Would you like to make more money from your professional speaking vocation?
What a silly question… we’re all looking for ways to improve earnings from the things we already do.
SpeakerHub asked if I would contribute some insights from my perspective as a webinar consultant and services provider.
Can you make use of online web seminars as an additional revenue generator? I certainly think you can.
6 uses for webinars
I would like to suggest six potential uses of webinars for professional speakers.
Some may be right for you, others may not fit the way you do business or work with your audiences and clients.
I will try to lay out positive and negative considerations in each use case.
I also want to make clear that this article is not a pitch for any particular technology. I do not work for any webinar vendor and I have no referral arrangements that would cause me to promote one product over another.
In this particular article, I make no distinction between a “webinar” and a “webcast.” We’ll consider them interchangeable for our purposes.
The idea is to have an online forum that gives you an experience analogous to one you would have when presenting in person. You can be heard (and optionally seen) by an audience. You can use slides to support your talk. And you can ask for feedback, contributions, and questions from your attendees.
With that bit of background established, let’s dive into the various ways that webinars might be able to help your speaking business:
Promoting your availability and quality as a speaker
Advertising/teasing your upcoming in-person appearances
As a pre-event value add
As a pay-to-attend live offering
As a pay-to-view recorded offering
As a post-event value add
1. Promoting your availability and quality as a speaker
Speaking on webinars that other companies or organizations host can be an excellent way to keep yourself in the public eye as a subject-matter expert in your field.
In most cases, I am a firm believer in the old aphorism about “not being able to pay your bills with exposure.”
But you may wish to occasionally do a complimentary guest presentation or accept a lower fee for a webinar appearance as part of your personal marketing plan.
It is easy to separate your rate structure for these online presentations so you don’t undercut your value as an in-person speaker.
Check with professional organizations or associations that deal with your topic area. They often offer webinar programs for their members and they are always looking for new speakers and content.
This can be a way for you to be seen by potential clients who can recommend you for their own corporate events later.
Keep in mind that webinars have an image problem, especially in America.
Too many people have been jaded by bad experiences where they thought they were signing up to receive education or useful information, only to find that the presentation turns out to be filled with unexpected marketing blandishments or outright sales pitches.
They end up believing that this is inherent in the medium, rather than being an example of poor presentation practices.
You want to demonstrate your value through the quality of your content and your technique.
Don’t turn the webinar into a personal bookings sales pitch.
You will lose goodwill and reinforce the idea that the webinar was for your own benefit rather than that of the audience. You must always maintain “the illusion of altruism” so that each attendee feels personally rewarded for attending, rather than being a target for your revenue generation activities.
2. Advertising/teasing your upcoming in-person appearances
Webinars tend to have a very wide geographic reach, so it is usually impractical to use them as public advertising for a local in-person appearance.
The percentage of your online audience who could make it to your upcoming venue is unlikely to be large enough to justify the effort. But you can still benefit from this idea as a variant of suggestion #1 outlined above.
Instead of just booking yourself as a webinar guest speaker in the general hopes of showing off your talents, see if upcoming clients have a webinar program for their target base.
You can offer to do a short live or recorded presentation that sets up your topic or introduces the value of attending.
Event organizers are always looking for ways to build attendance at their meetings. If you get the reputation of drawing larger audience sizes, you have leverage for raising your speaking rates in the future.
An advantage to suggestions 1 and 2 is that you typically rely on the hosting company to take care of all technical setup, marketing, promotion, and technical support for the web session. It leaves you free to concentrate purely on content and delivery.
You will see later that this can relieve you of quite a few considerations that come into play when you host webinars on your own.
3. As a pre-event value add
Have you ever gone out to a specialized dance venue featuring a specific style such as swing or salsa?
Often the organizers will advertise a special “pre-dance instruction session” for newcomers to learn the basics before the dance gets going.
It helps to bring the entire crowd up to speed and enable everyone to share in the fun. You can do the same thing before one of your talks.
After you are booked, offer to hold an interactive online session before your talk, where audience members can come up to speed on the basics of your topic.
Do you want everybody to have a basic understanding of some statistics you plan to incorporate in your speech?
Do they need to understand how things work in a particular societal, political, or technical context in order to get the most from your presentation?
