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Getting creative: 3 webinar engagement ideas from a pro sports game

June 15 2018 / by EventBuilder Staff

Filed under: Delivery, Online vs. Offline, Presentation Planning

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Raffle tickets. “Kissing Cam.” Just what, exactly, might we infer about webinars from a ballgame? This is a post for those who want to challenge “normal” webinars and webcasts.


Step 1: Create secondary modes of engagement.

The context: a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game. Like many live sports, in baseball there are moments of down time in various parts of the game. Sometimes it’s just for a minute or two,but we live in a world where attention is shaped more and more by television and the interwebs. A minute can feel like a long time.

What was fascinating was studying the multiple forms of entertainment AND engagement that surrounded game moments. People selling raffle tickets, camera people zooming in on people in the crowd dancing or kissing, on and on.

The webinar application

Think about it. Here’s a sport that’s struggling to get people to show up (a webinar problem) for hours at a time (another webinar problem for some) to an event that isn’t quite as non-stop-action-packed as the latest Marvel movie (yet another webinar problem).

So what could you do to add additional forms of engagement beyond the presentation itself?

Deploy your moderator or other background event team members to a more (interactive) role. This could be

  • being more active in chat more like a social media stream
  • planning to share extra resources (hot links to sites or papers or tools)

Yes, many of you are doing this. Keep reading.

Step 2: Coordinate real time deliveries (read: opportunities to deliver value)

Let’s face it – years (decades!) into the webinar industry we’re still talking about engagement, but many around us are still talking about how they’d rather meet in person.

Part of this is understandable and true. But part of it is hogwash.

There is an effect that a medium of communication -- a context -- has on the way we connect and communicate (duh!). But there is also “giving up and still talking over PowerPoint because that’s what everybody else does and nobody’s getting fired for it so I guess it’s okay.”

No, you can’t replace an actual flesh-to-flesh handshake, but you can create real time, active-not-passive experiences.

Watching someone talk over PowerPoint, even if it is live, is like watching a YouTube video. And in many (most?) cases it actually should be(if we’re just being honest).

Even sports and news television programming secondary visual streams. Yes, the L&D people are right, the brain can’t multitask, but unless watching your presenter and their slides is as interesting as watching Lord of the Rings, they may need some help. Television people have figured part of this out.

The webinar application

Below are webinar-specific ideas, but here is the BIG idea: the goal of “real time” is to make the experience something that is value above and beyond the recording. What could you do uniquely live that, beyond engagement, creates value for people who “paid” with their attention and time by showing up?

In a webinar consider the things you might do in real time.

  • Plan to give out resources as you are going instead of just posting them before the whole things starts. Implicit message: pay attention, we’re giving you stuff in real time.
  • Post unplanned links to stuff mentioned as you’re going. What was that book she mentioned again? Link to Amazon. Haven’t seen that study? Here’s a link.
  • Feed questions to the presenter versus waiting to the end.
  • Use some form of group chat (a la a social media stream) that creates real time, running dialogue/commentary.

Step 3: Coordinate unique connections or content.

As we walked into the ballgame we were handed a beach towel, a commemoration of the 60 years Dodger Stadium has been in operation. You could think, “Oh, just a beach towel.”

Or you could think like the Dodgers’ marketing team asking, “Why would someone take the trouble to come to the park instead of watching on TV?”Maybe it’s a towel, maybe it’s a meet-and-greet (to get an autograph or…).

The webinar application

As webinar communicators, our questions should be, “Why would someone take the time to come to our live event instead of just watching the recording?”

Yes, this is a variation of the previous thought about value-creation, with one simple twist: “Coordinating unique connections or content” is about a purposeful, experiential giveaway or experience that may not directly relate to the formal content of the presentation.

Over the years I’ve seen (and used many of) the following:

  • Access to… Do you have a luminary presenting who people would really love to meet or ask a question of? Another bonus of showing up live could be access. I’ve seen this take two forms, one for before and one for after. Both would use a separate, private video conference.
  • Before: a ‘meet and greet’ not only a nice perk, but an astute speaker will use this as a time to get a better handle on their audience, too.
  • After: perhaps a ‘special’ group of random drawing winners will get to ‘follow’ the speaker into a ‘private reception.’
  • Book giveaways: Yes, offering a few as a raffle is one thing, but if you want to get more attention, give a book to everyone.
  • Bonus points for sending actual, physical books. People will leave these sitting on their desk, which is some prime visual real estate relative to a pdf getting buried in a folder somewhere.
  • Want even more mileage? Put a “Compliments of <OurAwesomesauce.com>” sticker on it so anyone who wanders by and takes a gander at it shares in the love.
  • And get even more bonus points if you advertise this ahead of time as a benefit for attending.
  • Lunch:Yes, I’ve seen actual lunch and learns that included overnighting food (lunch boxes). I’ve seen it with coffee and chocolate, too. And it’s one reminder to attend that won’t get lost in someone’s inbox. It taps into the principle of reciprocity, too.
  • Special reception at an in-person event: Go beyond just giving a discount (which feels like a sales tactic). Make it something special, including and especially facilitating community connections (you still get the credit even if you’re not talking about yourself!).

The list could go on, but you get the idea.

The bottom line

Webinars and webcasts are like any event, online or off. They can be events, or they can be another time suck. They’re experience goods – it’s going to take you a bit to foster a sense of expectation that differentiates you from all the crappy ones out there.

But then, if the bar is low, there’s a lot to gain, too, right?



Topics: Delivery, Online vs. Offline, Presentation Planning

EventBuilder Staff

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