Essential Webinar Advice from Charity Digital

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There are several different models and formats for successful Webinar Delivery, and Charity Digital have hit a rare vein of form with their regular series of Webinars. We previously posted the excellent interview with James Harley of Drewry who talked us through their own expert-led briefings. Charity Digital run a great series of Webinars mixing both in-house and sponsored presenters.

 

We shared in the wisdom of CEO Jonathan Chevalier, Marketing Manager Chris Hall, Events Manager Mimi Morrill and Digital Lead Siv Ananthakumar.


The Importance of Webinar Planning

We all know the adage about prior planning preparation, and it’s rarely more important than for webinars - to ensure a smooth and consistent flow of delivery against the allotted time slot. Charity Digital start up to six months in advance of a scheduled webinar - to ensure that the introduction, presentation, visual stimuli, references, and question and answer elements are of the very highest quality, and that the focus and format of delivery best matches their now established format.

 

They will typically try to do a dry-run in advance - to establish that the quality of references and delivery is fully up to scratch. The further in advance you start your planning, the better you can fine-tune the material to ensure a greater degree of audience resonance and satisfaction. They insist on doing the preparation directly with the external presenter(s), rather than through any intermediary.


The Format of Skill-Building Webinars

While Drewry’s webinars are mostly Industry Analysis, Impact Reports and Trend Briefings, Charity Digital focuses in the main on educating and teaching its audience on how to be more digital and take better advantage of digital technologies and processes. These task-oriented Webinars are scheduled fortnightly, and much like television programmes, Charity Digital have realised that in order to encourage repeat consumer behaviour / viewings - these events are best scheduled to go out at the same time on the same day of the week - which happens to be every other Thursday.

 

Charity Digital have experimented with flexible slots, different days and times over the course of the week and month, and in the past these were not regular. Moving to the regular fortnightly Thursday format has been transformative towards the audience engagement, and in essence they’ve started creating a habit for their audience to tune in every other week.

 

Maintaining the fortnightly format means that planning is essential, and that Charity Digital always has a set of in-house webinars prepared in the event that any regular slot does not find a sponsor.

 

Because of the significant education component, the length of the Expert Presenter/s’ segment tends to be around 40 minutes. So the host of the Webinar - often Marketing Manager Chris Hall, will do a 5-minute introduction, before 40 minutes of Expert Presentation, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.

 

There is a cut-off point with the Q&A, and Charity Digital will select the most pertinent overflow questions and get the Experts to respond within the same session - where that is then elegantly tagged onto the Webinar Recording.


Sponsored vs In-house Webinars

While nearly all of Drewry’s Webinars are in-house, some are of course collaborations, but for Charity Digital there is a 60:40 or even 70:30 split in favour of Sponsored and collaborative presentations as this is one of the key ways in which the organisation funds itself and this education programme in particular. Depending on User / Audience sign up terms and explicit permissioning - Charity Digital can share some of that audience intelligence with the Sponsor - this varies in line with the type and scope of webinar covered.

 

Webinars can be a significant revenue stream for many companies and organisations and may be used by charitable organisations for certain types of fundraising activity. For Charity Digital it is a key benefit that these essential educational webinars can be largely self-funded in this manner.


Secondary Audience

Typically around a few hundred or so members will register / sign up to a Seminar - and it can be as many as 500, which actually make the live / active audience of one of these Webinars. The webinar recording is shared on the Charity Digital website, and on YouTube, and the secondary audience for the recording is typically double the size of the live audience.

 

While Drewry somewhat restricts access to its Webinars, it is central to Charity Digital’s mission to try to maximise exposure and outreach in order that the largest possible group benefits from this endeavour. This also helps promote further and forthcoming events and longer-term skill building. Depending on your longer-ranging strategic goals you can leverage and target your Webinars in a variety of different ways.


Webinar Technology

Charity Digital are just starting down the road with their use of Affino Conversion Events and automated audience identification and segmentation. While the longer-term goal is to be able to define the audience against 9 chosen Topic streams, as well as metrics including overall webinar attendance. And while Drewry favours GoToWebinar and Vimeo, Charity Digital are currently making use of Zoom and YouTube - in combination with Affino of course.

 

Charity Digital have identified a number of weaknesses with Zoom, in particular in trying to share video content during the live broadcast, and are actively investigating the market for potentially more suitable solutions in this area - like ON24 and the not too dissimilar ’23’ (TwentyThree).

 

Other issues identified include the increased bandwidth needed for the Webinar ’Host’ which has meant that until recently Webinars have been largely run out of the central Charity Digital office - to ensure smooth running. Now that all are run remotely, all presenters have their setup tested in host mode, to ensure that they operate at a high enough bandwidth quality for a great audience experience.

 

Our take on the technological aspect is that Zoom is one of the big winners so far during this Coronavirus Pandemic - as nearly all the day-time and late-night US Chat Show Hosts have been using Zoom. Its App download numbers have also gone through the roof in the last couple of weeks. The momentum is on Zoom’s side at the moment, and while they may not have the best of everything yet - they no doubt will be in the strongest position to leverage their increased revenues into further product development. Moreover the fact that so many people have downloaded the app makes them something of the industry leader right now, which is useful as we have found one of the big barriers with webinars is to have companies install the webinar tech in the first place.

 

We at Affino have by and large had a positive experience with Zoom, and have decided to pursue its adoption further, and likely some form of deeper integration, while there may still be some other stalking-horse more suitable for Affino integration in the future.


The Halo Effect

Charity Digital put a lot of stock into the idea of increased exposure and positive word-of-mouth. Meaning that their Webinar series is intended to be shared and forward-promoted by the audience, while there is no doubt more that can be done to leverage the Charity Digital YouTube Channel.

 

Similarly to Drewry there is no written transcript of the Webinar - in fact no written Q&A follow-up either. While there are other forms of follow-up messaging, and there are articles on the Charity Digital site for accessing historic / archived Webinar videos.

 

Charity Digital’s approach is more on the side of organic promotion and material sharing - and encouraging the audience to pass it along as it were by word-of-mouth.


Optimising the Format

In one of his final questions, our CEO Markus asked about utilising different formats of the Webinar - for instance the possibility of using an audio version as a Podcast. Here the answer was unanimously that Podcasts were somewhat differently formatted, and should not exceed the median 30 minute duration of a typical commute. While the Webinar format had been finely tuned over the last year or so to make the most of that material - which heavily relies on visual stimuli, and typically runs between 45 minutes and an hour in total.

 

Charity Digital spoke of the need for the Webinar to feel fully authentic and ’live’ / lively even, and that somewhat against many considered opinions - it was not in the interest of having the Webinar too ’polished’. I guess in the same way that much modern music is over-produced and has that sort of digital sheen to it - which robs it of some of its organic and vital feel.

 

So there is obviously a magic formula in there somewhere for doing just the right amount of preparation, and applying the exact goldilocks amount of finesse while still retaining a significant semblance of immediacy and vibrancy!

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