Getting to the heart of webinar success

Quick Summary:

Some webinars are just better and more successful than others. In this article we look at what you can do to ensure that this applies to your webinars. There are certain aspects that can boost the success of your webinars, or indeed can detract from it. Getting the balance right, and knowing what to do and look out for is the key.

We talk about how “Hygiene Factors” are aspects of your webinars that your audience expects as standard. Not doing these well will negatively impact the success of your webinars. Whereas other aspects, called “Motivators”, will help you exceed your audience’s expectations and make a lasting and positive impact on how your webinars are perceived.

This article provides practical and easy-to-follow advice on how you can start making a real and lasting difference to your webinars. Making your webinars more successful can start today, it just requires you to make the right changes.

Why do some companies have more successful webinars (or webinar programs) than others? How do companies generate more pipeline from their webinars? Why do your competitors’ webinars have a more active live Q&A? Why are their webinars just better than yours?

What are the secrets of successful webinars?

It can be frustrating to see other companies do a better or more effective job at the same activity you’re doing. Especially if you can’t see what they are doing differently. With the same number of hours in a day, others just seem to be achieving results you can only dream of.

As a result, we can quickly jump to the wrong conclusions: Other companies must have a bigger team, more budget, a larger database of contacts, better speakers, a more active content team, or simply seem to be lucky with their webinars’ reach and appeal.

However, the answer as to what makes successful webinars is less about luck or an unfair advantage.

The answer lies in the detail and, in this article, we will show you the real secrets of successful webinars.

(Very) Brief Psychology Crash Course…

You may have heard of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory. In essence, it shows how some things cause satisfaction while others cause dissatisfaction. This also applies to your webinars. Herzberg identified “hygiene factors” and “motivators”.

“Hygiene factors” are those things that we expect as standard. So, for your webinar audience this may be the use of video (instead of audio-only) in your webinars, good audio quality, or indeed a speaker who can present well. Hygiene factors are expected by the audience and their presence alone does not cause satisfaction (because they are expected). However, if these are not present or done well, they cause dissatisfaction.

Whereas “Motivators” are aspects that are not expected, but their presence motivates the audience to feel positively about them. In other words, these are unexpected surprises, or things that set you apart from others.

If your webinars are not performing well, you are either actively causing dissatisfaction, or not doing enough to cause satisfaction.

Let’s look at some “Hygiene Factors”. These are the items you must do and get right…

If you don’t do these or fail to get them right as you strive for successful webinars, you will fail in your goal of satisfying your audience and running successful webinars.

Audio, Video, Lighting, Background

Getting these four aspects right is a definite “must”.

Successful webinars will always aim to use very high-quality audio and video. Since we’ve all been working more from home, we have come expect this – for example in our daily video calls. As a result, we are also more aware (and perhaps less accepting?) when someone’s audio is persistently bad, or their video picture quality is low.

For audio, you’ll want to avoid loud background noise, hard-to-hear low volume audio, and poor-quality microphones.

For video, a good quality HD webcam is a must. Some go even further and have started using their old DSLRs. If you are still using your laptop’s low-quality built-in webcam that is angled up at your nostrils, you’re unlikely to impress your audience.

However, it doesn’t matter how good your webcam is, if your lighting is not right. Successful webinars will follow the general rule of thumb that the main light source should always be behind the camera (facing you). That could be a window, an LED ring light or panel, or another light source.

If the light source is behind you, your face will be veiled in shadows and your audience won’t be able to see your facial expressions. If it comes from above (eg spot lights) the shadows will still be a distraction and the overall lighting can be uneven and unflattering. More often than not, in this scenario your eyes will just be dark holes.

Lastly, your background is just as important for successful webinars as the audio, video, and lighting quality. Forget virtual or blurred backgrounds. These make your video quality look cheap. Instead, successful webinars will make use of a neutral and/or tidy background, which adds authenticity and personality. If you regularly use a specific room for your webinars, consider spending some time on adjusting the background with that in mind.

