In this webinar session, marketing strategist, Alfred Poor outlines how to build your speaking business by hosting your own webinars.
From planning out the content that will attract audiences, to growing a following, to montenize the webinars: Alfred's simple and practical steps will help you build your speaking buisness and reach completely new audiences.
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Andras: Alfred Poor is our speaker for today. He’s going to talk about his Webinar Success Formula. This is episode number four in our MasterClass series.
Alfred has got a fascinating background. He started as a marine biologist. But right now he is a full time speaker, he helps small businesses, and he’s a writer who understands complex ideas, and translates that into practical pieces of advice.
He graduated from Harvard College, and he is the author of more than a dozen books. He authored a bo0ok called Power Marketing for Small Business: How You Can Boost Sales With Low-Cost Video. That book is on a topic he’ll be tackling as part of his advice on how you can leverage webinars and videos.
Alfred Poor: As a speaker myself I’m sure that many of you share the same frustrations that I’ve run into. We’ve seen a lot of the listings that you can find online about opportunities to speak, and in many cases you find that it’s a low paying opportunity, or they expect you to speak for free, which is a very frustrating thing if you’re trying to make a living.
It’s also very frustrating because there’s a long lead time. Often it takes six months to a year between when you put in your application, and when you find out whether or not you’ve been chosen. Even then if they chose somebody else you just hear crickets.
The third big frustration, for me at least, is waiting for planners to pick you. I’m a proactive person. I like to take charge, and have a little bit more control over my own destiny. Meaning that I find all of this really pretty frustrating, and I imagine that many of you have felt the same thing.
I decided that I would try to do something about this. I don’t know about you, but I see webinars all over the place. I’ve taken them, obviously I’ve participated in them, and lot of people are doing them. I believe where there’s smoke there’s fire. If many people are putting this much effort into webinars there must be a good reason for it.
Think about it. How many of you have attended a webinar besides this one? I imagine everybody on this call has. Also, how many of you have ever bought something from watching a webinar? I know I have.
I haven’t been to a live class training session in years. I can’t even remember the last time I went to one. But I’ve taken all kinds of training off the internet, and almost all of that training I’ve taken as a result of webinars, and paid good money for them.
Webinars gave me an opportunity to get a taste of what the presenter had to offer, and to hear their point of view. Sometimes it fits me, and I’ll end up buying. Sometimes I don’t, because it doesn’t feel like a good match, or I don’t feel that there’s a value there. The point is the webinar is now the shopping mall, at least for me, when it comes to training.
Then there’s the third possibility, that you may have even paid to attend a webinar. I’ve done that, because the content that was being offered was so valuable to me that I felt that it was worth paying. Rather than having to go to some university, or some training session in a hotel, i could sit at my desk and get the training.
That got me thinking, if everybody else is doing this maybe there’s an opportunity for me here. So after doing a lot of studying, and taking some training last year, I decided this year that I was going to make webinars a key component of my business plan for 2016. I’m well on pace to do at least a dozen webinars this year, or at least one a month.
Why am I doing that? Let’s do some quick math. Let’s say you had a speaking fee of $2,500, or just pull a number out of the air. Whatever number works for you, whatever you charge fill in the blank with that kind of number.
For $2,500 you’re also going to spend time traveling, and you may end up covering some of your own travel expenses, so that eats into your fee. What if you could stay home, and stand at your desk, like I am standing right now, and deliver your message directly to your audience without having to wait for a middleman, or a meeting planner to choose you? What benefit could that give you?
Imagine if you got 100 people to pay you $25. That will give you that same $2,500 that you would get from spending a couple days traveling to a speaking engagement. If it’s a higher ticket thing, if you can get 25 people to pay you $100 each you come up with that same $2,500. The math worked out for me. It made me realize that there was an opportunity here.
I’ve done free webinars that led to an opportunity to buy the information products that I’ve got. I’ve also done paid webinars. The very first paid webinar I did was about the kinds of wearable technologies that were shown at the CES show in Las Vegas last January.