Your venue client may be able to help promote this offering to registrants as a special benefit for them.
Depending on your subject area and how much information you plan to share, you might choose to charge for this pre-event session or you might offer it for free.
One of the advantages for you as a speaker is that it can give you great insights into the thoughts, opinions, and knowledge of the people who will be listening to you in your presentation.
You may even be able to pick up some questions and anecdotes that you can weave into your talk to make it more personal and customized for the local audience.
4. As a pay-to-attend live offering
Ah, we finally made it to the first thing you thought of when you read the title of this article!
It’s the big question for professional speakers… can you charge people to attend your talks online, the same way you would charge them to hear you speak in person?
The technical answer is a resounding yes.
You can easily charge an attendance fee and invite people around the world to join in to benefit from your wisdom.
So that leaves us with practical considerations.
First you need to select a web conferencing technology. There are multitudes available. You probably know the big names in the industry… Webex, Adobe Connect, GoToWebinar, ON24, and so on.
Some of these are just too expensive for the solo entrepreneur… Adobe Connect and ON24 are examples of products that are priced and packaged for high volume enterprise use.
You may never have heard of other products such as Webinato, ReadyTalk, ConferTel, AnyMeeting, and so on. I keep a list of webinar products available here.
Next you need to decide how you will handle revenue collection from attendees.
A very few webinar products have fee collection built in as an option in their own registration functionality (Webinato and ConferTel are two examples).
They typically charge you either a flat fee or a percentage of your admission to use their payment processing capabilities. If you collect funds through your own business operations or through a third-party payment processor such as EventBrite, you will need to send out webinar login instructions after you receive the money.
And that runs smack into another potential problem… If your webinar product uses the same login link for all attendees (GoToWebinar is an example), you run the risk of registrants sharing the login information with others who have not paid.
You also need to establish policies about whether you allow people at a site to watch together using a single login (you might as well say yes, since there is no good way to police or prevent this).
What will you do if someone can’t attend or has technical difficulties preventing them from seeing/hearing you?
You may need a refund policy in place, or you may insist that they watch the recording later.
When delivering your presentation, I strongly urge you to have a dedicated technical administrator or moderator on your conference.
You do not want to get distracted dealing with attendees having technical problems or asking logistical questions.
You need to focus on your content and your delivery.
Having a support person on the conference frees you from thinking about nuts and bolts such as starting the recording, checking volumes, and tracking attendee questions.
5. As a pay-to-view recorded offering
Making a recording of a live webinar presentation is trivially easy.
All current webinar products have digital recording built in. But the practical considerations of monetizing recordings overlap with those in the preceding section.
Honestly, the easiest and most concise advice I can offer is to create an account on Vimeo (a competitor to YouTube).
You can upload your videos and charge a pay-per-view fee through their own service. It’s all integrated and makes your life easy.
If you really want to improve the quality of your recordings, you may want to pay a video editor to remove pauses and instructions you gave to the live attendees, clean up the audio, and adjust synchronization of slide changes (if that was an issue for you).
Recordings have long lives, and viewers are more critical of recording quality than of a live presentation.
6. As a post-event value add
At the end of a public speaking engagement, why not offer attendees the opportunity to gain additional benefits and continue their interaction with you?
You can have a webinar scheduled for later the same day, or the next day, or the next week (depending upon the practicalities of your speaking venue and everyone’s travel schedules).
Let your audience know that this will not be a formal talk or presentation, but rather an opportunity for them to get one-on-one insights from you and personal answers to their questions.
Again, depending on your speaking arrangements, you may be able to get the hosting organization to pay you for the additional time as an extra benefit for their members.
Or you may be able to offer the post session webinar as your own pay-to-attend event for those who are interested.
This gives you the potential to double-up on revenue sources from a single appearance.
You can also afford to be a little more self-promoting in a follow-up session, as people have already established your bona fides as a speaker.
I hope this has given you some new ideas about ways to leverage the online world to support and enhance your earnings potential as a professional speaker.
I look forward to reading your comments and sharing even more suggestions with our community.
About the Author:
Ken Molay has been producing and delivering business webinars since 1999. His background in public speaking, stage acting, and corporate training has given him a unique perspective on what it takes to create and deliver compelling and effective presentations.