There are quite a few steps to go through in the lead-up to a virtual event (in fact, over 40). And before you go live, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve thought of literally everything.
Planning ahead will not only give you that warm fuzzy feeling from knowing that you’re an awesome event organizer, but you’re much more likely to have a successful event to show for your hard work as a result. Your boss will be pleased, your potential clients will be impressed and your professional reputation will get a gold star.
To help you prepare for an upcoming webinar, here’s a detailed week-by-week webinar preparation checklist. We’ve also formatted it into a printer-friendly PDF template in case you’d like to put a tick in the box once you have completed each task.
8 weeks to go
- Prepare a webinar strategy. What do you want to achieve from hosting a webinar? For example, do you want to drive X number of new leads to your database? Or perhaps you want to drive X number of product trials or even a combination of both of these. Whatever you decide, actually stating what your goals are will help you focus on achieving them.
- Identify team members that will help coordinate the event (or you can do it by yourself, which is totally doable).
- Decide on the title and content. Make it compelling!
- Confirm webinar duration (20 minutes? 30? 45? More?).
- Set a rehearsal date as well as the date of the webinar itself.
- Confirm speaker’s availability for both the rehearsal and the webinar and send invites to his or her calendar.
4 weeks to go
- Schedule your event in your platform of choice (of course I’m going to recommend that you use GoToWebinar!).
- Prepare email invitations, registration page, confirmation emails and follow-up emails.
- Prepare opening and closing slides (the ones that will appear at the start and end of the main presentation). For example, you might want to use a welcome slide, a photo, name and job title of the speakers, and the Twitter hashtag as you’re welcoming people to the event. You may want to add a “Free trial” or “Contact us” slide to the end of your presentation.
3 weeks to go
- Create a hashtag for your event to include in promotional materials.
- Start promoting the webinar. It’s highly unlikely that everyone who registers for the webinar will attend — particularly if it’s free. Expect an attendee rate of around 30 to 40 percent.
- Send out an email invitation to your database (you could wait until two weeks before and then send another invite one week before and even a day or two before).
- Add the webinar to your website and blog, and start talking up your event on social media right up until the big day. Ask your presenters to promote the webinar to their audience as well.
- Ensure you’ll have access to two computers so you have a backup option if one goes down during the presentation. A second computer will also allow the organiser/moderator to see the Q&A, polls and chat panes and dashboard clearly.
2 weeks to go
- Send out another HTML or plain text email invitation.
- Analyse your registration data to evaluate the effectiveness of your promotions so far. Plan promotion changes, if necessary.
- Pose questions to your social networks to spark interest and gather audience feedback. What does your audience want to learn most from your webinar?
1 week to go
- Send out a reminder email to encourage people to register.
- Hold a rehearsal with your event team and speakers where you will:
- Go through the logistics and presentations ahead of the live event
- Decide who is going to be in control of the presentation during your rehearsal. Perhaps your speaker is going to show their screen. Or perhaps you’re going to host the presentation and give your speaker keyboard and mouse control so they can move the slides along.
- Review content (slides or demos) to make sure that it supports your event and audience goal.
- Have the moderator learn how to pronounce properly the first and last names of everyone he or she will be introducing.
- Have speakers and moderators turn on their webcams, perfect their lighting and clear their backgrounds so they know how to set up on the day of the webinar.
- Have speakers run through their presentation slides and practice advancing the slides in your webinar platform.
- Finalise the presentation, making any amends following the rehearsal.
- Set up your exit survey and save poll questions for audience engagement.
- Send joining details to the speaker(s) and/or moderator.
1 day to go
- Optional — send out one final email with a sense of urgency added to the subject line or body copy. Using phrases such as “Last chance to register!” can persuade a few more people to join at this point.
- Send out a reminder to attend email. This can be an automated service in platforms such as GoToWebinar.
1 hour to go
- Disable email alerts and any other pop-up notifications or sounds (in fact, it’s best to close down these applications all together to be safe!).
- Open the webinar in “practice mode” to communicate and practice with your speakers without attendees arriving early.
- Welcome your speakers.
- Perform a final soundcheck.
- Give everyone an update including the expected number of attendees.
- Give presenter controls to those who need to advance the slides or show their screens.
- Your speaker will join the webinar as a panelist. This gives them the ability to speak with the audience, show their screen and have keyboard and mouse control. If you would like them to see the questions that have come in from the audience, then you will need to upgrade them to an organiser. To do so from within GoToWebinar, launch the webinar in practice mode, go into the control panel to the Attendee List, right-click on the speaker’s name and select Make organiser. Be aware that being an organiser also gives the speaker the ability to start and end the webinar. Make sure you tell your speaker not to press Start broadcast or exit the webinar prematurely.
- Reconfirm the format of the webinar (intro, presentation, poll question, Q&A, wrap-up, etc.) and who is responsible for what (for example, perhaps you’re launching the polls so that the speaker can focus on delivering the presentation).
- Make sure mobile phones are on silent or Do Not Disturb.
- Send out a reminder email to registrants to join the webinar in 1 hour (again this is an automated service provided by GoToWebinar).
30 minutes to go
- Put a sign on your door with something like “Live webinar on air – do not disturb”.
- Have water handy in case of a dry throat or coughing fit.
5 minutes to go
- Show your screen (or ask the presenter to share theirs if she or he is hosting the presentation).
- Allow attendees to join and view your pre-webinar slide.
- Send a welcome message through the chat pane to alert your audience that the webinar will begin shortly. Provide them with the hashtag so that they can start tweeting about your webinar.
1 minute to go
- Make sure all speakers are muted except the person speaking.
- Have the moderator and speakers turn on their webcams to foster familiarity and engagement with the audience.
- Start the broadcast and hit the record button.
DURING the webinar
- Welcome the audience and begin the show.
- Display the agenda, title and housekeeping slides.
- Monitor audience engagement via the dashboard if you are using GoToWebinar. Encourage the audience to participate by using the questions pane or by launching ad hoc polls when appropriate. Queue up and/or post questions to the speaker by monitoring the questions pane and hashtag usage on social networks.
- Chat out useful links to the audience, such as book references or web pages.
- Keep the speaker on track by alerting him or her via chat or verbally about how much time is remaining.
- Tell the audience that you’ll send an email with a link to the on-demand recording and ask them to take the exit survey. If you are using GoToWebinar, the exit survey will pop up automatically when people leave the event.
- End the webinar on time and thank speakers, sponsors and audience for attending.
- Before closing the webinar platform, click “Stop Recording.”
AFTER the webinar
- Have a separate virtual session to hold a debriefing with speakers and organisers.
- Agree who will handle any unanswered questions.
- Archive the webinar recording.
- Send out thank you emails to all attendees and no-shows within 24 hours (even sooner if possible), and include a link to the recording and other useful resources.
- Share performance metrics on total registrations, attendance, engagement, responses to polls and number of questions asked with key stakeholders.
- Promote the on-demand recording on your blog and via your social channels.
- Give yourself a pat on the back for a well-executed webinar!
Remember to download this checklist as a printer-friendly PDF so you can check everything off as you plan and prepare your next webinar.