What Is A Webinar & How Do They Work? [Beginner Guide]

By Aditya Sheth, May 22, 2020

What is a webinar

With a global pandemic taking the world by storm and forcing people to work from home, webinars have seen a resurgence in popularity and usage across the globe.

In the last decade (especially in the last few months) webinars have become a staple for educating students and potential customers, lead generation for your business and captivating a large online audience.

If you’re new to webinars, you’re probably asking yourself…

In this guide, I’ll be giving you a crash course on what is a webinar, how you can create a webinar and tons of real-world examples to answer all your webinar-related questions!

Let’s get started.

 

What is a Webinar? Webinar Definition:

According to the Merriam-Webster, a webinar (or web seminar) is “a live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments.”

On the same note, you might be wondering, “well, what is a seminar?” Seminar definition: “a meeting for giving and discussing information.”

Webinars are events, video presentations, workshops, seminars, training sessions or classroom lectures hosted online and delivered using a webinar conferencing software.

What makes webinars stand out is they’re most often a two-way form of communication wherein the attendees and presenters give, receive and share information with each other, in real time.

A webinar is different from a webcast. Webcasts are pre-recorded sessions that are broadcast online (TV or YouTube for example). Webinars on the other hand are primarily live sessions that allow real-time interactivity between the presenter and attendees.

For example, here’s a live webinar on the Venngage blog about “Infographic design” that runs every day:

What is a webinar

Hosting webinars has plenty of uses and benefits, but before we dive into creating a webinar it’s important to understand how and why webinars work in the first place.

 

How Does a Webinar Work?

As I said earlier, webinars are interactive online sessions where presenters and attendees can engage in two-way communication as and when they happen.

Webinars benefit presenters as they allow them to share documents of all kinds including but not limited to voice notes, videos, presentations and other documents, etc with your attendees right within the online webinar.  

Webinars have plenty of uses (often business-related) but the most important and biggest use for webinars is to educate and engage an audience (both large and small).

Your audience could be anyone from new or existing customers, industry peers or even students in your classroom.

This means webinars are useful in pretty much any industry where communicating with your audience is a key factor in your personal or professional success.

Webinars can also help you with all of the following: 

  • Educate your audience about your business and offerings.
  • Build authority in your industry or niche.
  • Demonstrate your product and it’s features to customers. 
  • Onboard new customers to your product. 
  • Training both new and existing employees. 
  • Generating leads for your business. 

For example, in the marketing world  — webinars are primarily used for lead generation. 

Here’s an example of a webinar Venngage conducted to do help our current customers visualize their ideas and generate qualified leads for potential customers:

Growth By Content Webinar Banner

 

If you’re a communication professional looking for a way to effectively engage with your teams and customers, I highly recommend this webinar.

If you’re new to webinars — a great way to familiarize yourself is to attend other webinars and take notes (more on this later).

The online webinar above was recorded live the first time and now lives as a recording on our website driving new leads on a daily basis.

This makes webinars “set it and forget it” lead generation machines. Pretty cool right?

Another way marketers use online webinars is to build authority, credibility and position your company as an expert in your industry. Drift’s approach to thought-leadership webinars is a prime example:

What is a webinarSource

Drift leverages webinars for multiple purposes ranging from engaging new and current customers, establishing credibility in the industry as well as collaborating with other SaaS companies.

All of this in turn helps Drift position themselves as a subject matter expert in the SaaS industry.

Webinars are also used extensively in online education or eLearning. As an educator, your ability to reach students expands dramatically allowing you to teach a lot more students from the comfort of your own home.

Students don’t need to travel and with the current crisis that’s forced everyone to stay home, online webinars can be the most important learning tool in a teachers arsenal.

Here’s an example of how HBR approaches webinars for education:

What is a webinarSource

After reading this guide in its entirety, you’ll have a better understanding on how to replicate their approach to webinars for your own institution or classroom.

 

Why Are Webinars Effective?

What makes webinars effective when compared to physical events or workshops is that with webinars, you don’t need to rent out a physical location or deal with ensuing logistics that arise from hosting in-person events.

