Tools of the Trade: Webinars and Online Presentations

April 29, 2009

Webinars

Webinars or webcasts, as they are sometimes called, have increased in popularity and in effectiveness within the past 5 years or so. A common tool for today’s marketer they provide a great way to reach a large number of people with your message.

I believe in three simple rules for a successful webinar program:

  1. Understand and map your needs
  2. Choose the appropriate webinar platform
  3. Put in place a well documented webinar process

 1. Understand and map your needs

First and foremost, you should list out all the ways in which your company will be using webinars and the platform. For example, typical uses of webinar software often fall into one or more of these categories:

  • Online sales demos and presentations: a sales rep shares a PowerPoint presentation and his desktop screen while walking through a product demonstration.
  • Marketing presentations and educational sessions: usually involving a moderator and a speaker, sharing PowerPoint slides and often making use of polling questions and maybe annotations to engage the audience.
  • Online training: an instructor sharing PowerPoint slides, maybe sharing the desktop screen and using arrows, circles, and other annotation tools to illustrate a point.
  •  Technical support: a technical support representative with a customer on the phone where the customer shares control of his desktop and the rep troubleshoots.

OK, before you tell me that training and tech support are not part of the traditional definition of webinar, please bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain it in time.

Depending on the category, or type, of webinar usage you will be able to list out all the features you need. Each webinar platform has a set of features that can be useful or useless and why pay a premium if you don’t care whether circles can be drawn on the screen? An interesting way of looking at it is by making a grid on a sheet of paper or using a spreadsheet comparing your needs versus the features required.

 

 

Sample requirements grid for webinar platform selection

Sample requirements grid for webinar platform selection

 

 

 

Why list technical support and online training? Although often outside the marketing/sales spectrum, there are tools out there that may not only help with webinars but can also help with the needs of the tech support and professional services departments. Why not kill three birds with one stone? So don’t discard them completely until you have spoken to these departments and determined whether they should be included in the requirements grid or not.

2. Choose the appropriate webinar platform

Now that you have listed how you will be using webinars, you’re ready to investigate and fend off vendors. In your first conversation with a vendor, you should list all the uses (maybe even share the grid with them) for the tool you want to buy and ask for a demo showcasing the specific requirements you have. This way you make sure you control the sales process and don’t waste time with a tool that does not have a feature you consider critical.

Some of the most used webinar providers are:

          Microsoft LiveMeeting

          Adobe Connect

          WebEx

          GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar

          On24

          Lotus Sametime

If you do a quick Google search many others will show up, including free ones like:

          Yugma

          Dimdim

The Web Conferencing Council has some good information on webinars and has recently released a whitepaper comparing some of them.

One other thing to consider is the teleconference provider, especially for your marketing webinars that are likely to have dozens of attendees. Some webinar providers have their own conferencing service (GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar offers one for free and Adobe Connect users needs to use Premiere Global for an extra fee), so you should ask the question during your evaluation. The price for phone conferencing will increase the overall costs for your webinars.

3. Put together a well documented webinar process

Now that you have the tools in place, you should think carefully about the procedure to be followed for webinars, especially for the marketing webinars where multiple attendees are involved. Online lead generation events are more effective when there’s a formal procedure that is followed every time, preventing occasional glitches from happening. Thing of the following:

          When should a new session / room / webinar (the terminology varies according to the platform) be reserved?

          How will registrants get login information? Some webinar providers handle this process for you.

          Do polling questions need to be prepared in advance and uploaded?

          Do slides need to be prepared in advance and uploaded?

          Will registrants be contacted by email or phone prior to the webinar to ensure attendance?

          Will the online event be recorded? Should any special steps be taken in this case?

          Should a moderator make opening remarks and help with Questions and Answers?

 

These are only some of the questions that you should ask yourself as you are setting up your company’s webinar program.

Webinars, webcasts, online events, and whatever other name you have for this can be expertly handled once you know your requirements, have done vendor due diligence, and setup a process that can be followed and standardized.

I hope these simple tips will help you with your webinar initiative!

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How Good A Boss Are You Really?

April 9, 2009

If you want to see how you (or your new boss) stack against top technology CEO’s, check out Glassdoor.com for an interesting ranking.

