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How to Set Up a Webinar - From Scratch

How to set up a webinar

If you’ve read just the title of this blog and are still with me, you probably don’t really need to be convinced of the value webinars bring to your digital marketing strategy. But if you did, I might say things like:

  • Webinars generate solid sales qualified leads – when was the last time you attended a webinar about a topic you didn’t give very many shits about? Probably never.
  • Audiences are more engaged – webinars give you the opportunity for some face time with potential or existing customers the way eBooks don’t.
  • It’s an opportunity to repurpose content – this works both ways, it gives you another avenue to deliver content to your audience that you already have anyway, or if you created content for your webinar, guess what? You now have content for your next blog.
  • Thought-leadership – come up with some great content for your webinar, use credible speakers, promote it through the right channels, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a point of reference in your space.

A quick note: Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this blog. Sure, the process can be lengthy, but it’s really not rocket science. Just take it one systematic step at a time, and you’ll find that it’s a lot simpler than you anticipated.

Let’s get into then.

Step 1 – Determine your GOALS

Before even starting ANYTHING, ask yourself what the goal of your webinar is. Are you looking to generate new leads? Upsell current customers? Based on your response, identify the corresponding KPI so you’ll be able to measure success.

For the purpose of this blog, we’ll say we’re a marketing software company specializing in artificial intelligence named AI Marketing (very creative, I know). AI Marketing’s goal is to upsell current customers to a Pro license, and the decided direct KPI is the number of people who opt to speak to a sales rep or request more information post-webinar. (Goaling for how many people opt for the upgrade might be a bit far-reaching as sales is a process).

Step 2 – Determine your topic

Now that you know what you’re going for, it would follow that you also know who your target audience is. And based on that, identity the topic that would give your audience and sales team the most value. In AI Marketing’s case, it would be to talk about a key pain point that the Pro license would solve for. For example, “Machine Learning: Crafting a Content Strategy for the Individual”, which will include a live walk-through of key features. It never hurts to also consult your SEO team on what’s being searched in that space.

Step 3: Select your webinar platform

When it comes to selecting the right webinar platform, it's all about first understanding what you want to be able to do in your promotion, execution, and follow-up for your event. Don’t commit to a platform until you’ve looked at the following aspects. You don’t want to have paid for something only to find that it doesn’t do what you need it to.

  • Integration capability – A successful tech stack is one that integrates seamlessly. Ask yourself the following questions:
    • Can you accept registrants through your own website to be automatically sent over to your webinar platform?
    • Can confirmation emails with unique join link be customized to your brand?
    • Can you fully customize your promo emails to brand?
    • Can you send registrant and attendee data back to your CRM?
      And if your platform of choice don’t have native integration capabilities, perhaps Zapier could be of help.
  • Ease of use – Is the platform pretty intuitive, or will you have to invest time you may not have to learn it?
  • Price point – This one feels intuitive.
  • Option to pre-record – If you’re not comfortable or don’t have the capacity to present live, make sure to select a platform that allows you to pre-record and simply upload your recording ahead of time.
  • Co- hosting – If you need the option to co-host through split screens, well, then use a platform that you know enables that.
  • During-webinar features: Maybe you’d like the option to offer hand-outs during the webinar, or play a video, or allow for live Q&A – if you have particular needs, make sure your platform supports them.
  • Audience size – If you’re anticipating a large sign-up, you’d need a platform that can support your audience size.
  • Reporting capabilities – Some marketers will argue that if you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing. Look into registrant source tracking, attendee engagement data, and how detailed of a webinar report you’d get. Unless you plan to never run another webinar ever again.
  • Support team – No matter how tech-savvy you are, we all run into issues every so often, and when that happens, it’s nice knowing help is just a phone call, live chat, or email away.

Step 4 – Set up reporting (begin with the end in mind, you could say)

You might have anticipated this to be the last step, but reporting can’t and shouldn’t be an after-thought. Make sure that everything you’d want to see in the post-webinar report is set up on the front-end along with actual reporting document or dashboards that have been reviewed and approved by any stakeholders needing that data. Some examples include:

  • How is registrant source being tracked? You’ll want to know what your most effective promotion channels were.  
  • How will you be getting attendee and engagement data, and how detailed will it be?
  • How will you attribute this webinar to any sales after the fact to show ROI and success?

