I’m currently hosting a series of live webinars for up to 150 people per event. In the past I’ve hosted in-person meetups but, due to current isolation initiatives (COVID-19), online is the way to go. This of course offers great opportunities for reaching a wider audience however does offer technical challenges different to those experienced in an in-person presentation.
Documented in this article are some of the areas that have significantly helped me (e.g. which software tools to use). I plan and host the events by myself and my hope is that others may benefit from what I’ve learnt. To be clear, none of the links in this article are affiliate links (i.e. I recommend the tools because they work for my needs and not because I make money through recommending them).
As it’s just me, I rely on automating processes wherever possible. High transaction costs are something that I try to reduce by using automation technology. Some organizations have someone available to send email confirmations and so on manually however for my small business this is a luxury that I prefer to assign to technology.
The webinar event process
Making the webinar process simple for attendees and the presenter is hard work! The process I use, as viewed from the two parties, is described below.
- Attendees registers on Eventbrite.
- Attendee is sent a unique connection URL from Zoom.
- Attendee is sent reminder emails from Zoom.
- At presentation time attendee connects via a unique Zoom hyperlink.
- At the end of the presentation the attendee is shown a Mailchimp survey.
- The attendee receives a post-meetup email campaign.
For the presenter
- Presenter schedules Zoom webinar.
- Presenter makes event live on Eventbrite.
- Presenter uses Zapier to send registered attendee information from Eventbrite to Zoom.
- Presenter integrates Eventbrite and Mailchimp (for future marketing).
- Presenter creates a survey in Mailchimp and adds the survey hyperlink to webinar.
- Presenter uses Zoom to present the event to attendees.
- Presenter sends a thank-you email campaign via Mailchimp.
The technology you’ll need for your webinar
While planning for online events it is immediately obvious that, for small businesses (and large?), there isn’t a single software tool that can handle all aspects of a webinar from registration to communication, delivery and marketing. The tools I describe work very well for my needs.
Below are the tools that I use to plan and host my webinars.
Briefly described below is how I use each tool to automate as far as possible the event registration, management, presentation and communication. The various tools have their own support pages that describe how to perform each task should further explanation be needed.
I’ve used Eventbrite for years for hundreds of events (mostly Mailchimp classes). It’s simple to setup an event and for attendees to register and pay (if it’s a paid event).
I have integrated Eventbrite with Mailchimp so that when an attendee registers they are automatically added to my Mailchimp audience. This enables me to communicate and re-market to attendees in the future.
Zoom works well for presenting online. As I want to know exactly who attends each webinar it is necessary to use Zoom webinar (which is an additional cost over the usual Zoom meetings). Because of my need to track who attends, it is required that each registered person receive a unique connection URL from Zoom (in a “normal” Zoom meeting all attendees use the same URL to connect and don’t have to register by default; it is not possible to track which registered person actually attends).
I mentioned above that I used Eventbrite for people to register as an attendee. The registered attendee information is therefore in Eventbrite and not Zoom; the issue here is that Zoom needs to know who is registered so that it can email the unique connection URLs to each registered person.
It is possible in Zoom to either get people that registered in Eventbrite to register for a second time in Zoom (very unprofessional) or export attendees in Eventbrite and then import into Zoom (but this is a manual task and a transaction cost that can be automated). I used Zapier to do the transfer of registered people as I write below.
Another great thing about using Zoom webinar (as opposed to meetings) is that, during the presentation, attendees are able to raise their hands (virtually) which makes managing attendee questions far simpler for hosts (especially if you’re the sole presenter).
I love Zapier and use it for all sorts of things. For my webinars I use two Zapier Zaps:
Eventbrite to Mailchimp: I noted earlier that I use the Eventbrite Mailchimp App to copy registered attendees to my Mailchimp audience. In addition to that App I also have setup a Zap to copy additional data from Eventbrite to Mailchimp such as the event date and attendee city.
Eventbrite to Zoom: To be able to add people that register in Eventbrite as an attendee in my Zoom webinar dynamically I simply create a Zap to copy the first name, last name and email address from Eventbrite to Zoom. This zap ensures that a few seconds after a person registers in Eventbrite they are added to Zoom and receive an email from Zoom with that attendees unique connection URL to click at the presentation time.
A Zoom webinar can also be configured to send reminder emails to registered people a day and an hour before the event starts. This is really handy so that attendees are reminded of their unique connection URL multiple times.
Survey: It’s important to know what goes well and what doesn’t in an event. A survey is a great way to receive feedback. Mailchimp provide a convenient means of creating surveys and collecting results. I create a feedback survey in Mailchimp and then add the survey URL to the Post Webinar Survey field in Zoom; attendees are therefore shown the survey on event completion (another means of reducing the transaction cost associated with surveying attendees after an event 😉 ).
Post event thank-you: It’s just good practice to send a thank-you email to participants after the webinar. Immediately after the event it’s possible to export from Zoom a list of people that attended. Creating a thank-you email campaign and sending to attendees is very quick and simple in Mailchimp. Of course each message is simply personalised to each recipient using the first name merge tag.
Marketing: As my events are very Mailchimp specific there is a good chance that attendees will be interested in future Mailchimp events and my classes. Mailchimp facilitates many types of marketing in addition to email marketing; Facebook and Instagram advertising, social media posting, postcards and more.
Your internet connection is critical for your webinar
As a final recommendation, it’s incredibly important to have a reliable and fast internet connection for your presentation. As per many Australian businesses and households I use a hybrid fibre and coaxial cable internet connection. Usually the connection is fast however with school kids learning from home at present my internet connection has become slow.
What I’ve found is that using a 4G GSM connection for my computer during the presentation results in much better upload and download speeds. Luckily here in Australia GSM data is relatively inexpensive.
Setting up and managing these events takes alot of work (presenting an event is the easy part!). I couldn’t find one tool that would satisfy all of marketing, registration, communication, live streaming and more. The four tools that I have used worked for me. I certainly hope that this article helps you resolve a few questions you may have.