Prepare for flawless webinar delivery

Successful webinars ensure that everything is prepared to the standard your audience expects. This is particularly true of the webinar presenters, but also applies to webinar moderators and webinar producers. Between presenters, moderators, and producers all of the webinar’s content is controlled.

If your speakers are not prepared to present their content to the best of their ability, or indeed are unprepared to use the webinar platform and its technical capabilities, your webinar audience will be disappointed.

If your webinar moderator is unprepared and treats their role as an afterthought, they can significantly detract from what might otherwise be a brilliant presentation, conversation, or piece of thought leadership. Read more about moderator best practices.

If a webinar producer is not prepared, or circumstances occur that mean their preparation is affected (eg by unexpected changes introduced by the webinar owner, an unprepared speaker or moderator), the webinar quality can suffer as a result.

In other words, preparation by contributors is key, and a full and proper alignment between webinar owner, speaker, moderator, and producer is vital.

A webinar platform fit for purpose

Successful webinars will use a webinar platform that is fit for purpose. What does that mean?

It means that an audience member should be able to easily access and engage with your chosen platform before, during and after the webinar.

It means that marketers (and subsequently sales teams) should be able to access and engage with sufficiently insightful metrics before, during and after the webinar.

A webinar platform that is fit for purpose, and is used in the correct way, will form the foundation for a positive audience experience. Audience members will have a positive perception of the webinar’s quality, UX, or UI.

A good webinar platform cannot make an unprepared speaker shine, but on the flip side it can significantly detract from a good speaker’s amazing presentation. In some cases, it can make the entire webinar inaccessible for all, or parts of, the audience.

Live webinars

Successful webinars will be live. Successful webinars can be on-demand, but only if they were live first. As a general rule of thumb, any webinar that is not live will be less successful than if it had been live.

Live webinars come across better to the audience for a range of different reasons, including authenticity, engagement, interactivity, and overall delivery.

How would an audience member know whether a webinar is live versus simulated live (i.e. pre-recorded and then streamed “as live”)?

Well, live allows for audience engagement through polls and Q&A, which in turn allow speakers to adjust and react to audience input. Audiences recognise this and value it.

A little-known fact is that a speaker who is being recorded for a non-live webinar will, in 99% of cases, sound different than if they were presenting live. They will sound scripted and/or recorded. Their actual tone and voice pitch changes audibly and audiences can tune into this and will recognise it. As a result, engagement levels drop, giving webinar organisers fewer audience insights and therefore create a less effective webinar.

And now for some “Motivators”. These are the items that set your webinars apart and give you the edge…

Use a range of webinar formats

Successful webinars may shine individually, but to truly run successful webinars continuously requires organisers to think beyond the individual webinar.

Thought must be given to a programmatic approach to running webinars. One of the core aspects of running a webinar program that offers audiences more than just a collection of individual webinars is a focus on a diverse range of webinar formats.

We have a specific blog post dedicated to The Power of Webinar Formats, which we recommend you read for more insights. However, in essence there are multiple formats that go beyond your “standard” webinar format comprised of presentation and Q&A.

For webinars to be successful organisers have to offer audiences more than “standard”. By going beyond a standard format, you create opportunities to engage with, and appeal to, your audience in ways that is of value to them and you.

Taking this approach intentionally and consistently sets your webinar program apart from the competition. Continue reading for more information about webinar formats.

Align webinar formats with the audience journey

The use of different webinar formats not only offers a more diverse experience, it also allows webinar organisers to better serve audiences with a digital content journey. This ensures longer, more satisfying, and more valuable audience experiences.

When webinar formats are designed in the right way, they can be mapped to the specific stage of your audience’s content and buyer journey.

Each webinar format addresses the relevant audience segment with the detail and type of content most relevant to them. A highly mature audience segment has different content requirements than an audience segment at the beginning of their journey.

Matching audience segments with the appropriate content and webinar format is vital for effective audience engagement. In doing so, webinar organisers create audience satisfaction, making it more likely that their webinars are successful.

