6 Reasons Why I Didn’t Sit Through Your Webinar to the End — and What You Can Do About It

Dear webinar host:

When I joined your webinar, you had a small group of attendees waiting for you to begin. You cleared your throat and dove into the talk you’d no doubt spent hours putting together. As you finished your intro and began the slide presentation, I noticed a few people had already left the meeting.

They weren’t alone: I must confess, about halfway in, I just had to leave, too. I never saw your big offer, and I doubt I’ll be interested in your post-webinar sales emails, since you didn’t keep me engaged in your training.

“So, what happened?” you may be asking yourself.

Look, I get your confusion.

Having people leave in the middle of your webinar can be humiliating. It can make you feel like you’ve wasted your time creating an hour’s worth of content, only to get nothing in return.

Plus, it seems like every Joe Marketer out there is hyping his next webinar using enthusiastic testimonials from previous attendees –– what are these guys doing that you’re not?

First of all, don’t beat yourself up.

If you’re hosting webinars as a marketing tactic, you’re already a step ahead of the competition. In fact, Growth Marketing Pro reports only 44% of marketers have actually hosted or participated in a webinar, but 87% found it to be an effective strategy.

But let’s be real: webinars, like all marketing efforts, rely on the fickle nature of human beings.

Human beings with cluttered inboxes and sick kids, meeting-happy managers and ever-decreasing attention spans. Human beings with smartphone addictions who drop everything at the sound of a text notification, who expect people to deliver on their big promises of providing valuable knowledge that will change their lives for the better.

Statistically, even if you get a bunch of people to sign up for your webinar, only about a third will actually show up. That said, benchmark reports show that webinar viewing durations are increasing from year to year, defying common marketing expectations that “snackable” content wins.

So, the question remains: why did I leave your webinar early instead of sticking around to the end?

It could have been one (or a combination) of several factors, all of which you can overcome with careful planning –– and a little imagination.

I don’t want you to have to fumble around in the dark searching for answers anymore, so I brought in some webinar aficionados to help diagnose the biggest reasons people might be leaving your webinar early or don’t attend after registering.

I also asked them to give their best advice for creating a can’t-miss webinar that will keep people like me glued to our screens, ready to sign up for your offer.

If you follow these suggestions, the next time you get to the sales offer portion of your webinar, you’ll be presenting –– and selling –– to a full house. And who knows? I might just be there, rooting you on to the end.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Reason #1- Your webinar had poor timing

Your webinar is competing with other things that demand people’s time and attention, like work meetings and project deadlines and rush-hour traffic and True Detective.

If you’ve invited an international audience to a mid-day webinar for Pacific Standard Time, it could be happening in the middle of the night for folks in the opposite hemisphere.

There are three straightforward solutions to this straightforward problem:

  1. Record and send a link to an on-demand webinar for people who registered, but couldn’t attend.

    According to a recent benchmark report from ON24, 35% of webinar viewers prefer to watch an on-demand webinar or a post-webinar recording instead of a live webinar, and that number is rising.

    FYI, Demio automatically records your webinar as you present it so you’ll always have an on-demand recording ready to drop into your evergreen webinar funnel. 

  2. If your webinar requires a lot of audience interaction, offer multiple presentations on the same day.

     

    Sonia Simone, co-founder and chief content officer at Copyblogger, says she’s had success with this method:

    “Our audience is international, so we often will run a North America-friendly time and a European-friendly one. If it’s a big project, we’ll throw an Australian-friendly one in there as well.”

     

  3. Start offering a webcast series so people make a habit of tuning in every week.

    The weekly webinar series is rapidly becoming a popular means to deliver content to distributed audiences.

    Fast-growing companies like Intercom offer free weekly webinars that provide unforgettable experiences for attendees while delivering significant business results.

    “We analyse the effect of our webinars through user behavior pre- and post-webinar attendance, and they are absolutely beneficial from a user and a business perspective,” reports Phil Byrne, Intercom’s Senior Product Educator.

    You don’t have to be the tech world’s second-fastest growing SaaS company to jump on the weekly webinar train.

    Former SaaS marketing execs-turned-consultants Gia Laudi and Claire Suellentrop have teamed up to present a free weekly series of pre-recorded 30-minute workshops for marketers called Forget The Funnel. Gia Laudi reports that in the past year, their audience has tripled in size.

    “[We] did some of our best work together. And, we fared significantly better financially,” Gia says.

    One of the keys to ensuring regular weekly viewership of your webcast? On the registration acknowledgement page, include an option to add the webinar to attendees’ calendars as a recurring event. (Also a Demio feature)

Reason #2- Your webinar was too long

Believe it or not, long-ish webinars aren’t a bad thing. Most high-converting webinars clock in around 50 minutes. But you have to be aware of the difference between “just long enough to give your audience what they need to know” and “the webinar that wouldn’t end.”