I took in about $6,000 for my very first attempt at a paid webinar, so the money is there. It makes a lot of sense, because it’s very difficult to get people to show up for a training session in person. That’s the reason that I decided I would focus more on webinars this year.
Andras: That’s a very interesting example. Because I think a lot of people think about webinars as a classic conference, or as a classic workshop where the entrance ticket must be fairly highly priced. Then the alarm bells go off, and you say, well if I were that customer I’m not sure I would pay $100 for a webinar.
But then again given the scalability, and the unlimited basis you can do a webinar, unlimited in the sense that there’s not a limit on how many people can participate, even if it’s relatively low priced the math can easily add up.
Alfred Poor: Exactly. Let me very quickly tell you a little bit about myself. Basically I’ve had a very successful career in explaining things to people. I started off teaching middle school students. Then I worked in public relations for school districts. After that I had a long run writing for major computer magazines, including PC Magazine, for more than 20 years.
As Andras mentioned I’ve written more than a dozen books. Now I’m a speaker. The very common theme here is that I’ve been very successful at explaining things to people in a way that they can make practical use out of. That’s why the webinar strategy fits in so well for what I’m trying to accomplish.
Webinar Success Formula = Content + Audience + Technology
Let me just start off with the finish. This is the punch line for my presentation. In order to have a successful webinar program you need three components. You need content, audience, and technology.
I’m going to talk about each one of those in some depth now, but basically that’s the magic formula. Those are the three things that you really need for a successful webinar. Let’s walk through these one at a time.
Content. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here. You wouldn’t be on this call if you didn’t already have content that you’ve developed, a brand, a position, or something you’re passionate about that you want to talk about.
Maybe it’s a personal story, maybe it’s some knowledge that you have. But the important thing about that is it’s not enough just to be passionate, it’s not just enough to know everything about a particular subject.
A common saying is “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your doorstep.” The fact is that’s not true. It doesn’t matter how great your mousetrap is, if people don’t want it, or if people don’t know about it they’re just not going to come to you.
To me the important thing about your content is one, it has got to be information that helps people. Either it makes them feel better, gives them hope, inspires them, or tells them how to do something they don’t know how to do.
For me, I’m much more focused on the things that are actually going to help people be more successful in their business, or in whatever they’re trying to do. For me the first point is it needs to be helpful.
The second thing is it needs to be valuable. Now even if you’re giving a free webinar you’re asking people to give up typically a half hour, or an hour of their time, and that time is very valuable. So if they’re going to give you an hour of their time you’d better make sure that you give them something that makes it worth it for them to do that.
The third point I want to make about your content is you need to make sure that people want it. That sounds silly, but I can tell you that a favorite mistake I’ve made over and over again in my career is that I am very good a building the products that I think people need, but for a long time I didn’t pay attention to what they wanted.
What people need doesn’t really matter. You need to give people what they want, and through that you can give them what they need. But you want to make sure through testing the market, surveys, or however you want to do it, there’s a market for what you’re offering.
Andras: I totally resonate with that, in terms of the needs and the wants. I think one of the most difficult things for speakers, and especially for upcoming or aspiring speakers is finding what box your topic, or what you talk about, fits in.
We often think just because we can inspire people, or just because we have a topic about marketing, or bullying, or social media, whatever it may be, that people will want to hear it. But you really have to test the market with different topics.
I think a good way of doing that could be testing it, either through ads, or just simply writing content, such as blog posts, and seeing the reaction. I think that’s an important piece of advice to keep in mind.
I’m curious to hear Alfred, how do you decide, or find what topics you will talk about, or what box your topics will fit in?
Alfred Poor: I start off with passion, the things that I care strongly about. Obviously one of the things I care strongly about is my own speaking career. I’ve had some success, and people have come to me and asked, gee, how did you do that? Responding to their interest has led me to create programs like this, to help give back, and share some of the things that I’ve learned.
I’ve got other topics that I’m also very passionate about. I happen to edit a website about wearable technology for health and medical applications called Health Tech Insider. That’s an area I’m very excited about, so that’s something that I also have talks about.
