9 Action Items From SIPA Annual 2018

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When putting on a webinar, we may have a tendency to be satisfied with a great speaker, valuable content and knowledge that the audience will really benefit from this. Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live and virtual events, Education Week, would say that one thing is missing from that formula that directly affects how many people will attend—a strong title.

In his session on webinars at SIPA Annual 2018 last week—Best Practices in Webinar Production: a Three-Year Longitudinal Look at What Works and What Doesn't—Cibellis told a packed room about his title wave theory. While finding the right timing for your audience is important, he admitted, "it's the content that matters. And the title is the most important aspect of that content. We recommend to our advertisers to come up with a really good 5-8 word title. 'Think search, keywords.'

"Then in your webinar descriptions use lots of calls to action and tell why people should attend... But don't promise something you can't deliver on. Find engaging speakers. They must be articulate and engaging even if they're really knowledgeable and have expertise."

Here are 8 more takeaways from what certainly was a conference to remember:

Create conditions for success. "You need your staff to collaborate to create products that can grow platforms," said Tim Hartman, CEO of Government Executive Media Group. "Create a culture to build trust and collaboration, and breaking down silos... Think ambitious experiments and trust each other. If you look around and don't see that, you have a problem."

Leave ample time for Q&A. In that same webinar session, Hyon-Young Kim, webinar producer for Education Week, advised taking polls and using video during webinars. "Get creative with the chat window," she said. "If you see a lot of networking going on, you can interact directly and elicit responses. Also leave ample time for Q&A. One advertiser likes to pause for short, 5-minute question breaks during the webinar to keep everyone engaged. Use a Twitter hashtag and get the conversation started before, and then continue the conversation after."

Don't be afraid to experiment. "We have a monthly meeting that involves myself, the social media manager, content manager and art director," said Lani Harac, director of content for School Family Media. They'll look at what content—and graphics—has performed really well. "We'll keep an eye on long-term trends and if we have any dips, we know that we have to do something [different]. If someone is feeling resistant, we say just give it a try. There's no point of no return for us."

Define your mission. Asked in a session about creating a high-performance culture, what's foremost, mission or vision, Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, said that, "For different people in the organization, answers will be different. Knowing what your mission is is critical. Understanding the mission [allows you to] create a vision. The mission tells you where you're going. It gives you a roadmap, and then it's about making people believe you can get there. They're oddly intertwined. You can't say this one is first, this one second and this one third.

Get diversity in the room. In that same session, Brian Crotty, CEO and president of OPIS by IHS Markit, said that "collaboration is always better than non-collaboration. And diverse collaboration is better than having the same 10 guys in a room." Crotty compared what's happening in music to the publishing industry. "You'll have a country woman singer with a rapper, and the music is coming together really well. I see the same thing in business with old and young and other diverse [groups], and the conversation is even better."

Search carefully for what you can monetize. David Foster, CEO of BVR, talked about leveraging data in his keynote on data monetization. He pointed to Getty Images, which now monetizes the search questions they get because 90% of visitors are not coming to license photography—they only want to look at beautiful pictures. He said that value can be added to data in four areas: extraction, refinement, delivery and products. "Two data points is an article, three is a book, and four is a database."

Know your audience. "It's all about the readers," said Joe McEntee, associate director for IOP Publishing. "We think we know them inside out but we don't really know them in as much detail as we think we do. You [most likely have a] diverse reading base. There's a dichotomy between readers who want to explore to the full extent and readers who want to just dive in and sample. The lesson is to keep talking to those readers." They also run sponsored content. "You have to move on the opportunities as they arrive."

Look for people who can collaborate. "I love that I now start with a clean sheet of paper," Robin Crumby, co-founder and managing director of Novatum Group (and formerly Melcrum), said. "In order to be successful in the workplace today, we can't just be good at [one] job; we need a range of skills and to work as part of teams and collaborate."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…