and analytics enabling you to measure your success and KPIs.

6. The Expert Debate

An expert debate or battle is a great and perhaps more engaging alternative to a traditional fireside chat webinar. Where the fireside format is more conversational and informal, the battle is structured to create a bit of conflict between the speakers. 

The battle webinar is a moderated debate where you (the host) agree on the ground rules ahead of time with the debate participants. Usually, each participant gets the chance to give an opening statement in a prescribed period of time after which the moderator asks a series of questions or statements for the speakers to comment on.

Webinar Debate
Discussion: Debates are a great way to create engaging and dynamic webinars

To ensure success you should agree upon and allocate a certain amount of time for the speakers to respond to each question or issue a rebuttal, response, or remark. It is essential that you source speakers that have different opinions on your topic and questions. To accomplish this consider using speakers from different industries, backgrounds, or participants with contrasting areas of expertise and make sure you brief and align with the speakers about your concept: Aim to disagree and challenge each other.

Getting started with webinars

The digital evolution has changed the way we produce content. You no longer need a fancy TV studio or expensive gear to create engaging content. Good content doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

How do you get started creating webinars that sound human and invite viewers to interact? First of all, stop seeing webinars as something you send out and get a lead from. The purpose of a webinar should not be purely lead-driven; instead, think of it as an opportunity to hear what your audience has to say. Listen to their feedback. Utilize what they have to say.

TwentyThree Webinars: Hear Steffen Christensen, CTO & Co-founder of TwentyThree explain how TwentyThree Webinars can be used to generate leads, engage your audience, and educate your customers.

Once you get going with one or two formats you should start thinking about your overall webinar strategy and answer questions such as: 

  • What’s the overarching theme of my show(s)? 
  • How do I brand my program and get beyond ad-hoc webinars?
  • How do I optimize my webinars and get feedback from my audience? 

Join and watch TwentyThree's weekly Wednesday Webinar series and get the answers to some of these questions and more.