In fact, I’ll be in Melbourne, Australia next March as the keynote speaker for a digital health show that’s going to be there. But basically I start with passion.
An important step though, as you said, is you’ve got to test the market. You mentioned a bunch of different tools that are useful. One of my favorite tools for testing the waters, so to speak, is to use surveys.
My favorite tool for using surveys is Google Forms. It’s free on Google. You can create a survey form that has multiple choice questions, open ended questions, or all kinds of things, so I use that a lot. You can also customize it so it looks like the rest of your pages. It’s a very powerful, and easy tool, and you can get some really valuable information from it.
I always make sure to ask open ended questions in my surveys where people have to type out an answer. The reason I do that is when people respond to you that way you will learn what language they use to describe a problem, and what sort of solution they’re looking for. Those answers will give you the language that you need to pitch to them effectively.
Moving on. The two big pieces remaining are audience and technology. These are the things that a lot of speakers view as big challenges. I totally get that, because these are areas that I’ve struggled with as well.
One of the advantages of waiting for a meeting planner to pick you is that they tell you where to show up, and when you get there there’s a room full of people. They handle that part for you. When you’re doing your own webinar it’s a little different. You’re responsible for getting people to show up, and that can be a challenge.
How do you do that? One of the best ways is to build your list. I know I resisted this for years, thinking I really don’t want to spend the time building a mail list, I don’t want to have a newsletter, I don’t want to have to deal with mass emailing people. It turns out it’s really not that hard. If you have good information to share people would be happy to trade their email for information from you, so it’s an easy thing to do.
In fact, I’ve got a free gift for all of you that I’m going to tell you about at the end which you may be interested in. I’d be happy to email a report to you that you might find useful.
Another way to go is with advertising. You need to be careful here, because it’s very easy to spend a lot of money, and get very little return with online advertising. Doing Facebook ads, and LinkedIn ads, it’s possible to run up huge bills very quickly if you’re not careful. So you need to study it, learn about it.
Leadpages is a service that has a bunch of free training. They have an excellent free course about Facebook advertising that you may want to look into.
The third way, and this is an instant way to build a following, to get an audience for a webinar. That’s to use people who already have lists, and that’s to use an affiliate program, and that can be very powerful.
I had a certain number of people signed up for a webinar. I teamed up with one guy, and he did a mass mailing. His mailings doubled my registration. If you can work out a deal with people that have those big lists that can be very helpful.
Andras: I think affiliates are the most overlooked, yet most effective way of reaching an audience. Because in our efforts to have an audience for this webinar series we did work with a few LinkedIn groups who cater to speakers.
We were trying to find the speakers, and those who are aspiring trainers or moderators to find them where they already were, and then partner with some of those LinkedIn groups. That’s just one way. This is just to say that partnering with such organizations, or with specific group moderators can work wonders.
Alfred Poor: Exactly.
The last part is technology. There are tons of different opportunities out there, and choices to make, which can be bewildering, I totally accept that. For me this comes a bit more naturally, me being somebody who has been deeply steeped in personal computer technology for 30 years. For me it’s probably a little less intimidating, and confusing compared to how it might be for some people.
But there are a couple things that are basic principles that you can follow that I think would be useful. First of all, you want to control your costs. When you investigate, there’s a huge range of prices of what it’s going to cost you to be able to put on your own webinars.
I encourage you to get a good program that matches your needs well, but is one that’s going to fit into your business plan. One that you expect you’ll be able to afford to pay at the end of the year after putting all your webinars together.
Obviously ClickMeeting is the one that’s being used by SpeakerHub today. Personally the one that I use is a platform called WebinarJam, which is a very powerful program, and also has links to many of the other services that will make things easier.
My second point is you want integrated solutions. I use services such as Leadpages, that I’ve already mentioned. Samcart as a shopping cart. I use Stripe for processing my credit card payments. I use programs such as Drip or IContact to manage my mail list. All those services are designed to worked together, so they pass the information back and forth.
