Aug 10, 2020

Which is better, an automated eWebinar or a live webinar?

Todd Parmley
Todd Parmley
Head of Product + Content
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An eWebinar, which is automated, is neither better or worse than a live webinar. The two are just different, and they serve different purposes. Each has its strengths and a mature, robust webinar strategy would almost certainly benefit from using both.

So the question then isn't which is better but rather which is better under what circumstances. And, though every situation is unique, there are some things you can ask yourself when trying to figure this out.

How available do you need or want your webinar to be?

This may be the most important question of all. If you wish you could hold your webinar as frequently as attendees needed it — or might register for it — then automated is generally the way to go. What if, for example, you could do six demos a week instead of one? Or you could double the number of training sessions you offered? An eWebinar can be made available as often as you like for as long as you like, on any day at any time in any timezone.

If your webinar will be a one-time special event or may only happen a very limited number of times, then holding a live webinar might be the better choice.

What type of content do you plan to share in your webinar?

Let's start with the types of content that are best suited for eWebinars. They include things like training, onboarding, recruiting, product overviews, demos, sales pitches, and brand awareness, and can be described in the following terms.

Fundamental

The content is fundamental to your business, the kind of thing you share with people regularly so they can get to know you and what you have to offer.

Evergreen

The content is set and will continue to be relevant and useful for quite some time.

Defined

The content has been shared enough to learn what questions and objections it usually raises, and the responses to those have been incorporated into it.

Straightforward

The content is clear-cut and objective. Outside of answering a clarifying question or two, there isn't much need for direct interaction with the audience.

Now let's look at the kinds of content that are generally best for live webinars. These include things like special events, panel discussions, guest speakers, launches, and thought leadership, and tend to be characterized as follows.

Unique

The content is special, appropriate perhaps for a one-time only event. Its audience tends to be more exclusive and its topics more niche.

'Of the moment'

The content addresses current topics and trends. It may have tremendous impact when first shared but doesn't have a long shelf life.

Untested

The content is new and hasn't been presented enough to know how audiences will react to it so that it can be improved and optimized.

Improvised

The content is not very structured. Its presenter plans to actively engage the audience, adapt to the points they raise, and tailor the experience as he or she goes.

What kind of experience do you want for your audience?

With an eWebinar, the experience is always predictably the same, guaranteeing quality, a consistent representation of your brand, and exact content.

Nothing is left to chance. No presenter flubs. No tangents. No unexpected questions. No hijacking of the session by a difficult or self-centered attendee. (Questions are answered privately, in chat.) Since eWebinars are built around videos, they are more reliable as they have don't have the latency issues, like freezing and out-of-sync audio, that can happen with live webinars.

This kind of consistent and controlled experience works well at the top of the sales funnel, with unqualified leads, where you always want to make a good first impression. It is also good for trainees and onboarding new customers. eWebinars are a great way to connect with a lot of people and to make new connections.

With live webinars, the experience can be made to feel especially unique, provided the presenter spends time responding to specific questions and objections as they are raised by those in attendance — with the rest of the audience listening in. Off the cuff remarks, shout outs and even gaffes make the experience special.

The risk is that spontaneity can backfire, especially if the presenter isn't skilled at handling an audience remotely. Plus, live webinars are more prone to technical glitches than automated ones.

This type of tailored and spontaneous experience can be very powerful, if done right. It is more appropriate for people in the middle and at the bottom of the sales funnel, like prospects and existing customers. Live webinars are great for anyone with whom you would like to deepen your connection.

Is presenting the best use of that person's time and energy?

If time is money, this is the million-dollar question.

Since every eWebinar is built around a pre-recorded presentation, the person giving that presentation doesn't actually need to be there for any of the sessions, even though they get the fundamental benefits as if they had been. Suddenly, their time is freed up to spend in other ways. Real-life presenters escape burnout and can put their energy toward other things. Meanwhile, their pre-recorded selves always appear energized and at their very best.

Provided you only hold live webinars occasionally, the time preparing for and presenting such events can be focused on creating something truly special.

Live events let a skilled presenter truly shine. It also happens to be a much more productive use of their time and energy, especially when you consider your best presenters are often your best people all around.

Both are valuable, neither is better

In the end, when it comes to automated eWebinars and live webinars, neither is better or more valuable than the other. They are both powerful tools. In fact, if used in combination in a way that leverages their strengths, they will amplify each other and work together to bolster the overall health and effectiveness of any webinar strategy.

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