Webinars are a highly valuable tool in any marketer’s arsenal and are super effective for every stage of the funnel: for generating leads and educating further about your value proposition, as well as for product demos. But many marketers avoid hosting webinars for fear that no one will show up or that the technology will fail them and crash mid-presentation.

However, with the right planning and strategy in place, these fears can be completely avoided, and marketers can start reaping the many benefits that webinars offer as part of an inbound marketing strategy.

In this post I’ll give you some pointers that will help you host an awesome webinar whether you’re just getting started or you’ve already dipped your toes in the webinar waters.

1) Engage your audience in the lead-up to the webinar.

Think about your webinar as a product release; you want to get people talking about it before they can access it. By creating a buzz around your webinar before it happens, it gives people time to tell their friends about it, growing your registration numbers.

You can do this by creating a hashtag for the event and including it on the sign-up page, invitation and confirmation emails, as well as your regular email signatures, with a link to register. Write blog posts both on your own blog and some third-party websites to generate awareness for the event, and publicize your webinar over all your social media networks well in advance of the event.

Make sure you change up the message on social; be fun and creative and use visuals where possible. Check out this post (above, left) we used to promote a webinar we held in March. It got 187 clicks through to the webinar sign-up page — about 7x more than an average social media post for HubSpot.

Also, if you can have some type of giveaway or competition during the webinar, start the buzz about it early. Is there something you can give away to one person during the webinar who tweets to the hashtag before, during, and after the webinar or who answers a poll question during the webinar? This will increase both attendance and engagement for your webinar.

2) Create an engaging deck.

We’ve all sat through classes, lectures or presentations that bored us to tears with endless slides of bulleted lists, with nothing to actually stimulate our minds. In order to keep an audience engaged for 30 minutes or more, you’ll need to give them something nice to look at. Here’s a great post that will help to ensure your slide deck is visually appealing.

Create image-heavy slides that relate to the topic you are discussing. Stick to a one-colour palette throughout the webinar deck, and try not to make it too busy.

3) Make it a social affair.

As mentioned in the first section, you’ll want to create a hashtag that is unique to your webinar so you can create and monitor the buzz on social as well as answer any questions relating to both the content and any technical issues people may be having.

While the webinar is being run by you and your organization, you’ll still want to allow your audience to interact with the speaker(s) as well, so be sure to make their Twitter handle(s) known, both in your promotions and throughout the webinar presentation.

Not only does it give a personal touch to your webinars, but also think of all the new followers you could get!

4) Have a speaker(s) that entertains.

The same way a boring deck will bore your audience, so too will a monotonous speaker. Have someone present who is personable and energetic and an expert in the topic you plan on discussing.

Additionally, if you have more than one speaker, have them play off of each other, making the webinar a discussion instead of two different monologues.

5) Interact with attendees.

I always get the greatest value from classes in which I’m involved in the discussion rather than just a passive observer. The same goes for webinars. Make use of chats, polls, tests, on-demand resources, and more to get attendees involved in the content being presented.

Almost all webinar technology today has functionality built in to perform these types of tasks; use it to guide conversations and future content.

6) Invite a host or moderator.

A webinar host can help with the flow of the presentation. This person introduces the speakers, asks any questions that come up during the webinar or Q&A, and concludes the event. If any problems arise, this person can address them easily, without causing the speakers to get off-topic.

7) Perform a dry run.

Technology can fail, there’s no denying it. However, you can prepare for any mishaps by doing a dry run the day before your webinar. Invite all speakers who will be on the live webinar to join you.

For instance, if you’re going to be sharing your screen or switching controls, having a dry run enables everyone to become familiar with the controls beforehand. It’s always best to find out where mistakes could occur before the actual webinar so you don’t waste your time or that of your guest speaker(s).

It’s also important to do a sound check with all speakers 20 minutes before your webinar to ensure the audio will come across loud and clear for attendees.

8) Find a quiet place to talk.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the physical location of your webinar. Whether you’re sitting near others who could be rustling paper or speaking on the phone, or even if a window nearby is open, the noise will come across on the webinar, and your audience will not be able to hear your great content.

If you have multiple people speaking in the same room, make sure to have a high-quality speakerphone. Using a phone to dial in and a headset provides the best audio quality, in my experience. To avoid any technical problems, I avoid using wireless internet when at all possible and test everything beforehand!

Are you currently running webinars as part of your inbound marketing strategy? Please add your tips for running a world-class webinar below.