I don’t have to copy and paste things from one service to another. I don’t have to type in orders to my shopping cart for people. The point is you want to be able to automate everything. Pick solutions that are going to work together, that are going to be affordable, and that are going to allow you to automate everything. Andras, do you have any other questions at this point?
Andras: I’m also learning here. Because in terms of automation we do quite a bit of leg work on our end. But I totally agree with you that we’d like to do that. As long as you have a handful of participants in an event, or you just have a limited number of events it’s perfectly fine to do it manually. But the minute you’re trying to scale up...You don’t want to be a victim of your own success. That’s why automation becomes an important aspect.
Alfred Poor: Exactly. I mentioned in the beginning that I’ve got a free gift for you, so here it is. What I’ve got is a report on three hardware recommendations that will help you create a much more successful, much better webinar experience for your participants. None of these are expensive. They all cost less than $100.
One tip that I showed Andras as we were warming up. I showed him a lighting tip that will make a huge difference. The device that I use for that costs less than $7. How did you like that light thing that I showed you, Andras?
Andras: That was excellent. It literally puts you in the best possible light as a speaker, as long as you decide to use video. That’s actually a good question for what your suggestion is. Because here we do a hybrid solution of introducing ourselves through video then switching to just the audio and slides. What is your general experience with that?
Video: On or Off?
Alfred Poor: Video or not video. A lot of people say I don’t like video, I’m told I have a face for radio, and I get that. People can be shy. But being on video is no different than being on stage. The same qualms, and nervousness that people have about being on stage they can have about being on video. The fact is after you’ve done it the 10th time or the 50th time it’s going to be so natural and so normal for you it won’t be a problem.
When I’m doing training where I have a lot of content to cover I’ll often use the slides, like I’ve used today, to make it easier for people to track along. However, I do like to use video a lot in my webinars.
The reason for that is, one of the most important principles about business, marketing, and sales is that I believe that people don’t buy from companies, they buy from people. They buy from people that they know, like, and trust, or KLT. That’s a widely publicized principle.
How are people going to know, like, and trust you? They’re going to want to interact with you. That’s why video is so powerful. That’s why having you appear on the screen during your webinars is powerful. Because people can see you, they can get a better feel for who you are, and what kind of person you are, and can connect with you better. So my default mode is to be on camera, and then add the visuals as needed, rather than start with the visuals and add the video as needed. Does that help?
Andras: I think so. I think there’s another aspect, because many of those on the call right now are into training, and obviously a lot of them are speakers. I think that when you would like to position yourself, or market yourself as a speaker, the webinar, especially with a video, gives a different impression. Because webinars are very very good for workshop instruction systems.
With video it turns itself into a slightly different thing, where you really position yourself as a potential speaker who has a lot of knowledge about the substance as well. I think in terms of marketing yourself, apart from the revenue generation aspect, webinars can be very powerful. What is your experience in that regard?
Alfred Poor: I think that’s a good point. As you said, it depends on the content, and it depends on the audience. Certainly if I’m in front of people who I’m hoping will book me as a live speaker I definitely want to show myself on video so they can get an image of how I operate, and what I look like as I’m presenting, and so forth. But there’s no one answer to this, that’s for sure.
Gloria asked a question about how a lot of people sign up for a webinar, but they don’t show up for it. You’ll find as you get into this that that is totally common. There’s an outfit called ON24 that is a very high end webinar service that hosts webinars for corporate clients. They have a publication they put out every called Webinar Benchmarks, and they do a report every year about webinar benchmarks. I encourage you to go find that on the web if you can.
One of the things it talks about is what’s a normal metric, and what kind of things can you expect from webinars. As it turns out, if you can get half of your registrants to show up you’re doing very well. That has been my experience as well.
I’ve had webinars that I promoted to an associate's list, my own mail list, and other mail lists that other people have. I think 60, 75 percent of the people showed up. I had a good registration based on a totally old Facebook advertising project campaign, and I only got about 10 percent of the people to show up.
I’ll share my numbers with you. If i can get half the people to show up, that’s good. If I can get half of those people to stay until the end, that’s good. Normally for my webinars, quite a bit better than half of them stay until the end. I believe that’s a result of the fact that I focus so much on trying to deliver quality information.
