The rise in prominence of remote working has had more than just an effect on internal business operations. External communications strategies have also had to adapt to people’s new ways of working. For example, holding a press conference in a single location and expecting all the journalists you want to engage to travel to that venue seems outdated now.
Even in 2019, 29% of companies that used webinars for marketing were hosting between 50 and 150 events a year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and social distancing measures in place since then, even that figure seems modest now. In fact, MarketWatch expects the global webinar market to reach 800 million by 2023, a rise of more than 250 million since 2015.
That’s why external comms embraced the webinar and its many benefits, providing virtual and hybrid briefings for the press, shareholders, customers and other stakeholders. However, now there is a concern that this new way of working could lead to what some people are branding ‘webinar fatigue’.
With webinars becoming an ever more present part of our external comms package, do we really need to beware of webinar fatigue, or is it just a myth? This article offers practical advice to keep your webinar audience engaged and ready to consume your message.
The benefits of webinars for external communication
Webinars have revolutionised the way companies talk to external stakeholders. Here are some of the major benefits:
- You increase the reach of your message by allowing your audience to attend from wherever they are based. They don’t have to incur transport and accommodation costs, and they only have to clear a window for the actual meeting itself, rather than having to factor in travel time. When it is easier and more convenient to attend, people will be more likely to do so.
- Webinars also allow you to expand into new territories with low risk. Rather than sending an executive team on a tour of another continent, for example, they can engage the audience from the office and get a better understanding of whether it would be worth travelling in the future to meet in person.
- Your company can save on travel and accommodation expenses for staff and speakers, as well as the costs of hiring a huge conference hall and providing refreshments.
- For ESG-conscious companies, the reduction in travel shows a commitment to climate action.
- Webinars are ideal for gaining leads. 73% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers say webinars bring them high-quality leads.
Is webinar fatigue a myth?
‘Webinar fatigue’ is a phrase used by some people to describe the feeling that some viewers experience after attending numerous video meetings and webinars. It usually refers to a malaise at the thought of attending more online events. But is this the fault of the webinar itself?
If you spend time in uninspiring webinars, of course, you will begin to tire of them and dread the next one. Just like an unsatisfactory face-to-face in-person meeting would lead to similar outcomes relating to in-person events. However, if you are engaged, interested and gain value from attending a webinar, you are more likely to welcome the idea of more webinars.
Webinar fatigue is a myth because not all webinars cause it. It is more accurately described as ‘disappointing meeting’ fatigue.
The problem is that some webinars are unengaging and disorganised, or they are simply not tailored to an online audience whose needs are different from an in-person crowd. It is not enough to simply open a standard video conferencing program, invite attendees and start talking. Professional and engaging webinars take planning and thought to ensure they keep their audience interested in them and, therefore, the message they are trying to convey. It is important you have an awareness about webinar fatigue being related to the product and the presentation, not the platform or the medium.
Your virtual meetings need to feel professional and special so that they are not a chore to attend, but instead create a valuable experience for your target audience. This is how you prevent attendees from experiencing the feeling that has been branded as webinar fatigue.
The 9 steps to engage your audience and avoid webinar fatigue
1. Pick the right time for your event
The right timing is key for engagement and combating fatigue. There are factors to consider, such as whether there are other similar events happening on the same day. If they are aimed at some of the same people, those attendees might have to hop from one webinar straight into another, which can fuel fatigue.
In addition, if you have key attendees in another timezone, you don’t want to make them wake too early or stay up too late to hear your message. And then there are factors like not holding the webinar late on a Friday afternoon, when people are thinking about stopping work for the weekend and will not appreciate having to concentrate on your event before they can do that.
It needs to be a comfortable experience for attendees if they are going to enjoy it.
2. Connect with your audience
Audiences want value. They are not obliged to sit at their digital device and consume your messaging; you have to give them a reason to want to listen.
Understand who your audience is, what value you want them to take away with them and how you want them to interact with your company. Whether it is a shareholder engagement event or a press conference for industry journalists, you should tailor your webinar content to that audience specifically. Think about what they are interested in and cut out any information that is not relevant to the stakeholders in attendance.
If everything you present is relevant, you will make that connection and retain engagement more easily.
3. Use storytelling
Humans have told stories to each other for centuries. There are cave paintings from 30,000BC that depict rituals and hunting stories. This is because we love to hear stories. They capture our imagination and help us to make sense of our world.
Businesses should leverage the power of storytelling in their webinars because that is how you enrapture the audience, guide them through the points you want them to hear and leave them happy with the information they received. You can have your audience imagine the ‘what ifs’ that your product solves in your story, weave in your brand story and sell without it sounding like a sales pitch.
