You’ve decided to have a webinar: an online workshop, seminar, or panel discussion that users can experience in real time. Since it’s online, you don’t have to worry about accommodations for out of town attendees, or the maximum capacity of an auditorium. Your audience is global and potentially unlimited. But you do still need to worry about attendance. Just because anyone CAN come, doesn’t mean they will. What can you do to promote your webinar effectively—and what shouldn’t you do? Here’s an essential checklist.

  • Choose the Right Topic. In creating a webinar, your first step is to determine what it will be about. If you want to attract an audience, you need to choose a topic that people are interested in. Attending a webinar is an active experience. Attendees need to register and give up an hour or two of their regular lives, in order to hear what you have to say. Your topic needs to be able to entice your audience to do that. One method is using SEO. What are the topics that your audience is searching for? That’s what they’re interested in. If you can build a webinar around one of those topics, not only will you be appealing to your target audience, you’ll also be easier to find, due to your use of popular keywords.
    What NOT to Do: Don’t pander. Choose a topic that will appeal to your audience, but don’t feel the need to dress it up and make it “trendy.” You’ll sound patronizing and end up turning people off.
  • Set Attendance Goals. How many people do you want to show up at your webinar, ideally? Set a goal, then work towards it. This way, you know how you’re doing as the registration period progresses. You’ll know if you need to step up your game, put on a final burst during the last weeks and days, or change promotion tactics entirely. And keep in mind that attendance for a webinar is typically only 25% of registration, so whatever your attendance goal is, your registration goal should be four times as much.
    What NOT to Do: Don’t set a totally unrealistic attendance goal. It should be ambitious, but still attainable. Base the number on how much traffic your site normally gets, how large your pool of leads/potential customers is, and how many attendees other webinars get, for companies of similar size, in the same field.
  • Add Incentives. Your topic alone might not be enough to bring in attendees. You need to do more to encourage registration. Try a giveaway. All attendees are entered into a drawing to win some product or service for your company—something of value, that people will be interested in getting/winning. You can also offer a discount on your products or services to all attendees.
    What NOT to Do: Don’t plan any contest or giveaway without running it by your legal team first.
  • Have an Endgame. A webinar is a marketing tool, which makes it a means to an end. You may have hundreds of people in attendance, but what are you going to do with them? Attendance was free, and the event cost you money to put on and promote. The ultimate payoff needs to make that investment worthwhile. Is your goal to get people to opt in or sign up for a program or service you’re offering? Know what your ultimate goals are, and make sure that, during promotion, in the webinar itself, and in the weeks following, you’re working towards that goal.
    What NOT to Do: Don’t have a vague goal like, “Generate more leads,” or “Increase sales.” The more specific you are, the better you’ll be able to gauge your results.

These are just a few of the things to keep in mind when planning your webinar. The most important thing you can do to boost attendance is to promote it. Send out e-mails, write blogs, post on social media… do everything you can to get the word out. From the time you announce it until the time it happens, your webinar is the most important thing in your company. Make sure everyone who interacts with your brand, knows about the webinar.