Solution: Knowing your audience

If you’re presenting a training course in which people will walk away with a certification, they’re more likely to stick around for an hour or more.

If you’re demonstrating a product or pitching a program, your audience might get antsy after that 40-minute mark –– or sooner.

Joanna Wiebe, co-founder of Copy Hackers and Airstory, says the ideal length of a webinar depends on more than just the clock.

“We do 20-minute live tutorials every week, and we get hundreds of people on those. We do 90-minute intensive webinars whenever we launch new training, and we get hundreds of people on those,” Joanna says. “I’m always amazed at how long people stay on. Even when we’re pitching a program at the end of a 90-minute webinar, the drop-off rate is nowhere near what you’d expect.”

The key to Copy Hackers’ webinar completion success?

“Fewer webinars with better training in each,” Joanna says. “We aim to run webinars that have such good training, you’d pay for them. (We aim to. We don’t always hit the mark, of course.)”

Reason #3- Your pre-webinar marketing didn’t cut through my inbox fatigue

When you’re planning your pre-webinar campaign, keep in mind that your webinar is in a fight for attention over all the other webinars out there, not just from your competitors, but also from every industry your target audience interacts with. And most people will only attend one webinar per week.

As of this writing, I have 1, 087 unread emails sitting in my Gmail “Everything Else” folder of newsletters, marketing emails, and webinar invites. Frankly, unless I already have a meaningful relationship with the sender, I probably won’t get around to reading them. They’ll get tossed in my monthly inbox purge, never having made an impression upon me.

But somehow, I still manage to register for and attend 1–2 webinars every few weeks. So, how do those webinars earn my attention and attendance out of the hundreds I get invited to every month?

In short, they’re unmissable.

Solution: Build a major case of FOMO around your webinar

Get the message out that it’s essential for people in your target market to attend, and that those who attend/watch the whole thing will have a competitive advantage over those who miss out.

Conversion copywriter Kay DelRosario advises to use the following email marketing rules to entice people to your webinar:

  1. Segment your list – only send invitations to webinars you know your subscriber would actually want to attend.
  2. Keep your list warm – consistently send emails that provide value to your reader so that when you do send that webinar invite, they’ll be more likely to open it and sign up.
  3. Build up excitement and anticipation – send out teaser emails a week or so in advance of your email with the sign-up link.
  4. Be clear about what content will be taught and what your audience will take away – title your emails accordingly, and introduce and highlight any guests or co-hosts you’ll be sharing the stage with.
  5. Make it easy for your attendees to sign up and attend – that means clear call-to-action buttons or links in your email invitations, reminder emails for people who’ve signed up at least a day before, with a follow-up reminder email at least 15 to 30 minutes before the webinar start time, and using a good webinar platform that helps attendees with the logistics of things like downloading any software needed in advance of attending the webinar.

Social media scheduling app MeetEdgar takes FOMO creation a step further by hosting a Twitter Chat during webinars.

“Twitter is a great way to promote your webinar because it’s designed to allow you to build highly visible relationships with customers and prospects,” says MeetEdgar content marketer Jen Carney.

To learn how MeetEdgar uses Twitter as a webinar promotion tool, check out this post:

How To Use Twitter To Get More People To Attend Your Webinar

Reason #4- Your webinar wasn’t interactive

Pop quiz: What should be the focus of your webinar, a) your slide deck, or b) your audience?

The correct answer is b.

You are there to help your audience achieve their goals. Your slides or prepared talking points are simply tools to get you closer to that mission.

If your audience feels like a passive observer in a one-way conversation, it will be easier for them to wander off or tune your presentation out.

Solution: Add fun, interactive elements to keep your viewers engaged

It’s possible to pull your audience into the conversation so you can adapt your messaging to their needs even on a recorded webinar.

Here are a few ideas to keep your webinar content interactive:

POLLS

Sid Bharath“Use polls or questionnaires during the webinar. Encourage comments and respond to them. Pause frequently to ask people if they understand and if they have questions. And try a few jokes!”

–– Sid Bharath, SaaS Marketing Consultant

Using polls helps to keep people on their toes and gives you insights as you go.

If you’re running a live webinar, you can use a poll as people are joining to determine the most relevant area to focus on within the topic you’re about to present or to get an idea of their knowledge levels.

CHAT

“Ask for feedback frequently, give them something they can do and participate in during the training.”

–– Travis Stephenson, President & CEO, Chatmatic

A chat feature is essential to keep your webinar interactive. Not only does it let your audience ask questions, it’s also a way to share links so they can connect with your content.

If you’re running a scheduled recorded/evergreen webinar, it’s smart to have someone on live chat to answer questions.