Good Moderation

Moderators are the most forgotten-about contributors, yet they can make or break a successful webinar. Webinar moderation shouldn’t be an afterthought or be treated as any less important than the presentation itself. We believe this so much that we dedicated a full article on How To Moderate A Webinar.

Moderators fulfil a number of important tasks on a webinar. Most important of all is to make a good first impression on attendees. A rocky start to a webinar can result in a very early drop in attendee numbers, which is usually unrecoverable.

A good moderator will ensure that the overall webinar delivery is smooth and seamless, while also keeping attendees informed about what will happen during the webinar (and after). When considering the role of the webinar moderator, you should view it as a very similar role to a News or TV Anchor. Without it, the show would just be a series of content contributions, not a well-delivered, informative, and comprehensive show.

Ideally, the role of moderator is managed by someone who is not presenting content on the webinar. As such, moderation is a distinct role in the webinar, which should be owned by someone who is a confident speaker and can think on their feet in case something unexpected happens on-air.

A moderator does not have to be a subject-matter expert, but rather should enjoy the role for the purpose of providing a smooth audience experience.

Run webinars in the relevant context

Delivering webinars within a relevant context makes them more valuable to attendees and organisers.


Imagine you published a webinar in Spring that talked about a Christmas topic. While it might be the only webinar on this topic in the industry that day (or week, or month) and therefore stand out, it is also the wrong time of year and therefore hold little appeal for your audience. As a result, webinar attendance would probably be low, and the webinar would be unproductive.

However, timed correctly (i.e. nearer to when audiences think about Christmas) your webinar would be delivered in the right context and at a time when the target audience is ready to listen.

The same can be applied to your own business context. Imagine your organization is running a big user conference or is in the process of running a major product launch. The audience’s awareness of the relevant subject matter is heightened because there will be more promotions and mentions of the topic across email, social media, and other relevant websites. Confirmation Bias kicks in and will make your webinar more noticeable.

The result will be more successful webinars.

Use Enhanced Production Methods

Successful webinars always aim to look better than the competition.

Earlier in this post we talked about the basic hygiene factors of video, audio, lighting, and background.

However, successful webinars tend to go a step further and utilise enhanced production methods. In other words, rather than using the webinar platform’s native capabilities to display video feeds, PPT slides, and screenshare demos, enhanced production methods produce a higher production value output.

This approach creates webinars in HD quality, with the ability to run live vision mixing and improved branding within the webinar. With enhanced production methods, the days when a lag in the switch between speakers’ video feeds made a webinar harder to follow are a thing of the past.

A webinar platform that is fit for purpose has the ability to run webinars using enhanced production methods. To find out more about how Webinar Experts can help with enhanced production, get in touch with us today.

Audience engagement and interactivity

Successful webinars always ensure that the audience is part of the conversation, even if they are not speaking on the webinar themselves. Many webinars will feature a Q&A section at the end, however merely featuring Q&A is not enough.

A combination of the right webinar format, the moderator’s contribution, the presenter’s content, and the overall timing and structure of the webinar should all work together and lead up to an active and informative Q&A session.

But there is also more to audience engagement and interactivity than Q&A.

The webinar moderator should actively encourage and invite audience participation at the start and throughout the webinar. Interactivity, such as polls, provides engagement opportunities for audiences, while delivering valuable insights for webinar organisers.

Moderators who encourage audiences to engage with interactivity early on in the webinar are much more likely to see audience engagement throughout the entire webinar. This continues even into the post-webinar period, for example through post-webinar feedback surveys and on-demand attendance.

Altogether, an increase in interactivity and engagement leads to a higher degree of audience satisfaction, with more attendees likely to either recommend the webinar to others or return for other webinars in the future.

Important aspects successful webinars have in common beyond the “Two-factor Theory”…

Beyond the two types of factors outlined above, there are other aspects successful webinars have in common. Combined with the “Hygiene Factors” and “Motivators” we have already mentioned, these aspects significantly contribute to the success of your webinars.