Effective webinars take their viewers on a journey that eradicates the risk of webinar fatigue.
4. Improve broadcasting quality
One of the reasons people invented the concept of webinar fatigue was as a reaction to confusing video conferences. This was happening in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown when some companies had only just moved online; the speaker image flicked between multiple attendees whenever someone coughed, and no one knew where the mute button was.
To prevent such frustrating experiences at your webinars, you can use a professional platform like Company Webcast. This enables you to create a studio-grade online broadcast with subtitles, graphics, high-quality vision and sound, and slick presentation tools. With a professional look, you instantly improve the experience for attendees and allow them to focus on listening to what you have to say.
5. Share helpful resources
With a webinar, you can send attendees all the resources you mention directly to them as the event happens. They have them stored in their inbox, ready to use when they need them. They don’t have to write them down and look them up later; they hear about the benefits of these resources and instantly gain access, receiving real value for their time.
6. Make your slides simple
Your presenter and your slideshow are two separate factors for the success of your webinar. They should complement each other, not distract from each other. If your slides are cluttered, your audience will spend the time they are on screen trying to decipher them and not listening to your webinar host or hosts.
Slides should illustrate the presenter’s point and give a visual representation of the key points. You should not use large amounts of text, and you certainly shouldn’t just duplicate the presenter’s script — that would be an unnecessary detail that will distract from what is important. Too much writing makes for a boring presentation and can make your attendees switch off.
7. Include different types of media
Using a variety of media helps to hold the interest of your audience. Simply showing graph after graph can become tedious, but showing a graph, then a video, then an infographic, then a photograph keeps it interesting for the eye and maintains engagement.
8. Light it up with humour
Using humour can be effective in maintaining the thrall of the audience. Laughter is one of the universals in life, as it is a release and a communal experience. It improves the mood and keeps you engaged with the person delivering the humour. These are all great qualities if you want to combat webinar fatigue and increase audience engagement.
A well-placed and pitched joke here and there certainly adds to the experience for the audience, but you do need to be careful. The jokes you use must be appropriate for the audience in terms of their age, background and beliefs. If you are trying to sell products or promote your business, you don’t want to risk alienating those in attendance.
Similarly, you should remember that your brand can come across as jovial, but must never be the butt of the joke. British businessman Gerald Ratner discovered this to his peril in 1991 when he jokingly told a conference of the Institute of Directors that his jewellery company’s products were “total crap”. Ratners Group lost £500 million from its value following the fallout of the speech.
9. Make it interactive
An engaging webinar is not a monologue but a conversation. One way to achieve this is by making the most of the interactive features of a webinar platform, such as Company Webcast. Rather than attendees sitting passively as the presenter talks, you can take the opportunity to set up polls for attendees to vote on. You can ask questions relating to the topic or subject of the event and then update the audience with the results later on.
Attendees can also submit questions that the presenters can answer, allowing them to dig deeper and gain even more insight from the event. If they feel an active part of the meeting, they will be more likely to enjoy it.
How to know if fatigue affects your audience?
You can tell if your audience is feeling fatigued by the webinar when they start to leave the event. Remember, using a webinar as an external communication tool is not the issue — it is the way a webinar is developed and presented. If you find you are losing audience members, you need to review your presentation and try to work out why people are not engaging with it.
How many days in advance should you announce a webinar?
You need to give people enough warning about your webinar so that their calendar does not get filled up in advance. At least two weeks is a good timescale to announce your event. Any more and they might sign up and forget about it. Any less and they could have too much on their plate. Send out an initial email and then retarget those who have not responded a week ahead of the event to remind them that it is happening.
Should you follow up after the event?
Following up after a webinar helps you work on those leads you generated with the event. They have had time to go away and think about what they saw and consider your proposal so it makes sense to talk to them again. You can also gain valuable feedback on your virtual event so you can tweak it and improve it further.
Webinar fatigue is a phrase that you will hear being used, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Webinars are a hugely popular and beneficial tool for businesses in their external communications. However, bad web-based meetings are an issue. They disappoint and irritate viewers, something which is obviously damaging for the host brand.
Combating webinar fatigue is actually a question of improving your audience’s experience and increasing the appeal and value of your webinars. If you deliver an excellent presentation and include your attendees in it, no one will be fatigued by your webinar.
Company Webcast’s high-end webinar solution is trusted by major corporations who want to look and sound professional and take advantage of interactive features that bring the event to life. Request a demo of Company Webcast today.