If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past decade or so, chances are you’ve attended at least one webinar. Webinars are virtual video calls where people come together for a specific purpose, usually to learn or discuss a predetermined topic. They can be great tools for your business, but if you want to actually make an impact, you need to run the right type of webinar to the right audience.
In this article we’ll cover the standard webinar formats and their definitions, along with seven types of real webinars companies use every day.
Standard Webinar Formats
Before we get into the details of the different types of webinars and how to choose the right one for you, let’s talk about the main webinar formats.
- Live webinar: Live webinars are video calls delivered to a live audience. The host may choose to record the live webinar and repurpose the recording later as an on-demand webinar, or they may create scarcity by deliberately not recording the webinar so people are highly incentivized to attend if they want the information.
- Pre-recorded webinar: Pre-recorded webinars are webinars consisting of video content created ahead of time and then presented later. They may be advertised like a live webinar, despite the host not actually being live—in which case they’re called a simulated live webinar—or the host may actually show up at the end of the recording and do some live Q+A.
- On-demand webinar: On-demand webinars are webinars that people access at their leisure, usually in exchange for their email address as a lead generation tool. They can consist of old recordings of live webinars, or pre-recorded content.
- Hybrid webinar: Hybrid webinars are a relatively new type of webinar, and they’re the video half of a hybrid live/virtual event. People may host a hybrid webinar at a conference, for example, where there’s a live panel event that’s also live streamed in webinar format. Out of all the formats, this type of webinar is one of the only ones you usually can’t use basic software for. You’ll want to look for some more advanced video conferencing software to handle the extra challenges that come along with a hybrid setup.
Now let’s see how people actually use this technology to make an impact.
1. Customer Onboarding Webinar
Customer onboarding webinars are webinars specifically designed to walk new customers through the process of starting to use your product or service, or sometimes as a welcome to a cohort-based course.
They’re fantastic for increasing retention and making it as easy as possible for your customers to start enjoying your products and services—not to mention proactively addressing some of the more common customer questions and freeing up time for your customer service department.
Most customer onboarding webinars are done live with a sales or customer success rep walking new customers step-by-step through the process of using the product or through the onboarding stages of your service or course.
- Customer onboarding webinars are great for increasing retention and preventing churn
- They’re especially well-suited for product based businesses
- And they’re important for products that have a learning curve
When considering a customer onboarding webinar, you’ll need to consider whether your webinar really needs a live person interacting with new customers, or if the process is simple enough that people can follow it on their own.
You may also want to offer both options, so those customers who need the extra help can attend live while others can watch at their leisure.
The most important detail to include in these webinars is clear instructions in multiple formats so people can learn in a way that matches their learning style.
2. Training Webinar
Training webinars are calls or recordings specifically focused on teaching the audience about a product, skill, or service. Lots of businesses provide training webinars for their clients around topics related to their products or services, and entrepreneurs commonly run paid training webinars to teach people their methodologies or tactical skills. Training webinars are provided on-demand more than perhaps any other kind of webinar, since they’re often used for lead gen.
Training webinars are also sometimes used internally to teach people within a business, industry, or association specific skills. These are often compliance webinars, which are webinars used to teach people how to comply with regulatory standards and policies. If you’re running compliance webinars, you may want to consider some Zoom alternatives that have better security.
- Training webinars are an easy way to provide training at scale
- They work well live, pre-recorded, and on-demand
- They’re reliable lead generators
To run a successful training webinar, you first need to make sure your topic is something that can actually attract an audience. If you’re running it live, you may want to have someone else on the call with you to manage the waiting room, field questions, and provide support with technical issues.
Additionally, you should make sure your webinar software has the functionality to handle everything you want to do in your webinar. If you plan on using your training webinar for lead generation, you’ll also need to make sure to set up a landing page to collect email addresses, and you’ll want to set up any automations for follow-up emails you want to send in advance.
3. Product Demonstration Webinar
Product demonstration webinars are similar to customer onboarding webinars, but instead of being focused specifically on the onboarding phase of the customer journey, they focus on the product itself. People attending these webinars get a chance to see how your product or platform works before they buy it, and if the webinar is live, they can also ask questions of the person running the webinar.
These types of webinars are especially useful for attracting new clients. Plus, good product demonstration webinars can lessen the load for your sales team, since attendees get to see the product in action before booking a sales call.