Effective promotion schedule, channels, and methods

Successful webinars wouldn’t be successful without an audience. Effective webinar promotion is key to building your webinar audience. While email still drives the majority of webinar registrations, there are other aspects to consider if you want to generate a high-quality audience.

You are missing a trick, if you are not considering what your promotional schedule looks like for your webinars.

When it comes to email promotion, you will want to get the right promotional cadence and timings. Ideally, your marketing automation tool will send two or three email deployments. These should be in consecutive weeks leading up to your webinar. Whether the last deployment is in the week of your webinar or the week before is a matter of your own preference and email governance rules.

Plan to send the email promotions on a specific weekday and time of day. Mid-week emails sent in the morning are more effective in grabbing your audience’s attention than emails sent on Mondays or Fridays during times when your audience is busy with other activities.

Other forms of email promotion are also very effective, in particular personalised emails sent by account managers to their customer or prospects.

The most successful webinars go a step further and create pre-webinar teaser videos (no longer than 60-90 seconds) featuring the main speaker sharing a few thoughts on what they will be covering during the webinar.

The teaser videos are ideal for promotion on social media, but ensure that you focus on social media platforms that have the highest concentration and engagement of your target audience.

One often forgotten way to promote your webinars is to cross-promote from one webinar to another. Either promote the next upcoming webinar (yes, this requires pre-planning to ensure it is ready and setup for registrations) or promote the previous webinar, which is available on-demand immediately.

Use Psychology to your advantage

If we look into the psychology of why some webinars and webinar programs are more successful than others, we find that consistent high-quality webinar output creates a reliable value-add for audiences. This has two important psychological effects on your webinar audience.

  1. The Halo Effect. This means that good webinars create a perception that other webinars will also be of value to your audience. As a result, your audience will attend more of your webinars.
  2. The Conservatism Bias. This means that people who have a positive perception of your webinars are less likely to change their mind (i.e. be more forgiving) when a webinar is less relevant or well-produced than previous ones they attended. But be careful, as this can also go the other way. Existing negative perceptions may be slower to change despite an increase in webinar quality.

We have written more on these two important psychological aspects in our article “The Psychology of Webinar Success”.

Focus on process steps and lead time

The golden rule for continuous webinar success is a strict adherence to pre-defined and agreed process steps and lead times. This avoids webinar requesters or organisers taking shortcuts or attempting to turn around webinars in a shorter period of time.

Short turnarounds can be tempting, but the typical process lead time of successful webinars is 6 to 8 weeks. This allows for ample time to coordinate everything from webinar request and briefing to setup and execution. A sufficient lead time is particularly important for an effective and extensive promotional period.

Successful webinars pay attention to details. From start to finish, a typical webinar relies on between 35-50 process steps, so webinar organisers will want to focus on consistency across all of these.


There are specific things that make some webinars more successful than others. Sadly, there is no magic wand or single thing you can do to solve all of your challenges. Instead, the combined use of the aspects mentioned in this article will make small incremental improvements to how you run your webinars.

With the appropriate dedication, focus, and discipline you will be able to your webinars into successful webinars.

Remember, there are aspects your audience expects as standard. Doing these well won’t win you any prizes, but not doing them well will lead to disappointed webinar attendees. These aspects are called “Hygiene Factors” and include good quality audio and video, as well as a well-delivered presentation on a webinar platform that is fit for purpose.

There are other factors that can set your webinars apart from the competition. These are called “Motivators” and include aspects such as high-quality moderation, a high production value through the use of enhanced webinar production methods, as well as a diverse use of webinar formats that are aligned with the content requirements of your target audience.

On a higher level, webinar organisers should consider how their webinars are promoted to the best effect. Without the right and most comprehensive audience, your webinars will not achieve the success they could (and deserve). Underpinning this is the consistent use of a well-defined and well-timed process. Psychological effects such as the Halo Effect and the Conservatism Bias can ensure that all of your efforts result in permanent and positive audience engagement and perception.

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