Question: What’s one of the most economical ways to reach a large audience in the shortest amount of time? Answer: Webcasting.

Webcasting has been around for decades, but it has come a long way – particularly in recent years. Today, it supports live HD video events. It has become a highly interactive experience. It can be tightly integrated with marketing/sales stack solutions such as Adobe, Oracle, Marketo, and Salesforce.com. It can be watched live, in real time, or after the fact as a recorded event. And you can digitally track the activities of every single person who attended. Immediately after the event is over, you can know how long each person was there, what assets they downloaded, whether or not they viewed the speaker biographies, whether they asked any questions, how they responded to surveys and polling questions, and whether they interacted with the sales and marketing people whom you had running the event.

In short, webcasts are a gold mine of information. They are in a position to help your company with demand generation, branding, and thought leadership. So, what are the keys to success when it comes to webcasting? Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Assemble a dedicated webcasting staff. You need someone to own and direct the program. You’ll need secondary and tertiary hosts to back you up. You’ll want to have a platform expert making sure all of the settings and features are right, and interfacing directly with the webcasting vendor. And finally, you’ll need sales and technical assets to be there during each live webcast to answer questions and engage with attendees one-on-one.

  • Make Sales an integral part of the program. While Marketing takes the lead, Sales needs to be a strong second in order for your webcasting program to succeed. Make sure your sales organization is aware of all webcasts and is pitching them at every opportunity. And work with Sales to follow up on the leads that invariably come out of every webcast.

  • Pick the right platform. Just like every other endeavor in life and business, you want to build on a solid foundation. So pick a reputable, feature-rich webcasting platform that has some legs to it. The more ways that you’re able to interact with your attendees, the more successful your program is likely to become.

  • Make the proper investments. If you want to make a serious run at webcasting and reap the full benefits, make sure that you invest in the proper funding, staffing, equipment, and promotion.

  • Invest in video, or at least video components, if you can. The typical webcast today is an audio-only broadcast. However the future is clearly in video. Video consumption on the internet has been growing and continues to grow at a rapid rate. And the professionals entering the workforce today are particularly used to watching video programming. Video webcasting costs a lot more to pull off, but at the same time it has the potential to deliver some fantastic benefits. If your company is large enough and has the financial wherewithal to do it, video webcasting is highly recommended.

  • Make each webcast a valuable source of information. The better webcasts that attract the largest audience are informational in nature – not self promotional. Pick topics of genuine interest to your audience. Bring in two or three subject matter experts to keep the audience engaged. Give give them something to think about.

  • Share as many downloadable assets with your audience as possible. The better webcasting platforms allow you to post various digital assets online for attendees to download at their leisure. Take full advantage of this capability. Post promotional materials about your company and its products. Biographies of your guest speakers. White papers. Relevant articles. The more interesting you make it for your audience, the longer they are likely to stay.

  • Allot sufficient time for Q&A. Even if you stumble across some truly great content that you want to share, make sure that you allot time for the audience to ask questions and perhaps redirect the conversation. For a 60-minute webcast, you may want to allot 10-15 minutes for Q&A. Note that these targeted questions from your audience could highlight a business need that your sales staff can zero in on after the fact.

  • Engage in side discussions while the webcast is taking place. Make sure you have sales and technical resources on hand during the webcast in case attendees start asking specific questions. You can engage them one-on-one even while the main presentation is going on. This is where the opportunity presents itself to convert a webcast attendee into a prospective customer.

  • Publish a 6-month webcasting schedule. What if people attend your first webcast and thoroughly enjoyed it? What if they want to sign up for more? Give them that opportunity by tipping your hand and publishing a webcasting schedule that projects at least six months into the future. Once you are on someone’s calendar, there’s a good chance that you will stay there.

Jim Panagas has designed and produced more than 100 webcasts over the course of his professional career. He can build you a webcasting program that will likely become one of the cornerstones of your company’s marketing efforts.

During the six years Jim Panagas and I worked together on webinars and thought leadership marketing, he accomplished things I could only imagine. I never had an idea or presentation that I did not run by him first – not because it was required, but because it always improved the outcome.
— RICHARD AINSWORTH, Adjunct Professor of Law | Boston University

Successful webcasting requires the same attention to detail as a live television talk show. A specially designed set can make the program look world class from day one. Be sure to use people who are comfortable being on camera. Dress them for the occasion. Dedicated cameras are helpful, although today’s smart phones and tablets can now shoot video in stunning 1080p and 4k resolution. One last thought: webcasting is the platform that keeps on giving: In addition to attracting a live audience, it can also attract a secondary audience – complete with attendee interactivity – once it becomes an on demand resource.