With a plethora of webinar pros (vs physical events), rich feature-sets, support for multiple content types, the possibilities are essentially endless. 

Advantages of Webinars

Since webinars are online events, they’re far more convenient for both the presenter and attendee as you can host and attend webinars right from the comfort of your office (or home).

So whether it’s presenting to a small group or a large group of 100+ attendees, webinars work in both these scenarios. 

Webinars can be pre-recorded and played at any time for participants to attend at their own time. This makes webinars easier to set up, repurpose and budget-friendly compared to in-person events.

What is a webinar

 

Offline events have their own merits, but with live webinars you don’t need to spend time agonizing over venue rentals, food, beverages or making sure your presentation equipment works. 

People have used webinars creatively for education, marketing, sales, branding, human resources, user onboarding, etc. So when it comes to what you can do with webinars: the sky’s the limit.

A lot of webinar tools come with interactive whiteboards, surveys and polls, live-chat features which make them far more personalized, engaging and interactive for your audience.

These are just some of the reasons as to why webinars have been exploding in popularity in recent times. 

Webinar Formats

Webinars come with tons of customizable features as well as support various content formats such as:

  1. Live Video: the most common type of webinar. Live webinars tend to garner the most  engagement.
  2. Pre-recorded: most webinars are live, but you can always record a live webinar and future participants can register for them as they please. Most Ideal for evergreen topics.
  3. Text: Most webinars tools come equipped with text chat features. Ask and answer your audiences’ questions, in real time.
  4. Whiteboard: used to draw out and explain important concepts.
  5. Surveys and polls: want to keep your audience engaged? Use surveys and polls to get attendees to answer questions and organize it all one place.
  6. Slide deck: the most common webinar content format.

If you prefer to keep things simple for your first webinar, just make a slide deck presentation. Here’s an example of a webinar presentation you can customize now:

What is a webinar

 

Frankly, the key to an engaging webinar is the slide deck presentation itself.

Once you learn how to make a great webinar presentation, you can always kick things up a notch by experimenting with different webinar tools as well as whiteboards, polls, surveys, etc.

 

What Are the Different Types of Webinars?

Venngage has a fair amount of experience when it comes to participating and hosting webinars for marketing, lead generation and joint collaborations.

But that’s not their only use. Here’s just some ways you can harness the power of webinars:

Webinars for marketing, lead generation and partnerships

Marketing is an area where webinars can bring the most value and return on investment for a business in terms of qualified leads generated.

Companies like Drift, ConvertKit, G2, etc have successfully leveraged webinars to scale their lead generation and in turn, increase revenue. If webinars worked for them, it can work for you too. 

Our friends at G2 run regular webinars on various topics with the goal of generating leads and driving registrations for their software:

What is a webinarSource

G2 covers a wide variety of topics in their webinars. Not only that, joint webinars are the perfect way to team up with other companies and subject matter experts in your industry. 

But how does this help me? 

Conducting joint webinars comes with a few perks. Here are two:

  1. Partnering with other companies gives you access to their audience. They could even be potential customers who would otherwise be oblivious about you. 
  2. Collaborating with other companies adds credibility and authority to your content establishing you as a thought leader in your industry.

At Venngage, we use webinars to educate and help our audience and lead generation becomes a natural by-product of this goal:

What is a webinar

 

With this webinar our goal was simple: helping businesses navigate this crisis by outlining how they can grow using content marketing (like we have).

Webinars can also be the perfect replacement for in-person/physical events. With physical event cancellations and the world being forced to work from home — companies are slowly transitioning from hosting physical events to events hosted virtually (with webinars).

Wishpond for example opted for a virtual events to make it easier for participants and attendees to make it for the event event even from home:

What is a webinarSource

Pro Tip: If you provide massive value to your audience in your webinars, chances are you won’t even need to promote your product. Help your audience with whatever it is they’re struggling with, and they’ll not only become your customer but also a raving fan.

Webinars for Education

Webinars have exploded in popularity in the last few years as a powerful learning tool, not only for marketers but also for schools and universities.