Then of those that stay until the end, I typically get a purchase from about ten percent of those people. So half show up, half stay until the end, and ten percent, or one in ten, will actually buy something.
But again, get the ON24 benchmark report, and you’ll see some of the industry stuff that they’ve got. They’ve got other information, like what’s the best time and day of the week to hold a webinar, and other things that can be useful.
Andras: That’s a good point. Because we’re struggling also with finding the best time. We did a little survey. Having a global audience makes it really difficult to figure out what time we should have our webinar.
We make it possible for most of the US. In this series we’re going to have a speaker from Australia. That’s a real tough nut to crack to find a good time that works in Europe, Australia, and the US. But there are certainly ways to optimize it depending on where the majority of your audience is.
Alfred Poor: People in Australia are used to staying up in the middle of the night for webinars at this point.
Andras: I see. We do have a lot of respect for them.
Webinar Recordings and Replays
Alfred Poor: One other point I’d made is that replays can suppress turnout. I have almost never had a sale from a replay. So if you are trying to sell something through your webinar my advice is to not offer a replay.
Maybe offer it at a couple different times, one during business hours, and one during the evening. But if you’re selling something my recommendation is to not offer a replay. Because people who go to replays are not engaged. They fast forward through it, they jump out much earlier on average than most people, and I find that’s just not really worthwhile.
On the other hand if you’re doing a webinar that’s more purely informational, like this one, a replay can be great, because it’s evergreen, and it will give a low energy way for prospects to interact with you. Your mileage may vary, but my experience with replays when you’re trying to get people to buy something has not worked well.
Andras: Here’s a question that I think would be of interest to most. It concerns marketing yourself as a speaker. If that’s your primary goal, not so much on the training, or revenue generation. But really getting more visibility as a speaker, so you get more invitations for other webinars, or for keynote opportunities, like the one that you’re going to have in a couple of months. What is your advice to those people?
Alfred Poor: For me the place to start is the thought leadership. You need to be perceived, you need to have the reputation of being an expert. You need to establish a reputation of having valuable information that you can share on the topic.
All of the standard advice holds here. Be active in social media. If it’s a professional kind of topic, join the LInkedIn groups, and be active in the discussions there. People get used to seeing your name, and hearing the kinds of views you’ve got, so you have a presence.
Again, holding webinars to build your speaking business if you’re looking to get booked. One of the things to keep in mind there is it’s rare that your audience is going to book you, or in other words, your target audience.
Say you have a topic that appeals to human resource managers. It’s not the human resource managers that are going to hire you, and bring you in. If you’re going to be talking to corporate clients it’s usually the director of training, or something like that, who is going to bring you in. If you’re trying to talk to associations it’s not the members, it’s the meeting planners of those associations who are going to bring you in.
You have to think in terms of what kind of content can you offer that will be of interest, and useful to the people who are going to be making the decisions. That can be very different from the kind of content that you would be offering to your target audience.
Andras: That’s a very important piece of advice. With that in mind you can try to urge those members of the audience who you know would be in touch with those who make the decisions. So consider much of your audience as influencers, and urge them to recommend you to the person in charge who is going to organize the next congress, or national meeting, or major corporate event.
Alfred Poor: I see that Gloria and Marcus are having a conversation in the chatbox about what to do with replays. Marcus mentions that some people take a replay, and try to sell it again as a live event. I just had that experience as a consumer with a recent training that was offered by an individual who I won’t name. I watched the original, and then i watched the replay. They didn’t sell the replay as a replay, they sold it as a live event, and it was in fact a replay of the one that I had already watched.
With this I go back to my original point of know, like, and trust. Trust is such a fragile commodity, it’s so easy to blow it up. When you do something like that, immediately that makes me as a consumer doubt everything you say. Because if you say this is live, and it’s clear that it’s not live, then what else are you lying about? It’s not transparent, it’s deceitful.
