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A few months ago we released a media import feature. Since then we've noticed more and more customers using this feature to create Automated Webinars. In this post, you will learn about Automated Webinars, if they stand the comparison with Live Webinars and how to set them up.

What Are Evergreen Webinars, Automated Webinars, and On Demand Webinars?

Automated Webinars

Automated Webinars are pre-recorded online webinars that you can host anytime with minimal resources. The "automated" part means that the webinars are not live.

Often, the host plays a video instead of a live stream and then answers questions in the chat section. Sometimes even, the chat messages from other attendees can also be "fake" and automated to emulate live conversations.

Evergreen Webinars

Evergreen Webinars are webinars that are always up to date and available with fresh content. Typically, product demos fall into this category. Content within this category will always be relevant to your audience. Note that Automated Webinars can be great Evergreen Webinars.

On Demand Webinars

On Demand Webinars are pre-recorded webinars that are accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere, 24/7. They can be hosted on a website, with a Wistia player for example, and behind a form.

Why Do Automated Webinars Instead Of Live Webinars?

At this point, you're probably wondering why a business should "trick" their customers into a fake webinar, when they could instead send them a video. To clarify, you should never lie to your attendees and customers. However, it is true that automated webinars have certain advantages over Live Webinars.

The Problem With Live Webinars

If you have ever hosted Live Webinars you know how difficult they csn be when you don't have

a) the resources

b) the time

c) the audience volume, or

d) all the items above.

Of course, you can cut into the webinar fat and host really basic, minimum viable webinars. But, in a nutshell, Live Webinars, just like blogging, can be hard when you are just starting, or, on the opposite side, when you get too much demand.

When you're starting webinars, especially when you're a young company, you don't necessarily have a big audience volume. Finding the right channels to distribute your webinars can be hard in the beginning. At this stage the ROI is quite low considering the amount of effort you can put into setting up your webinars (presentation, checking the hardware, hosting, etc).

Don't get me wrong, I love Live Webinars. I think that they are great for many reasons (read further below). But I know that hosting webinars is hard, this is part of the reason we provide so much material.

Scaling Your Business With Automated Webinars

A while back, I stumbled upon this post from Intercom, called How We Scaled Product Demos at Intercom. Even though they are mainly talking about live 1:1 demos, I believe the same principles can be applied to Live Webinars.

I think that this passage explains how you may feel about webinars:

But demos were also a resource sink. Even with one product and a small user base, we still required someone to update the website, send reminder emails, host the demos, field questions, and report on attendee numbers. This overhead grew dramatically as we began to tailor our demos to each new product, and our customer base grew. Presenting live also came with technical challenges. Your product won’t always look or behave the way you want it to. Your mic won’t connect. The tool you’re using to screenshare may not operate correctly. And you’re at the mercy of internet connection issues; even a brief delay in loading a page can knock the wind out of your sails mid-demo.

Note that the first part, about the email and registration logistic, can be absorbed by your webinar software if it is smart enough (email notifications, follow ups, registration, replays, integrations etc.).

However, with the concept of "live" comes fear of failure and technical uncertainty. Believe me, we had our share of technical uncertainty. From the host's perspective as well as the vendor's.

This is where Automated Webinars beat Live Webinars hands down: they defeat uncertainty.

Another great advantage of Automated Webinars is cost. Doing automated webinars properly could decrease your cost by a 10x ratio by increasing your productivity. Simply record your video, set up a webinar, host, duplicate the webinar, and repeat.

The amount of work required (crafting content, setting up the webinars, etc) decreases with time while your ROI increases. When doing Live Webinars, the amount of work is always stable if not increasing to support the demand.

automated evergreen webinar chart

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Is the Trade Off Worth It?

In that same post from Intercom, if you scroll to the comment section you will find an interesting comment:

I attended one of these early on and it really stuck with me. Unfortunately not in a good way. It felt like a bit of a bait & switch to schedule a special slot of time and then be served a video that I could have watched before jumping into the session. Ultimately I felt like it was disrespectful of your prospect's time and doesn't send the message that I believe Intercom strives to convey.

This is exactly what I was talking about in the previous sections. Never trade respect for productivity. Never. Your brand is a one-time investment, the more you damage it the harder it gets to fix it.

Therefore, here's my first recommendation if you decide to do Evergreen Webinars: be honest. Let people know that the webinar will be pre-recorded or partially live. Explain why you are doing it and why is still worth attending.

So you get a better idea of what you're trading here's a quick recap:

1.A Automated Webinars Pros:

  • Productivity gain
  • More control
  • Less technical issues
  • Easier to commit

1.B Automated Webinars Cons:

  • Less "conversation" and less value for the customer
  • Branding risk

2.A Live Webinars Pros:

  • Better content
  • Better sales insights

2.B Live Webinars Cons:

  • Hard to commit
  • Technical risks

Go Hybrid with Semi-Automated Webinars?

Like in life or business, it's all about balance. You can achieve the best of both worlds by doing a little bit of both. Go hybrid. Do semi-automated webinars .

Here are a few examples of semi-automated webinars:

How To Set Up A Semi-Automated Webinar?

Now I'm going to show you how you can host Semi Automated Webinars. I'll get into the basics you have to cover in order to host them (on Livestorm).

Basic Planning Structure

The structure can be as basic as:

  • Live introduction (optional): it can be with your webcam/mic on or just via the chat section. Just leave a message welcoming people, ask them conversational questions while waiting for the other participants to join.
  • Hit play: no real difficulty here, just play the pre-recorded webinar. Try not to be too formal when recording, do it as if you were recording it live. Said something wrong? Did a mistake? Leave it. For authenticity.
  • Q&A: do a live Q&A or AMA with your webcam on after. Make sure to get all questions answered.

Make Your Demo Worth It

If you're going to pre-record it, do it well!

  • Record it locally using Screenflow or OBS. Serve full HD or nothing.
  • Buy a decent microphone.
  • Spend some time on the demo structure. Tell a story. Read this post from Drift and listen to their webinars.
  • List key learnings and make sure they leave knowing them.
  • Show your video to your team

Prepare For Q&A

Make sure you have your help desk in front of you. If you're not going to be live, the least you can do is give great answers, so make sure you know all there is to know about your product.

Also, if you're a doing a live AMA after the semi-automated webinar, you can emulate questions (keep those private in this configuration) by answering to the top questions in your FAQ.

Conclusion

So, to the question "Should I host Automated Webinars?" I will give you a disappointing answer: "It depends". It depends on your size, audience volume, marketing stage, product and so on.

Should you experiment it? Yes, absolutely. Especially if you're struggling with the live ones. Don't give up on webinars, they don't have to be hard if you're smart about it.


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