For educators, it’s the best to reach and engage millions of students without having them come into classrooms or spend money on travelling. Students can tune in from the comfort of their homes.

This is where using whiteboards, surveys, polls and pre-recorded webinars come in handy to make sessions more interactive, engaging and replayable.

And the current crisis, colleges and universities have transitioned from on-campus to distance learning. In this current environment, the usage of webinars as a learning tool has only exploded in popularity.

My alma mater, Seneca uses educational webinars for all occasions — from educating potential students about Seneca to onboarding new students in their first week on campus and also virtual open houses: 

What is a webinarSource

If you’re a college or university trying to onboard incoming students for the new semester (either online or on-campus), using webinars is an absolute no-brainer. Check out this student onboarding webinar template:

What is a webinar

 

However, If you’re a professor looking to experiment with webinars as a learning device — here’s an example of a webinar presentation template you can customize for your next eLearning webinar:

What is a webinar

 

Pro Tip: Want to really push your webinar into the stratosphere? Invite external educators and subject matter experts to collaborate with you on your next webinar.

Webinars for Product Demos

Companies have started adopting webinars for product demos to strategically sell their products and build a deeper relationship with prospective customers.

But when is the ideal time to start using webinars for product demos? The answer: Now!

Today’s buyers are digitally-savvy, constantly researching and comparing competing products to make the best buying decision. 

A product demo webinar gives you a greater chance of attracting your ideal buyer’s interest and helps them learn about your product inside out. 

It’s also a unique opportunity for your company to showcase real case studies of your current users, how they’ve used your product successfully, and how your ideal buyer too, can achieve the same results.

A good example of product demo webinars comes from OroCommerce, the B2B eCommerce platform. Every time they release a major product update they hold product demos going through the benefits of every new feature.

When presenting a live webinar that targets your audience’s pain points, strategically tie in your product into your presentation and how it helps your attendees solve their burning problems. 

This way you not only educate your audience but also pique their interest to check out your product or service and even purchase it. Make sure to spend some time answering questions during the webinar to remove any objections about your product.

Here’s an example of a product demo webinar presentation you can use to demonstrate your own products or services:

What is a webinar

 

Pro Tip: Product demonstration webinars allow you to gather crucial customer feedback by asking questions and use it to improve your product. If you’re a startup, start conducting regular webinars to gather crucial feedback to make a better product.

Webinars for Employee Training

Webinar tools can double as meeting software and training tools for training both new and existing employees. 

This is especially useful if you’re communicating with a remote team. Or even a team that’s too big to sit in one room together.

What is a webinar

 

You can start by including webinars in your onboarding materials or conduct a webinar-esque orientation where you outline your company’s expectations, vision, mission and address questions your new hires might have. 

They can also be used to showcase your company’s culture and how it will matter to your new recruits. 

Webinars are the perfect tool for educating your employees on niche but important topics like productivity, workplace diversity, safety, employee engagement, etc.

Want your next company-wide webinar to cover the topic of workplace accessibility? Here’s a presentation you can use for your next webinar:

What is a webinar

 

Webinars for User Onboarding and Retention

If you’re a Software as a service (SaaS) company like us, you know how important customer onboarding and retention is for the bottom line of your business.

You may already have onboarding flows in your product, but it’s never a bad idea to explain to your new customers how your product works by inviting them to a user onboarding webinar.

With your user onboarding webinar, make sure you cover the most important aspects of your products, keep the learning curve as low as possible and invite users to ask questions while you’re presenting.

What is a webinar

 

Saas company Drift takes the cake with their ingenious use of webinars (especially the third one) to onboard new customers:

What is a webinarSource

Once you sign up for Drift, they send you an email with a webinar-style video tutorial on how to get started with Drift. Genius.

Pro Tip: It’s 5x more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain an existing one. Use tools like onboarding emails, push notifications, webinars, etc. to retain your new customers so they stick around, upgrade to your paid plans and spread the word about you.

 

How to Create and Host a Webinar?