I may not have the most effective marketing and business strategies out there. But I will tell you that integrity is my top concern. I’m more than happy to give up a few sales in return for being honest, open, transparent, and building trust with my audience.
My advice is don’t do anything that will give your customer or your prospect any opportunity to doubt you. Trying to pawn off a recording as a live session, I think, is an excellent way to blow up that trust.
Andras: That’s absolutely true. What type of topics do you think would fit for a webinar, and what would not? What topics or subjects do you think are simply not suitable for a webinar, and should be handled in a different format, perhaps in an in person format?
Webinars are an effective training tool
Alfred Poor: For me webinars are really best suited for what I would call a one way flow of information. We have the chat box, we have other tools at our disposal. But for the most part webinars are a bit distant. It’s really hard to have effective interaction between the presenter and the audience.
It’s not like in a live audience when you’re making contact, where you can ask a question, and get into an exchange about it with everybody listening in. For me the kinds of content that are best for webinars are the ones where you’re providing useful information, and in a way that showcases your talent and knowledge. In other words, it’s really the start of a conversation, it’s not the conversation on its own.
If you want to have heavy audience interaction, if you’re going to be working out examples with people in the audience I think live works better for that. For the kinds of things where you’re sharing information I think webinars work really well.
Where you need more of that workshop interaction thing, there are other platforms that work better. Even live, there are online ways of doing that. But your typical webinar is not the best way.
Andras: I agree. I think of course we’re trying to be as close to our audience as possible. But given a relative lack of intimacy that you could easily get in a room with in person participants, I think if a training is more about getting people to open up and share information, probably an in person format is better. But webinars are fantastic for that sort of information flow.
Here’s a question for you, Alfred. What technology exists that allows the presenter to present alongside content?
Alfred Poor: There are some platforms, like this one, where I can’t see what you see, but I believe you can see the video and the slides. However, even if you’re using a platform that doesn’t support that there are add on products that you can get that can do a lot of different things.
For example, that can allow you to overlay the slides on the video image of yourself. They’re not too technical, they’re getting much easier to use, and that’s one possible way to go.
Another way that’s really really easy is some webinar platforms will allow you to have two presenters on the screen at the same time. So two windows, each showing one of the presenters. What you can do, and this is something I do a lot, is I will set up my slides, using Adobe, to set it up as a PDF.
I’ll put that on my laptop. I’ll sign into the webinar from my laptop as a second presenter. Then I can have myself on the screen for my video through my computer, and then use my laptop to project the slides.
If anybody on this call, or on the replay has a question about any of this please feel free to contact me directly. I’d be happy to answer whatever questions I can as best I can. I’m a big believer in the rising tide raising all boats, and so I’m happy to share whatever I can that could be helpful to you. Please reach out to me.
The bottom line here is webinars can make a very important piece of your business plan. It’s working for me, and I’m very happy with the effort and time that I’ve put into it. I encourage other speakers and coaches to take the time to look into it, and think about how they can merge it with their existing plan.
The key is you need content that people want, and that’s valuable to them. You need to get your audience. As we said, building an affiliate program is a great way to gain access to a lot of people very quickly at no cost. You may end up giving up half of the sale, but for me getting 50 cents out of a dollar that I wasn’t going to get otherwise, I’m more than happy to do that.
Finally, the technology is there. The key is watch your costs, and make everything as integrated and automated as possible. Because you don’t want to have to spend all your time working with the minutiae. You want to be able to spend your time focusing on your audience, and what you can do for them.
I’ll just repeat, this is my free gift for you if you want to get the free hardware tips. Just go to this site, and I’ll get an email to you right away. Again, feel free to contact me, and I would be happy to answer any questions that I possibly can.
Andras: The next session is happening on the 9th of November with TSUFIT who is the author of a book called Speakers Step Into the Spotlight.
A bit about Alfred Poor
Alfred Poor is speaker, writer, and independent technology expert based in Perkasie, Pennsylvania. He brings to his work strong communication skills, a broad background covering a wide range of science and technology topics, more than 30 years of experience with the technology markets, and the ability to make complex concepts accessible to non-technical people, especially business professionals.