By ZoomInsights staff

A staple in the connected business world, the webinar is rolling out of adolescence and into maturity. Its physical and technical ease creates a pop-up virtual community, which is a boon for B2B companies that want to draw new prospects and generate stickiness among current clients. But they must handle the online presentation with care.

In short, that means presenting a panel of thought leadership, not a direct sales pitch, in a concise format with visual aids that augment, not distract, experts told ZoomInsights. “People are willing to spend an hour in front of their computers listening to a topic and engaging with it even after the fact,” said Teresa Lawlor, director of marketing at ReadyTalk. “There’s a lot of information to be gained in that period of time.”

But too much of a good thing has led to a recent condition Lawlor called “webinar fatigue.” So many offerings, so little time. The antidote is to drill down to a specific industry segment and topic. “It’s OK to have less attendees,” Lawlor added, “as long as they are really targeted and qualified leads,” especially when the ultimate goal is lead generation. Registration rates for more general topics tend toward the 30 to 40 percent range, she said, but can run much higher for topics that are more tactical. Here are some tips for standing out in the virtual crowd:

Timing is everything
While companies want to promote their webinars sooner than later – via blogs, banner ads and Google searches – there seems to be a sweet spot. So there’s no need to panic if people don’t register right away. Experts told ZoomInsights the heavy lifting really gets done two weeks out, and most attendees will likely rush in to sign up during the final week.

During the registration period, keep your webinar top-of-mind by sending reminders to those who already registered and via social media channels. Another idea is to solicit feedback from potential attendees before the webinar. “Getting feedback prior to the webinar makes it so much more relevant,” Lawlor said.

Tech it up
Let’s face it, as compelling as it may be, your webinar attendee will be tempted to multitask during the presentation. Why not give them something constructive to do with their idle fingers? Many companies, for example, set up live chat and/or link a Twitter feed into the live proceedings.

Exceed expectations
Since the format’s been around for a while, webinar audiences now come with experience and expectations. For example, they don’t expect to pay for the webinar unless you really have something valuable to offer that can’t be obtained anywhere else. But they do expect a parting gift – a recorded copy of the presentation. “It’s the No. 1 question people ask us. They want to be able to watch at their leisure,” said Lawlor.

Here’s an idea some savvy companies are trying: participation incentives. Consider offering some type of coveted content – an excerpt from a relevant upcoming book, an article, or a product preview.

Pay it forward
Post-webinar content is a potential goldmine. Why? If you record the presentations, and there is absolutely no reason not to, they can be sliced, diced and chunked into a bottomless multimedia salad. “Post-webinar is all the buzz because of content marketing,” Lawlor said. “It’s a great way to continue the conversation.”

Video segments can be housed on company websites and social media outlets and transcribed content can feed blog posts, frequently-asked question Web pages, marketing materials and even quick bites on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The possibilities are endless.

Your webinars will be even more effective if you invite all the right people. ZoomInfo data experts can help you choose from our profiles of 65 million businesspeople at six million companies – using more than 20 criteria to specify exactly the audience you need.  Learn more.

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