Now you might be wondering, “all this information is gold, but how do I create my own webinars?” 

If it’s your first time creating a webinar, you might be nervous. Overwhelmed too. But creating webinars isn’t as complicated as you think.

It starts with picking the right webinar hosting tools and once you do that, following a simple five step webinar creation process that will make you a webinar pro in no time:

Pick the Best Webinar Tool to Host Your Webinar:

There are plenty of free, paid as well as ad-supported webinar tools available in the market. And most of these webinar hosting tools come with similar features. 

Picking a webinar tool that’s right for you comes down to your business goals, budget as well as what you value in a webinar tool. 

Here are some webinar tools to help you get started: 

  1. WebinarJam (paid): Starts at 499$/year and includes features such as live chat and automated recordings.
  2. WebinarNinja (paid): Starts at 39$/month for upto 100 attendees. It also comes with a free 14-day trial so you can take their for a test drive.
  3. ON24 (free trial): Comes with powerful attendee, reporting and marketing features. Integrates with plenty of other tools, but every integration is priced.
  4. Zoom (freemium): The most well-known online meeting tool also doubles as a webinar tool. Starts with a free plan and offers paid business plans with robust features.
  5. Zoho Meetings (paid): Starts at 15$ for 25 attendees. You can also host up to 250 attendees for just 63$/month.

Want to dig deeper? Our friends at G2 have reviewed every webinar tool under the sun to help you make the right buying decision for your personal and business needs.

Create Your Own Webinar in Five Steps:

Once you’ve spent the time on picking the right webinar hosting tool, onto better things: creating your first webinar!

Creating your first webinar can be overwhelming but I’ll outline the exact steps you need to follow to make your first webinar a roaring success. Here they are:

1. Identifying the Goal of Your Webinar

Webinars have many uses and by extension, webinars also help you accomplish different goals. 

Start by asking yourself, “What’s my goal with this webinar?” What are you trying to achieve?

  1. Is it generating more leads for your sales team?
  2. Is it educating your students studying from home?
  3. Is it selling an idea or concept to potential customers?

Once you’ve identified the primary goal of your webinar, think about what your Key-performance indicators (KPIs) would be to determine the success of your webinar. 

After determining the goals and accompanying KPIs, make sure everything you do: be it creating your webinar content, promoting it, etc ties back to this primary goal.

If the goal of your webinar is to teach potential clients motivation 101, your best bet would be a purely educational and non-salesy presentation:

What is a webinar

 

Pro Tip: Above all else, put your audience first. What are their pain points? What kind of content do they care about? How can you help them? If you tailor your webinar to your audience’s needs and target their pain points, success is imminent.

2. Attend Other Webinars

The best way to plan, create and host a webinar successfully is to scope out the competition.

Look at your industry and start researching about companies that are successfully using webinars to educate or sell to their audience. What can you do differently or do better?

Can you better interact with your audience? Can you ask better questions? Can you improve the content of your webinar? Be curious and take notes whenever you can.

Once you attend a few webinars, you’ll have a general understanding of which webinars are hits and which are misses. All that’s left is to emulate webinars that were a roaring success.

3. Plan and Outline Your Content

In this step, you’ll start putting together your webinar outline and lay down the groundwork i,e. Invite your attendees, plan your event logistics and decide on a webinar promotion strategy.

Creating an outline for your webinar content is easy if you already have a goal in mind. 

For example, if the goal is to educate new users on how to create an infographic using Venngage, here’s what an outline might look like:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is an infographic?
  3. Use cases for an infographic
  4. How to make an infographic?
  5. How companies use infographics

A webinar outline can help you stay focused on the topics your audience cares about (based on research) and prevent you from getting side-tracked. 

The best part? You will end up a with an end product like this webinar presentation:

What is a webinar

 

Pro Tip: Like any presentation, you need to practise and rehearse for your webinar beforehand. This is even more important if you’re presenting to a large crowd online many of which could be potential customers. First impressions are everything, as they say.

