The Psychology of Webinar Success

Quick Summary:

Many small and large aspects contribute to Webinar Success. However, lasting webinar success (or failure) is based on a few impactful psychological principles within the minds of your target audience. Understanding that the Halo Effect, irrespective of the true overall quality of your webinar program, can make your entire webinar program appear positive or negative in the eyes of your target audience is hugely important. Likewise, understanding how Conservatism Bias will create a long-term perception that is difficult to reverse, is equally important in ensuring that your webinar program performs as well as possible. Taken together, the Halo Effect and the Conservatism Bias are two powerful psychological principles that can make or break the success of your webinars. Read more below.

There are several powerful psychological principles that have a lasting effect on your webinars’ success. In other words, the Psychology of Webinar Success. Understanding these principles allows you to understand how your audience thinks, how it makes decisions, what it is influenced by, and how you can create your webinars to be successful. In this article we will show how you can positively influence your audience’s perception of your webinars and avoid hard-to-reverse negative perceptions – regardless of whether these are justified or not.

At the core of a potentially negative perception is inconsistency. Inconsistency in webinar planning, processes, ownership, production, format, moderation, or design can result in inconsistency in webinar delivery and quality.

For example, within a single webinar program – or across multiple different webinar programs – inconsistency in any of the factors mentioned above can create a range of webinar outputs. Different approaches result in different webinar styles, differences in planning can create variations in content and production quality, and a lack of program cohesiveness can result in the creation of different audience experiences.

The more variability there is in your approach to webinars, the higher the likelihood of creating undesirable audience experiences. The good news is that while your webinar program may be some inconsistencies and, as a result, some sub-par webinars and audience experiences, there will likely also be some great webinars.

The goal is to create a much higher amount of great webinars and a significantly lower number of sub-par webinars. And this is where the first psychological principle comes into play. This principle is so strong that it can set the tone of how all of your webinars are perceived – often for a very long time. It is called “The Halo Effect”.

The Halo Effect

Within the Psychology of Webinar Success, the Halo Effect is a psychological effect that transfers positive perceptions of your great webinars onto all of your webinars. Unfortunately, it can also do the same for negative perceptions of your webinars, which is why it is so important to create a significantly higher amount of positive webinar experiences than negative ones.

In practice, the Halo Effect means that when an audience member perceives your webinars as useful, insightful, high-quality, well-produced etc, this perception will also be attributed to webinars that perhaps are less useful, insightful, high-quality, and well-produced. At the very least, the audience member will be more forgiving of a sub-par webinar. If there are more positive experiences than negative experiences, there is an increased likelihood of your webinar program being perceived positively.

Regardless of whether the perception is positive or negative, the second psychological principle that cements any perception is called Conservatism Bias.

Conservatism Bias

Within the Psychology of Webinar Success, Conservatism Bias (also known as Belief Revision) is a tendency to insufficiently revise one’s belief when presented with new evidence to the contrary. This means that, if your audience’s perception of your webinars is negative, it is harder to change your audience’s opinion, even if your webinars are much improved. It does not mean it is impossible, but you would benefit from addressing inconsistencies thoroughly and early to avoid Conservatism Bias settling in across too much of your target audience.

For example, let’s say you have been running webinars for a while and up until recently webinars were being run in more of an ad hoc fashion with little defined process or quality assurance, resulting in a variable output quality. In most cases, the webinars left much to be desired and as a result your registration and attendance numbers have been declining.

In the above example, it is likely that the declining numbers have been caused by the Halo Effect leading your target audience to assume that all of your webinars are low quality. In addition, the Conservatism Bias is preventing your target audience from being convinced otherwise when they do attend a good-quality webinar. As a result, without further action the negative effect is therefore compounded and will stick longer-term.

That said, Conservatism Bias can also be in your favour, if the majority of your webinars are high-quality. If the majority of audience experiences are positive, then the Conservatism Bias suggests that your audience will be more forgiving of a negative experience. The impact of a sub-par webinar is much lower for a webinar program where the audience’s Conservatism Bias is based on positive experiences.

How to return to webinar success from a negative Conservatism Bias

If you find yourself in a position where your webinar output has created a negative Conservatism Bias amongst your target audience, and your registration and attendance numbers are declining, there are a few steps you can take to counter-act it.

Step 1: Remove negative experiences

Every day your audience is able to access webinars that enable a negative Halo Effect to be cast onto your good webinars is one day too many. Invariably, this also adds to a deepening of your audience’s Conservatism Bias.

With this in mind, you should honestly assess your webinars and decide which of them do not meet your audience’s expectations. If you have a post-webinar survey, use feedback from this survey to help guide you on where to make improvements. Any webinar you identify as insufficient in creating a positive Halo Effect should be taken offline.

There may be other considerations for your decision of whether or not to take webinars offline, for example whether a webinar significantly contributes to a desired tangible outcome (eg. Pipeline generation). However, if the effect of the webinar on your audience is negative, it is unlikely to have a positive effect when it comes to a desired tangible outcome – but always check first before making a decision.

Step 2: Assess and fix

Next, you should identify the issues causing our webinar output to be inconsistent and thus creating sub-par webinars. Often this is caused by a lack of defined processes, lack of internal review and continuous improvement, lack of internal communication, and lack of alignment between marketing goals and audience requirements. Addressing these issues is a starting point for a new approach to webinars.

As soon as possible you should begin creating good webinar foundations and avoiding the potential for sub-par webinars reaching the light of day. This may mean creating fewer webinars for a period of time, or perhaps even a temporary pause altogether, while you realign and reimagine your webinars. If you’re not sure how to do this, or you have been trying to (unsuccessfully) do this for a while, why not get in touch with us for a conversation.

Step 3: Start a new era of positive webinar experiences

Having removed the negative experiences and redefined the required processes for positive experiences, you can now begin your new era of webinars. With the right level of quality assurance you are able to publish webinars that will actively feed a positive Halo Effect and, as a result, you will begin counteracting the remaining negative Conservatism Bias.

As we discussed earlier, by its very nature the Conservatism Bias is slow to change. So you will need patience and time to do so. However, it may help to accelerate a change in perception if you proactively address the changes you have made to your webinar program with your target audience. This may be in the form of a dedicated awareness campaign or more subtly through targeted mentions in each of your webinars. However, unless your target audience is forced to watch your webinars you may find that the existing target audience in your webinars is not the audience that needs to hear this message.

Alternatively, you may consider investing budget in generating net new target audience members (for example from 3rd party promotional partners) that do not have an existing Conservatism Bias towards your webinars. This will give you the opportunity to create new positive experiences from the very beginning.

How to avoid a negative Conservatism Bias altogether

Naturally, it is best to avoid a negative Conservatism Bias altogether. This can be achieved with a consistently good webinar output that creates consistently positive audience experiences. At the heart of this lie consistency, as well as defined, comprehensive, and proven processes that are anchored in webinar best practice and expertise.

A programmatic approach to webinars helps to streamline good quality webinar output, while solid advance webinar and content planning, market alignment, and good internal and external communications are additional factors to include for positive results from the start.

WebinarExperts works with organisations across technology, software, life sciences and other sectors to design, build, and run successful webinar programs. If you are planning to establish or re-establish a high-performance webinar program that creates a positive and lasting audience experiences, why not get in touch with us today. We would love to discuss your requirements, goals, and challenges.

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