Step 5 – Pre-build lists

Setting up dynamic lists on the front-side will allow for automation down the road. The main lists you’ll want to build:

  • Registrants: Your list for confirmation emails and reminders
  • Attendees: Split up attendees and those who registered but did not attend to be able to tailor the messaging accordingly in your follow-up emails
  • Registered, did not attend: See above (2)
  • SQLS: Consider including an SQL criteria either in the registration form or follow-up survey. This allows for a more targeted follow up sequence that your sales team can take
  • MQLs: This would be comprised of registrants who didn’t move forward with the offer you were pushing towards and are not quite sales-ready. They should be enrolled in a nurture strategy, to help move them down the funnel bit by bit.

Step 6 – Set up registration

Going back to item 1 in Step 3, taking into account integration capability is key as that is what you’ll be basing your setup on. For instance, if Hubspot and GoToWebinar are your respective marketing and webinar platforms, then good news, they integrate well. You can set up a landing page and form styled to your brand on Hubspot and have the form feed registrant data to GoToWebinar. You can then use Zapier to carry over each participant’s join link back to Hubspot to be able to send confirmation emails though Hubspot.

However, if your platforms don’t integrate well and Zapier can’t be of help, then you might have to bite the bullet and use your webinar platform’s registration page and default confirmation emails.

Step 7 – Confirmation and reminder series

Don’t assume your audience will diligently calendar in your webinar and just show up. Here is what your confirmation and reminder series should cover:

  • Confirmation email: This should go out right after they register, and it should contain a thank you note, webinar date and topic (which includes a convenient add-to-calendar link), instructions for tech setup (if they need to pre-install anything), and their unique join link.
  • Reminder email series: You could do a 2-series reminder, which entails a 1-day and 1-hour out reminder. You don’t want to set these too far out from the webinar because if it’s not a live in-person event, people tend to ignore early reminders. For all reminders, the unique join link should be included.

Step 8 – Roll out promotion

Before you open registration and begin promotion, make sure you have the following items determined/set up:

  • Webinar date
  • Webinar topic and promo content (& ideally speaker(s) details)
  • Registration setup
  • Confirmation email

According to research conducted by GoToWebinar, 85% of registrations happen 2 weeks prior to webinars. To maximize your registration rates, promote early and often – 4 weeks out would be the recommended timeframe to begin, and 3 weeks out would be the minimum. With that in mind, know that the above 3 items will need to be sorted out before that 3-week minimum, so plan accordingly.

You can promote via email, social media, your website, and if applicable, leverage your partners’ platforms to get it out there too. Tweak the messaging for each platform to make sure your audience isn’t seeing the same ol’ thing again and again.

Step 9 – TEST (the shit out of) your webinar

You can nail your promotion efforts but if you screw up your webinar, you’ve basically wasted all that hard work. SO, run as many tests as you need to get comfortable with the webinar process. If it’s live, run a mock webinar, and have your peers give feedback. If it’s simulated live, spend time perfecting the recording.

Don’t forget the techy details too – get comfortable with the platform functions beforehand – how to start/stop your and your audience’s video, how to open Q&A etc. Nothing is worse than having your webinar fail due to technical difficulties – well I mean, I guess worse things could happen, but you know what I mean.

Step 10: Tie it back to GOALS – Follow-Up Emails

Going back to the example earlier, AI Marketing’s goal is to upsell current customers to a Pro license, and the decided direct KPI is the number of people who request more information post-webinar. They can’t just expect people to get on their website to get more info. They’ll want to tailor their follow-up messaging to support those goals for both attendees and registrants who did not attend.

Important note: Not everyone will immediately be ready to move with the upgrade. Perhaps the timing simply wasn’t right. For such leads, you’ll want to have a nurturing strategy pre-set up. AI Marketing could wait a couple of weeks to send out resources regarding the Pro license, free trial offers etc. to make sure those leads are keeping their product front-of-mind for when they’re ready.

Step 11 – The Post-webinar Set Up

You’re not done after your webinar ends, here are the items that you should be doing post-webinar:

  • Convert to on-demand version: Continue to leverage your webinar to generate leads. Gate your webinar behind a simple form. When you start to see the submissions slow down, or stop, then you can ungate it and have it live amongst your other resources.
  • Put together your webinar report and learnings for future webinars: what were your most effective promo channels? Average engagement time? When did you lose your audience?
  • Repurpose content: Get even more eyes on the content you’ve created. Repurpose it into a blog, infographic, premium content etc.


So…the bad news? Your first webinar will be the hardest. The good news? It gets so much easier after your first. You’ll be in a position to simply rinse and repeat, but of course, you’ll integrate data and learnings from each webinar to make the next one that much better.

The even better news? Once you have it set up correctly, you’ll start to see more qualified leads coming through.

Don’t freak out about the steps, just take it one step at a time, and you’ll be glad you did it. Do I sound like a motivational speaker yet?

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