Encourage Interactivity and Keep 'Always on,' Webinar Report Says

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According to ON24's Webinar Benchmarks Report, the average webinar in 2018 was 58 minutes long—two minutes longer than in 2017. But with all the multitasking that takes place today, engagement and interactivity are crucial.

"Encouragingly, 69% [of respondents] claim they build webinars with interactivity in mind, such as allowing for breaks for attendees to respond to polls or responding to chat questions," the report said. "But there's certainly room for improvement, as less than a third say their webinars are 'very' (7%) or 'moderately' (24%) interactive. On average, respondents rate the interactivity of their webinars as 3.13 on a five-point scale."

One solution offered by the report is to break up your webinar into smaller increments—possibly four 10-minute sections, each with a pause built in. This could give participants the space to reflect on what they've learned and take the time—or cue—to interact. Polls could also keep that engagement up, especially with real-time results.

Here are more takeaways from the survey:

Integrate video features. This has been one of the biggest increases. In 2018, 38% of webinars featured some type of video, a 72% year-over-year increase. The most popular use case for video is product demos (61%), followed by live events (41%) and panel discussions (31%). "Over half of those surveyed say they use both live and on-demand video, while 44% incorporate simulive features, i.e. recording beforehand, but interacting live during the webinar."

Make sure your webinar content is always available. Always-on viewing times continue to grow year-over-year. This year, the average viewing time has increased from 44 to 47 minutes, reflecting the popularity of always-on content. "Attendees are accessing more content in an always-on fashion to fit it around their schedules. While keeping content fresh is important, don't remove access to your webinar too soon. Instead, use that time to drive views even after the event is over—and plug other webinars to encourage Netflix-style content binging."

Encourage questions and poll responses. Six in ten respondents using webinars for continuing education ensure attendees are paying attention to the course material, while 44% issue polls throughout the course. A similar proportion requires questions through the Q&A widget. The questions and answers widget again emerged as the most popular tool to drive audience interaction, used in 81% of all webinars. Next comes resources for download (69%), surveys (36%), social (25%), polling (22%) and group chat (10%).

Personalize when possible. Two-thirds of respondents personalize webinars to their audience and 35% produce one-to-one webinars for targeted accounts. Nearly nine in ten respondents reach out to multiple audiences with a single webinar. The degree and types of personalization vary, from targeting specific verticals (62%) to sharing best practices (50%) to giving product demonstrations (42%).

Promote and hold mid-week. Two-thirds of registrations come from promotional emails sent on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. (Though lately I've read where a weekend email is worth a try.) Similarly, the best days to hold webinars are Wednesday and Thursday with Tuesday slightly behind.

Hold in the middle of the day. The best time to run a webinar is 2 pm Eastern as it avoids most conflicts on both coasts. Other times to consider are 10 am (better for Europe) and noon. Remember that the optimal time to run webinars depends on where your audience resides so don't be afraid to experiment.

Start promotions early and continue up to the event. The majority of registrants (54%) sign up for a webinar at least eight days before the event. Early registrants, who enroll at least 15 days before the event, now account for 28% of their sample—a four-point increase over 2017. The proportion of late registrants, i.e. those signing up on the day of the event, has halved since 2017, from 23% to 11%. But with more people signing up earlier, ON24 emphasizes that promotional emails need to be frequent and shouldn't just be reminders. They can include supporting content and a sneak preview perhaps. Conversion rates from registration to attendance are always a challenge. ON24 says a "good" conversion measure is to get 35-45% of registered attendees to show up to a live webinar.

Share "the right data" with other teams. Six in ten respondents (63%) claim they can pass webinar insights to sales very or quite fast (4 or 5 on a five-point scale). Only 11% of those surveyed say they're slow at passing these insights to sales. "An important stage of the post-webinar process is making sure that the right information is delivered to sales and the performance of the webinar is evaluated. Sharing data throughout the organization is not enough though, you need to ensure that the right data reaches the right teams, and insights are acted upon."

Download the full report here.

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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…