This is purposely not a vlog.
I am tired of video.
I am tired of being on camera. I am tired of virtual. I miss face-to-face. Heck, I even miss a good old-fashioned phone call. Every meeting, every event is now on camera.
And I am tired of it.
Before 2020 hit, video and virtual were already on the rise. Then we had to learn to stay together apart and Zoom became the great panacea. Now we are just numb to it — worn down by the year of the unprecedented.
Burn Out Is Real
It’s one thing to say that you are tired of being on camera because your HOA has figured out how to take its monthly whine-fest virtual, but for today’s B2B employees the camera seems to constantly be on, which in turn means the employee is also constantly on.
More and more companies are recognizing this as a growing issue. Citigroup, for example, has started Zoom-free Fridays, and HSBC is following that path after one of its employees had a heart attack from the stress induced by it.
Even Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan has said he suffers from Zoom “fatigue” and no longer schedules back-to-back meetings. “I’m so tired,” he said. I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.
Acceptance Is the First Step
If this past year has taught us anything it is that we have to face reality, and the reality is video and virtual were part of our lives before the new normal and are now even more ingrained in our lives for the next normal.
In our world of B2B, virtual meeting fatigue also naturally rolls into webinar and virtual event fatigue, yet both remain powerful tools in the marketer’s arsenal.
In fact, according to GoToWebinar, the average viewing time of a webinar is 57 minutes, which easily makes it one of the longest-engaged pieces of content a marketer can utilize. Trust me, I won’t get that much of your attention span with this blog, and I know it!
So how do we combat e-exhaustion and harness the power of a format that was so 2019 with our 2021 mindsets? Last year may have changed the game, but these 7 rules of engagement are a sure-fire way to still create a memorable webinar or virtual event.
Rule 1: Change Your Mind
I know I said 400+ words ago that I’m virtually kaput, but let’s be very clear; if you don’t want to be on video, it shows. In turn, your audience also doesn’t want to see you on video. There is a major difference between having to be on video and wanting to be on video sharing your message. Before planning the topic, setting a date, or sending out your invite, your first action is to shake off the shackles that “you have to do this” and get into the mindset that “you want to do this.” If you can’t move past the drudgery of virtual, neither will your audience.
Rule 2: Bend the Rules of Time
Traditionally — and by this I mean a year ago — the rule of thumb was that Wednesdays around lunchtime for 60-minutes would get you in the webinar sweet spot. That was then, this is now. Virtual vitriol has had a significant impact on your audience and even asking them to attend another online event will garner a few snarls. Before announcing anything, pick your prime prospects and make them feel special by acknowledging this fatigue and express that you want to plan it around when it is most convenient for them.
Set up a survey to find out the best days and times. With the right wording, you are not only building the relationship with your prospect, but also excitement for your message. For the day of the webinar, make sure you share a clear agenda to set expectations around timing and stick to it. Break the agenda into smaller digestible parts to show the ongoing value and not just an “intro,” “presentation,” and “Q&A” segments. Keep it shorter than you normally would have in the past. If you can’t keep it shorter, be transparent, but offer either a break or turn it into a series.
Rule 3: Get a Hype Person
Flavor Flav wasn’t just the star of the greatest dating show ever, he was also possibly the greatest hype man ever. He brought energy, humor, and visuals to amp up the crowd all while helping to deliver the more serious messages of Public Enemy. While you can easily tap him for your next webinar through Cameo, this may not be the right choice for your brand. However, from Flav’s book of hype, here are some tips to add some oomph to your next webinar:
- Have some energy and excitement in your voice.
- Use more than one speaker to create a conversation instead of a lecture.
- Let one presenter focus on message and the other on engagement and keeping things moving forward.
- Don’t take yourself so seriously and add in some humor.
- Create unique and memorable visuals to keep interest.
- And, if you are losing them, just scream, “What time is it!” and head into a dance party instead.
Rule 4: Be a Game Changer
A webinar is a proven format, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same ol’ formula. B2B webinars too often make the mistake of talking to the audience instead of engaging with the audience. It’s an easy trap to fall into: everyone is muted, you are the only one on camera, and you have way too many slides to get through within the hour. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Shake up the format of your presentation.
Deliberately create ways to engage your audience and make sure they aren’t just listening but participating as well. Think of it as gamification of your webinar. It could be as simple as creating quiz questions throughout and taking a moment to celebrate the wins. Find ways to insert some play, some competition, and in turn some joy back into your webinar.
Rule 5: Break the Silence
If “Clarissa Explains It All” or “Deadpool” taught us anything, it’s that acknowledging your audience is a winning approach. Breaking the “fourth wall” is seldom a style used in theater, tv, or movies, but how about in webinars? If you really want to change up the formula, what would it be like if you actually unmuted your attendees and had a real conversation instead of a presentation? With a smaller number of attendees or a virtual event of only select attendees, breaking through that fourth wall is not only possible but creates a much more engaging session.
If that’s not an option, you can still make sure your audience has a voice at your event. Try using poll questions to survey your audience and then report and respond to the results in real time. Also, don’t just save Q&A for the very end. Inject opportunities for questions throughout, or, even better, have real-time chat running during the session with one of your experts ready to drive those side conversations.
Rule 6: Remember the G.O.A.T.
Want a baaaaaa-rilliant idea? Hire a goat to interrupt your virtual presentation with constant screaming and bleating. By far my most memorable meeting not only this past year, but maybe ever, was having a lovely nanny randomly pop in and take us 100% off track. It was unexpected. It was funny. It was an experience.
Maybe a goat isn’t a fit for everyone, but the sentiment behind it is the Greatest Of All Time. (See what I did there?) Being virtual doesn’t mean that you can’t have some surprises by sprinkling some marketing magic to create a memorable experience. Surprise your audience and you will win their attention. If a goat isn’t the route you want to take (although it should be), then including a guest speaker, a virtual goodie bag, or a surprise announcement are all ways to create an experience instead of just another virtual encounter.
Rule 7: Never Let Go
So you got through the webinar, and you are patting yourself on the back. Take your moment but get back to work already. Post-webinar is one of the biggest opportunities you have to engage and keep the conversation going. Follow up immediately with the recording and share additional collateral accordingly. If you promoted the event on social, live Tweet during the event, but absolutely share insights afterward.
Most importantly recognize that today’s audience is fatigued, and you will likely have a higher number of no-shows or drop-offs than usual in spite of all your best efforts. Don’t take it as hard as you might have previously. In this case it actually might not be you, but them. Continue to reach out to them respectfully as a follow-up. Turn your presentation into an on-demand video where they can watch when they want.
But maybe video just isn’t their thing (for now), so pull it into a podcast that they can listen to or put your info into an ebook or infographic they can read. Getting your information to them may not be as straight a path as it once was, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not doable.
Rules of Engagement
All in all, these seven rules are a good reminder that your webinar or virtual event is facing some ennui, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact. These were valuable marketing tools before we all became tired of virtual, they were viable approaches while we all grew tired of virtual, and they remain beneficial as we work to get out of this virtual funk. The key to a successful online session is the same now as it was then: build engagement. And remember if all else fails, just bring in a goat.
Arm yourself with a full-proof plan to execute your next successful webinar. Download our B2B Webinar Success Took Kit for everything you need before, during, and after your next virtual event.