The word "webinar" might conjure images of formal presentations and snazzy visuals. But "webinar" is actually simply defined as "a seminar that takes place over the internet."
Nothing in this definition requires formality or elite presentation skills! Webinars can most certainly be a fun, easy way to share information with an online audience.
I've been a part of the webinar team at United Methodist Communications for a while now. The biggest thing I've learned is that the less formal the presentation, the more engaging it becomes. The more authentic and relatable, the more interested the audience will be.
Connect and share
I don't see a lot promotions for webinars hosted by local churches, and lately, I've been wondering, "Why?" Local churches have many meaningful things to share and there is a vast online audience who would be interested in hearing them.
So, I ask you to consider:
- Identifying what information you could deliver online that would resonate with your community.
- Presenting a message about scripture and how to study it.
- Offering details about different types of prayer practices.
- Giving tips for family togetherness.
Maybe you have a visual presentation to share, maybe you don't. Maybe the webinar is a conversation between a couple of people or a panel. Maybe it's just one person discussing something important to them.
Three steps to get started
Once you have an idea in mind, here's how to get started with planning:
- Choose your technology. Social media platforms are a great fit for webinars, especially Facebook and YouTube, because there are billions of users already there.
You may choose to pre-record your content and post it as a video, or host a livestream at a specific time. If you wish to keep your content a bit less public (interactive conversations with a specific audience, for example), check into using a platform such as Zoom.
Don't feel as if you have to buy the best, most expensive camera equipment! A smartphone, laptop or tablet with a high-quality camera, a tripod and a strong internet connection is usually all you need.
- Choose your content focus and hosts. The best webinars are about 30 - 45 minutes in length and focus on a single topic that the audience can easily understand in that amount of time. If you can't choose just one topic, host separate webinars as a series to cover them all.
You'll also want to identify presenter(s) who are very knowledgeable about the topic, comfortable on camera and can present in a conversational way – you don't want the audience to feel as if they're just listening to a script!
- Choose your promotional strategy. Once you've chosen a webinar platform, event date and other necessary details, it's time to get the word out! Your webinar's title and promotional messaging should pique interest while also explaining why people should join you. For example, "Learn three life-changing, life-giving prayer practices."
Aim to promote your webinar for at least two weeks and plan to ramp up promotional efforts a couple of days before. Consider posting information on community calendars, social media (pay to boost the posts to extend their reach), newsletters and your website.
Ask people to register for your webinar beforehand through a simple online form – such as a Jotform – to collect email addresses for your email list. As people sign up, email them a thank you note with information about how and when to watch your webinar, a link to your church's website and other opportunities to connect with your congregation.
If you're curious about United Methodist Communication's webinars, you can view a library of archived presentations on our website. From social media to email marketing, there are many topics to explore and strategies to inspire you.