EXERCISES 

“Exercises that challenge and engage your audience will make your webinar interactive and interesting, activating their brains and increasing the value of your webinar.”
–– Speakerhub

Get your audience’s gears turning and their minds busy by posing pop quizzes or having them write down things like goals and ideas.

Joanna Wiebe says taking moments to challenge her audience is one of the best ways to keep people focused.

“My team member Wahida had huge spikes in engagement when she showed attendees two versions of a Facebook ad and asked them to chat over whether A or B was the compliant ad,” Joanna says. “Try to engage people, and they’ll pay more attention. (Plus, it puts less pressure on you to do all the talking.)”

Want more ideas for adding interaction to your webinar? Check out this infographic from Speakerhub:

Reason #5- The first two minutes of your webinar fell flat

You’ve probably already heard that the human attention span is less than that of a goldfish. If you haven’t, pay attention:

The human attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

You’re competing with sooooo many distractions while your attendees sit at their laptops. Just look at this screenshot of how many tabs I have open as I write this:

Do you really think I won’t click onto a different tab if I think your presentation is going to be boring? I’m having a hard time keeping myself from checking Facebook right now!

Solution: Make it clear from the moment I join that you are way more interesting and important than the 18 other tabs I have open in my browser.

The first moments of your webinar set the tone for the rest of it. If you have a boring intro, your audience will dread the rest of your presentation.

Here are some ways to keep folks captivated from the second they join your event:

  • Story Power

    “Tell a story that ties in with your webinar content.”

–– Patti Haus, Conversion Copywriter

Storytelling can be a powerful way to communicate the relevance of the topic to the lives of your audience. When done well, it can forge emotional connections, make your presentation memorable, and inspire people to take action.

Just don’t drone on about your life story for fifteen minutes –– communicate why your story is important to the topic at hand. Also, stick to the central idea and avoid going off on tangents.

Need some tips on how to tell a good story? Check out this quick video with three easy lessons about business storytelling from The Reluctant Speaker.

  • Set clear expectations

“Help orient users to the value they’ll get from the presentation — and if you’re going to make an offer later, just go ahead and let people know. It helps reduce the tension.”
–– Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer, Copyblogger

Don’t beat around the bush. Respect people’s time and set expectations from the beginning about what they’ll be learning and what you’ll be asking of them.

  • Promise to reveal a secret within the first five minutes

“In my first partner webinar with Unbounce, we opened with a quick 3-minute overview of the copywriting formula AIDA, with four examples of how to use it. It was a rapid-fire way to get the audience stoked, to encourage people to show up on time and to give ’em what they need in order to stick around: proof of value.”
–– Joanna Wiebe, Co-founder, Copy Hackers

Reward your attendees and win their trust with a key takeaway so they can see that your webinar isn’t just a gimmick to get them to buy something they don’t need.

Reason #6- Your webinar content was a formulaic sales pitch with no redeeming value

Lots of webinar hosts cower at the thought of making a sales offer as part of their webinar: they don’t want to go into cheesy Sham-wow infomercial territory.

So, how are you supposed to make a high-converting webinar without putting so much pressure on your audience that you lose their trust?

Solution: Content, content, content

Think of your webinar as a way to expertly demonstrate the solution to a big struggle your target customers experience — which your product/offer is perfectly suited to help them with.

“Instead of telling people what they should do (like buying your product), help them get to that conclusion on their own. They need to acknowledge they have a burning problem and believe that your product is the right solution, without you forcing that down their throat.”
–– Sid Bharath, SaaS Marketing Consultant

Joanna Wiebe says if your webinar content is strong enough, a pitch at the end of your webinar will make sense as the next step in turning your audience’s goals into a reality:

“This is something a LOT of people are afraid of doing because they worry people will complain, drop off, say bad things about them, etc.,” she says. “But once we started actively pitching at the end of sales webinars – that is, the webinars intended to launch a product and get sales – we tripled our launches. We went from a $65,000 launch to a $200,000+ launch – just with a sales webinar. So, I’d worry less about the cheesy infomercial stuff and more about being an effective salesperson. Don’t bring your baggage to the sale. Take a webinar training program like Amy Porterfield’s ‘Webinars That Convert’… and then go use what you learn.”

Looking for ways to create meaningful content for webinars that sell? Check out this post.

It comes down to this:

I left your webinar because I wanted information-rich content that I can put into practice in my life, and I didn’t get it.

Next time, will you give that to me?

Webinars are an opportunity for you to establish an authentic relationship with potential customers, which means you have to consider their needs first, get them excited about interacting with you, and make it as easy as possible for them to get more information or buy from you.

When you deliver a webinar that shows from the beginning that it will help your audience to overcome just one part of their struggle, they’ll stick around to the end — and return for the next one.

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