- With product demonstration webinars, customers get a free preview of the product
- They help businesses attract leads and filter for tire kickers
- Product demonstration webinars ease the way for sales
Great product demonstration webinars are almost always live, since you never know what a potential customer wants to see. You can create set-and-forget pre-recorded ones, but if you do that, you need to be sure to invite people to email you with any questions afterwards.
You’ll also want to consider whether you have the sales pipeline set up to handle the kind of influx of leads you might get from this kind of webinar, since there’s no point in running it if you can’t attend to customers promptly afterwards.
4. Lead Gen Webinar
Lead gen webinars are specifically created to attract new leads, filter them for quality, and attract the best ones into your sales pipeline.
Think of these as the equivalent of a freebee you get in exchange for your email. Your business provides something of value, people sign up to attend or get the replay, and you then have a whole list of leads who have voluntarily raised their hand to receive more information from you.
Lead gen webinars work well live, pre-recorded, and on-demand, though they’re classically done as on-demand products.
- Lead gen webinars are powerful and reliable source of new leads
- They work well in any format
- They’re easy to set and forget
The most important thing to think about with a lead gen webinar is the topic. Whatever you choose needs to be really attractive to your potential customers, otherwise, why would they bother signing up?
Your chosen topic needs to be both compelling and relatively intro-level, so you can then nurture those leads towards buying a product or service.
Finally, think about whether you want to provide the webinar live, pre-recorded, or on-demand. On-demand is the easiest to set up, and requires the least maintenance, but a live or pre-recorded lead gen webinar can be useful if you want to form a more personal connection with your leads.
5. Q+A Webinar
Q+A webinars are exactly what they sound like: opportunities for your audience to ask questions in an open forum. These webinars are almost always done live, and they can take a variety of forms, from a more pre-planned Q+A webinar where people have to submit questions in advance, to an Ask Me Anything (AMA) webinar, where a person or panel shows up and fields live questions from the audience.
Another variation on the classic Q+A webinar is the Fireside Chat, where someone –– usually the founder of a company –– goes live and shares updates or behind-the-scenes info about the business, and then answers questions from the crowd.
- Strong option for building rapport and demonstrating transparency
- Can be very successfully deployed for damage control after negative events
- Helps you get a clear sense of what’s on your customers’ minds
If you’re thinking about a Q+A webinar, the first thing to decide is what you want to achieve with it. Are you doing damage control? Is the purpose of the webinar to appear more approachable? Are you having a lot of the same types of questions coming in and want to answer them in a forum-type setting?
You should also think about how you want to designate responsibilities on the call. You need one person to actually answer the questions, while at least one other person manages the tech, monitors the chat, and queues up questions for the host.
Finally, you’ll need to decide whether you want to field live questions or work from a set of pre-selected questions.
6. Panelist Webinar
Similar to a Q+A webinar, a panelist webinar is when a panel of experts get together to discuss a specific topic, and then they usually answer questions from the audience. Most panelist webinars are moderated, with the moderator both posing questions for the panelists and also managing audience questions, but they can potentially be done without a moderator.
These webinars most often take place in the context of events or summits. Panelist webinars are also very commonly done as hybrid webinars, where a panel is held at a live event while being simultaneously live streamed.
- Panelist webinars are high-value webinars that tend to draw larger audiences
- They’re well-suited for both live and hybrid formats
The process of setting up a panelist webinar is much the same as a Q+A, with the added questions of who you want to be on your panel and whether you want to have a moderator or not.
You should also consider the context of the webinar. Will you be hosting it at a live event or solely online? And, most importantly, can you assemble a panel interesting enough to draw a crowd?
7. Case Study Webinar
Case study webinars are social proof, delivered live. Instead of having a testimonial or downloadable PDF of a case study on your website, a case study webinar walks your audience through the journey of the case study live.
This can be a powerful emotional experience, as they help your audience identify with the scenarios in your case study. This means they’ll be highly incentivized to buy your product or service.
Much like product demonstration webinars, case study webinars also give the audience a chance to pop the hood, so to speak, and ask any questions they might have about your offerings.
- Case study webinars act as strong social proof
- They help your potential customers identify as buyers
- They give people a sense of what to expect in working with you or your product.
It only really makes sense to host a case study webinar if you’ve got several powerful case studies with a clear before, during, and after story arc. You need to be able to help people clearly identify themselves with the “before” phase of the story, and then show them how easy it could be to move into the “after” phase.
Make sure you’ve got your numbers to back up your results, and consider whether you want to have the subject of your case study attend the webinar.