Longer Campaigns, Late Signups and More Interactivity Mark New Webinar World

In 2019, webinar platform ON24 handled 86,802 webinars, roughly equating to an average of 7,200 webinars a month. But in April 2020 alone, they hosted 19,294 webinars—roughly more than 640 webinars a day. Remote work has meant more watching and some new rules.


“We believe these figures represent the new ways in which people engage with online content, which is why we have updated our report to show you the trends at work,” said the Executive Statement for their ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report: COVID-19 Special Edition: How Businesses Drive Digital Engagement in a COVID World. Download here.


Here are some key findings and numbers from the report:


Webinars are becoming more interactive. More webinars are taking advantage of engagement tools to connect with their audience. Those tools include resource lists (offered by 69% of all webinars in 2020), surveys (38%), social widgets (21%) and polling (18.8%). That still seems a little low for where polling should be—always popular when I’ve seen it used. “Data shows that in 2019, top performers incorporated more multimedia elements into their webinars. These include PowerPoint slides (91%), Q&A sessions (88%), polls (78%) and surveys (73%). Around one in five (22%) also offered training certificates.”


Run your webinars around the middle of the day. The best time for a webinar is one fitting in with your audience’s schedules, but as a rule, lunchtime to early afternoon works well. If in doubt and you’re in the U.S. and covering multiple time zones, shoot for at 11 a.m. PT (2 pm ET).


Use longer campaigns that go right up to the webinar and maybe even 10 minutes in. “Longer promotional campaigns translate to more registrants,” they write. More registrants signed up at short notice in April 2020 than in 2019. Without travel, virtual events can now be signed up for at any time, so that thinking might be carrying over to webinars. Plus there’s just so much on our mind all the time now. The longer promotion cycle can not only increase registration rates but can “increase the likelihood of converting registrants into attendees. Promotional emails shouldn’t just be reminders though. Hit the ground running by including supporting content and building up excitement ahead of your webinar.”


Mid-week promotional emails perform best. Data from April 2020 matches previous benchmark reports in its indication that emails sent on Tuesday (21%), Wednesday (22%) and Thursday (21%) are the strongest performers. Monday (18%) is fairly close and then comes Friday (13%) and weekends (5%).


Try not to panic. Based on their April 2020 data, 75% of registrants sign up in the week of the webinar, compared to just 43% last year. The percentage of day-of sign ups has almost doubled, from 10% in 2019 to 19% in 2020. In 2019, 57% signed up eight days or more before; in 2020 it’s 26%. They write that “webinars are increasingly functioning like on-demand TV.”


Promote afterwards. “One-third (34%) of attendees accessed the on-demand version only, demonstrating the need to make webinars available to audiences on their terms.” Here’s the number that surprised me: 95% of these on-demand-only attendees register a week after the live event. That may suggest getting a couple testimonials from the live event to feed the marketing afterwards. However, the on-demand viewing time averaged just 29 minutes.


Create a content hub. These really worked for COVID-19 resources and stories, so it makes sense that people would be getting accustomed to them. “Right now, professionals are interacting almost exclusively with digital channels. Rather than letting your webinar lead to a dead end, give prospects and customers access to bingeable playlists of content and drive inbound leads.”


Webinars are becoming more visual. More than half (55%) of all webinars in April 2020 incorporated some type of video in their events, a massive jump from 2019 (38%). “This suggests practitioners have become increasingly comfortable with the use of video technologies over recent years, but recent events have taken this important integration to the next level.” Half (50%) of respondents just used a webcam to record video, while 7% used their phone and 2% used a hand-held video recorder. “In fact, 8 in 10 claimed that adding video to their webinars is easy.”


One last note: The average viewing time for webinars in April 2020 was 54 minutes, down slightly from 56 minutes in 2019. Be careful of Zoom fatigue.


Again, download the report here.

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