- Producing successful webinars requires the right people and technology
- Louis Adam from EXFO offers advice for using technology effectively
- Organizations must carefully vet potential webinar platform vendors
When you run 85 webinars a year, it’s critical to get the technology right. Louis Adam, director of marketing at EXFO, a global provider of network test, data and analytics, leads a 40-person team that knows a thing or two about quickly producing high-impact webinars – which influence 60 percent of the organization’s sales opportunities.
To keep that webinar machine humming – and ensure that each of EXFO’s webinars delivers on its goals – he takes a comprehensive approach, from vendor selection to operational staff scheduling to pre-event and post-event promotion.
In a recent interview with SiriusDecisions, Louis shared some of his tips for developing and running successful webinars, with the help of technology:
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with formats. While EXFO has used the standard “voice behind PowerPoint” structure for many of its webinars, the organization has also tried incorporating video production elements rather than slides. Depending on the audience and purpose of the webinar, these elements can be well received. Other less-traditional EXFO webinars have included panel discussions with journalists, customers and other external speakers.
- Talk to potential vendors’ existing customers. Selecting the right platform is critical – especially for an international company like EXFO, which delivers its webinar programs in multiple languages and boasts participants from more than 100 countries. Louis cautions that even an extended hands-on demo and pilot testing of a potential vendor’s solution is often insufficient. For webinar technology in particular, the complex integrations, high levels of required customization and the stakes involved in a live broadcast mean that most organizations can’t afford to simply trust what a vendor says (e.g. “We have an API for that”) without proving the functionality within the context of their own technology ecosystem.
- Consider the technology integrations. Integrating webinar technology with other relevant technologies within the organization (such as sales force automation platforms and online survey platforms) can pose several challenges, especially when the organization must rely on manual integrations. Louis recommends bringing in consultants for webinar technology implementation when necessary, as interoperability challenges, conflicting measurement metrics, file conversion and migration, and other issues can cause lost productivity and missing pieces – even at organizations with capable in-house talent. Given the complexity of integration, it’s not a process most organizations want to repeat every year. “The more you integrate your technology, the more stuck you are your vendors and partners,” Louis notes. “This is why the vendor selection phase is critical.”
- Increase each webinar’s impact with a multi-touchpoint, multi-technology approach. EXFO’s approach to webinar promotion has come a long way since the early days, when outreach solely consisted of email. Now, Louis says the company approaches each webinar as full-fledged event, with multi-touch and multimedia programs. In addition to using the promotional capabilities within the webinar platform, the team leverages blog posts, cross-promotions with other events, advertising investments and remarketing. It also makes extensive use of the marketing automation platform to incorporate webinars into existing lead nurture tracks.
- Select the right people, and train them to make the best use of technology. Like any other type of technology, webinar platforms can only perform to their full potential with the right team running the show. “Before even thinking about your technology, you need to think about the people who will be operating it,” Louis says. Webinar programs require capable staffing in a number of roles: technicians, speakers, writers, facilitators and producers, just to name a few. If some team members lack the necessary skills to operate the webinar technology or otherwise participate, he recommends offering training modules within a learning management system to allow for self-directed, trackable learning.