How to produce webinars: A guide for writers and bloggers

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Webinars have been around for several decades, but it’s only seen a huge resurgence in popularity since the start of the pandemic in 2020. According to On24 Webinar Benchmark Report 2021, webinars grew by 162% and attendance grew to more than 60 million people last year.

Needless to say there are ample opportunities for writers, bloggers and marketers to join the ranks of webinar producers. What makes it more enticing is the fact that most webinar platforms are fairly affordable and easy to use.

Granted, producing webinars isn’t for everyone. It takes someone with tremendous courage to sit in front of their computer screen and talk into a microphone. But for those who have the will and the curiosity to engage with their audience, show their expertise and/or promote a book or product, well, then this might be one more tool to add to your marketing mix.

How do you get started producing webinars? What do you need to know? Most important, what key decisions do you need to make? Because you’re not going to be able to jump right in without thinking about certain aspects. Such as:

What is your goal for the webinar program? Why do you want to produce your own webinars? Is it to promote a new book or a product? Discuss a unique idea or process you’ve created? Or build an audience for your blog or business?

Who is your audience? Consider who your audience is, their age, location, level of expertise, etc. Are they seniors interested in compiling family histories for a memoir, or a group of aspiring bloggers? Knowing who your audience is and what their interests are can help you determine the topics you’ll present.

Also consider the size of your audience. Are you content doing a webinar for 20 people, or would you like to push the limit to several hundred? Keep in mind that roughly 45-50% of those who register for your live events may actually show up.

What topics will you present? This will depend on your goals and your audience’s educational interests. Consider what your audience wants to know. What types of questions do they typically ask? When you see the same questions being asked over and over again, that’s usually a clue what might be a meaningful topic.

How many webinars do you plan to do? Don’t count on doing just one. Think ongoing series. Think long term. Perhaps you can do a series geared toward a targeted audience, such unpublished nonfiction authors, or a series about a subtopic, like a focus on common side hustles. Also consider how you can repurpose the webinar content into other formats, such as podcast episodes or a white paper.

Where do you want to host the webinars? Do you want to show it exclusively on Zoom, or do you want to broaden your reach by showing it live across different channels, such as YouTube, Facebook Live and LinkedIn? Some webinar platforms will allow you to share simultaneously across multiple platforms and record it for later posting.

Research the different platforms. Sites like GotoWebinar, Webinar Jam and Webinar Ninja are a few that are easy to use, according to The Book Designer blog. Or check out sites like Webinarsoftware.org  or Capterra for reviews of the best software platforms.

If you’re looking for free and cheap options, there’s always Zoom. With a personal Zoom account, you can reach up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. Or try Google Meet.

What you decide to use will depend on how you plan to host the event and what your specific marketing needs are. For example, you might want to capture leads from the registrants. Experts suggest making sure you have systems in place for following up on leads. Otherwise, doing webinars would be pointless.

Make sure to promote the events. Email campaigns and social media may be the best ways to invite people to attend your webinar. Individual host sites will also promote the events to their platform users. Check the webinar platform to see if they send out calendar reminders or if you have to set them up yourself.

Do a run-through of your program. It is recommended to do several run-throughs of your presentation. That can help you find the rough spots so you can fix them before you go live. It also helps to arrive early to test the equipment and sound. You don’t want to have to deal with technical issues at the start of the event.

Allow time at the end for a Q&A. By the end of the session, which should not run longer than 60 minutes, people will likely have questions. Allow time to answer them, say 10 minutes or so. Be sure to thank people for participating, and be sure to include ways to contact you or follow you on social media.

Don’t use a script. Know your subject inside and out. If necessary, create an agenda for the program that you can follow and a few note cards to remind you of your key points. But go as unscripted as possible, otherwise your presentation will seem stiff and formal. You want to appear natural and conversational.

Measure your results. After the webinar has been posted, follow up with registrants. Send them a survey to get feedback on the program, and ask for suggestions for future events. Also check to see what your conversion rate is. How many people who had signed up for the event actually listened in? You might want to offer a free download for replay later, especially for those who could not attend at the last minute.

For more tips about doing webinars, check out this article on Smart Blogger.

While producing webinars isn’t for everyone, once you have systems and strategy in place, they can help showcase your expertise in a unique and engaging way.

Closing the Career Skills Gap

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This is a strange time for the job market. On the one hand, there appears to be a lot of jobs available, judging by the number of job posting sites I subscribe to. On the other hand, there still seems to be many qualified individuals who are underemployed or not working at all. The problem seems to be a gap in the skills required by employers. What job seekers have is not what employers need.  Employers are specific about what they want and are willing to wait for the right candidate to come along, even if it takes up to a year.

This is not an aberration. The skills gap is a very real thing, according to a new survey by staffing agency Adecco. In its 2018 Workforce Report, 56 percent of business leaders believe the skills gap is real, even though 96 percent of workers felt qualified or overqualified for the last job they applied for. What is more interesting is that business leaders said many candidates were lacking soft skills – communication, creativity, collaboration, ability to learn, and critical thinking, among others. These soft skills are just as important, if not more so, than hard skills, like writing and technology. Hard skills can be taught, while soft skills usually cannot. It might be beneficial to emphasize these softer skills on your resumes and cover letters. (Adecco recommends that hiring managers recruit for the soft skills and train for the hard skills.)

Add to this the fact that job titles and job requirements have changed significantly over the past few years. When I left the corporate world five years ago, communications manager meant one thing. Now the job description is more expanded with more and different responsibilities than before. It’s no wonder returning workers like myself feel cut off from the workplace. Employers expect a lot from their workers and job requirements reflect that.

So that leaves a lot of otherwise qualified individuals out in the cold. How does the person on the outside close the skills gap? Where can they go to get skills training that can open up doors for them in the job market? Here are a few sources to kick start your own skills upgrade program.

* Online courses. A quick Google search reveals a whole host of online course sites, such as Udemy, Lynda.com and Coursera, to name a few. Those in the public relations and communications fields might also check out Mediabistro, which offers more specialized courses for their industry. These courses are taught by industry experts who have real-world experience in their particular field. That said, the quality of information and teaching may not be up to par with what you need, but online courses are a great way to get up to speed on industry practices and terminology. Also, costs may vary, so check these sites often for special offers and discounts.

* Community colleges. For those on a budget or are looking for a quick, down and dirty training program, check out your local community college. Many of them offer certification programs from culinary skills to paralegal or medical assistant. This might be especially helpful if you are looking to change careers but don’t have a budget or time for a full four-year program.

* Business networks. Check out local associations for your industry which may offer workshops or one-day conferences about the latest practices. For example, here in Chicago, the Independent Writers of Chicago held an evening workshop about breaking into freelancing. Check out organizations in your own locations to find workshops in your area.

* Staffing agencies. Many of these agencies offer online resources, workshops and open houses covering topics such as resume writing, interviewing and writing cover letters. The job market is constantly changing so it’s helpful to learn the latest trends in resume writing so you can present yourself in the best possible light.

* Internships. Another option to explore, especially for those new to the workforce, is internships. Some are paid; others are not. Some are advertised on job sites; others you may have to dig deep. In any case, for a short period of time, perhaps as much as one year, you can gain valuable work experience and update your skills through an internship that you might not get anywhere else.

* Volunteer work. If you know you are lacking certain skills, such as sales or proposal writer, look around your community for organizations that might need someone to help with writing proposals or selling tickets for upcoming events. You’ll be acquiring new skills and helping your community at the same time.

These are just a few starting points for skills development, and there’s no guarantee that it will open the doors you hope will open for you. If anything, it will keep your brain and job skills fresh and ready to go when the right job does come along.