4. Design Your Webinar Slides

Once you’ve identified the contents of your webinar, time to start designing the actual webinar presentation! 

To start off, hop onto Venngage and pick a presentation template you like. We’ve got 100s of templates for all occasions and types ranging from professional to quirky:

What is a webinar

Starting from a blank presentation is hard. Trust me, I’ve tried. So pick a presentation template you like, you can customize it to your hearts content anyway.

Start playing around with the template, editing various elements like fonts, headers as well as tinkering with the presentation layout.

If you’re subscribed to our business plan, you even have the option to use MyBrand Kit for automatically importing your brand colours, logos and fonts into your designs:

What is a webinar

Can’t do it all alone? Bring on your team to edit your presentations and bring your webinar to life! Turn on team collaboration (business plan only):

What is a webinar

 

Incorporate some unique presentation ideas and layouts into your webinar. Once you’ve put all the final touches, export or download your presentation:

What is a webinar

The real kicker? Venngage’s presentation maker can export your presentation in a .pptx format for importing right within Microsoft Powerpoint. Pretty cool right? 

If you’d rather keep things simple, you can even present your webinar from right within Venngage using our presenter view feature.

And that’s it — once you’ve made an engaging presentation, prepared your speaking notes, and tested your webinar you’re officially ready to present your webinar in front of a live audience! 

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to collect qualitative feedback from your audience after the webinar! A tool like Paperform can help you collect critical feedback from attendees and improve your future webinars.

5. Marketing (or Promoting) Your Webinar

You’ve front loaded the most important work: planning your webinar, setting up webinar tools, goal setting, competitor research, etc.

But unless you promote your webinar, nobody will know how valuable it will be for them. So the last and final piece of the puzzle is webinar marketing.

Webinar marketing isn’t complicated, all it takes is creative posters, social media visuals as well as making event timelines informing attendees about the agenda of the event using well-crafted social media content.

Here’s an example of a virtual event poster template you can edit and download (paid plan only) right now:

What is a webinar

 

Or incorporate email marketing into your webinar promotion by sending a well-thought out email to your email list inviting them to your webinar: 

What is a webinar

 

Promoting your webinars on different social media networks is also . Head over to our templates page and you’ll find a huge collection of eye-catching for every social network (all sized to the right dimensions).

Need to promote your next non-profit webinar on Instagram? But don’t want to use boring stock images? We’ve got you covered:

What is a webinar

 

Creating, customizing and sharing promotional materials for your next webinar is intuitive and effortless with Venngage.

With access to 1000+ professional templates, an ever-growing collection of icons and illustrations (all of which are free), features like BrandKit and real-time team collaboration:

What is a webinar

 

If you’ve been looking for a one-stop shop to design your next webinar and promote it using event posters, banners, social media graphics, email newsletters  — sign up for Venngage today!

 

Conclusion

Now you know the basics on everything from what’s a webinar, how to make a webinar and the webinar conferencing softwares you will need to host a webinar.

If you’re ready to start creating webinars that educate and captivate your audience regardless of industry or profession, make sure you keep the following webinar hosting best practises in mind:

  • Pick the right webinar tool. This comes down to your budget, goals as well as features you want in your webinar hosting software.
  • Identify your goal. What are you trying to achieve with your webinar? What content does your audience care about? What are their pain points? Clarity on your goals is crucial above anything else.
  • Snoop on your competitors. How are other companies leveraging webinars? How are their webinars structured? Take notes and think about what you can do differently or better with your webinars.
  • Promote your webinar. You’ve worked days, weeks (or months) creating an awesome webinar. Let the world know about it! 

Did you enjoy this in-depth guide on webinars? What was your favourite tip? What are you struggling with? Drop them in the comments below, and let’s talk about it! 

Want to brush up your presentation skills? Learn how to summarize information and create engaging presentations. Your audience will thank you for it.

About Aditya Sheth

Aditya Sheth is a Content Marketer at Venngage. When he's not busy writing informative content or brainstorming growth experiments you can find him reading nonfiction, listening to rap or exploring memes on the internet. Find him on Twitter!