The site not only lists top executives based on approval ratings but also shows you reviews that give you some more specifics of the person, the company, and what it feels like working there. One of the more interesting features is the ability to search for salaries paid at a specific company. Insider information is always good when planning your next career move!


Get Hired in Marketing

April 6, 2009

Want a marketing job? Then you have to first understand the rules of the game.

I was recently hiring a marketing coordinator for my company and once again it became obvious to me that most candidates do a poor job at interviewing. So here’s my contribution, albeit a small one, to those of you who are looking for new jobs.

Before you go out on an interview,  you need to understand how hiring works. Then you can craft a great resume, prepare to ace the interview, and come up as a top candidate for the job.  Keep in mind the following factors and you’ll be a step ahead of other candidates.

Risk is the most important factor:

The whole hiring process has one goal, and that is to reduce the risk of hiring a bad candidate. Companies spend a lot of time and money when they need to hire someone and spend even more when they make a wrong hiring decision. So every step is designed to reduce the risk the company and the hiring manager face. Knowing this will give you tremendous advantage, as most people are concerned with making sure they look good (either on their resumes or during the interview) and not with what the company needs. Is basic marketing (you can only sell if you know what the customer wants), but very few people stop to think about it.

As you are asked questions during the interview, managers are not looking for a right answer, they are looking for clues that will tell them whether you are high or low risk. So you need to make sure that when you are answering questions during an interview, your answers are focused on lowering that perceived risk.

Example: for a question like “do you have experience with trade shows?” (which is not necessarily a very good question to begin with, but let’s leave it like this for now) you could answer:  “yes, I have experience with trade shows and have handled many throughout my career”. The problem with this answer is that is very limited. OK, you have experience, but how much? What else have you dealt with in a trade show environment that can tell me that I will be able to trust you with my events? If you leave the hiring manager wondering whether you have all the experience he needs from someone in the position they are hiring for, then you haven’t done a good job at lowering the risk level.

A better answer is: “not only I have experience with trade shows, but I’ve been involved in multiple types of shows, from small user groups that only required a tabletop display up to big conventions where we used our 20×20 booth. In the last show [name] that I managed I had to negotiate with the show organizer, involve the transportation company, and come up with some creative ways   to get our stand up on time, which gave me a much better understanding of how trade shows work”. Aha! This not only answers what was asked, but goes a step beyond and touches upon the real reason for the question in the first place, giving detailed insight as to the type of experience and situations the candidate faced, significantly lowering the risk of hiring someone inexperienced. The Hiring Game

Every line on your resume, every answer you give during an interview, and every contact you have with the company needs to be focused on lowering the perceived risk. The little things you do will add up in the end and make you stand out.

You only need to be 2% better:

 You don’t need to be a superstar. If you’re 2% better than the next candidate, you’re already ahead. How do you do that? By keeping in mind the ‘risk’ factor and tailoring all your answers to help the hiring manager lower the risk you represent. Since most candidates think about answering the question and just the question, they don’t realize that there’s more to it. The question about trade shows above, for example. What is the risk the company faces? Well, if events are a big part of their marketing budget, then they need someone they can count on to manage that side of the business. If the position you are interviewing for will have that responsibility, then you shouldn’t just answer “yes, I’ve dealt with trade shows in the past” because that really doesn’t tell me anything. Go beyond the simple question and expand your answer (but briefly, of course) to get extra points.

Results are more important than ever

The typical advice of headhunters is to make sure you add accomplishments to each job description. Now more than ever you have to ensure your resume is results-oriented, and that during the interview your answers touch upon results you achieved. Check out a recent post on Marketing Today website about it.

It’s not over when the interview is over

After the interview you’re not off the hook. Another person is now sitting on that same chair, trying to do his best, just like you did. How do you keep yourself ahead? By continuously showing that you’re the best candidate. Send written thank you notes to EVERYONE that you dealt with. From the receptionist to the hiring manager. And hand write the thank you notes, don’t email them. Why? Because most people don’t do it. You’ll be seen as more professional and will stand out. You should also be checking for industry related news and is a good idea to email the hiring manager a link to an interesting article or press release that might be relevant to the company, this shows you’re up to date on the industry and is really interested. Some of these simple gestures go a long way towards helping you land the job.


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