Webinar best practices: Maximizing the five minutes before your event
Done right, the few minutes before your webinar officially starts can be extremely valuable. It’s a great time for hosts and speakers to begin capturing the audience’s attention as attendees filter in.
However, many webinars miss this opportunity. Attendees often spend this time multitasking, after being greeted by a generic “we’ll be starting soon” screen. Not the best first impression.
Don’t let this be the case for your webinar. Instead, engage your audience from the moment they join, maximizing these first minutes to build momentum for the rest of the event.
We’ve discussed the importance of a powerful pre-event experience before, and today we’re diving deeper into five strategies for making the most of the last few minutes before your webinar begins.
Set your goals for your pre-webinar time
Think about what you want to accomplish in the couple minutes before your webinar kicks off. These objectives should align with your overall goals for the webinar.
Here are some suggested goals to get you started.
- Build attendee excitement before the event starts
- Keep the audience engaged with an immersive virtual experience
- Grow participant interest in the webinar topic
- Provide space for attendees to start networking
- Communicate your brand’s values and personality
- Establish credibility with your audience
Build anticipation with music and engaging visuals
Welcome attendees into an engaging atmosphere from the start with custom music and glossy, on-brand graphics. Make it feel like a unique, exciting experience—something only your company could offer.
To further boost engagement, your welcome screen should include a customized message inviting attendees to participate in a pre-webinar activity or explore relevant resources.
Look for a robust webinar platform that supports this customization and allows you to easily upload your chosen welcome graphic and music. If you’re using Webex Webinars, check out this quick guide for step-by-step instructions on setting up your welcome message, image, and music.
Start the conversation with a poll
Get the conversation going with a quick poll related to the webinar topic.
This will ease attendees into the topic and help them feel included and invested from the start.
Polls can also provide you with valuable data about your audience so your speakers can hone the conversation appropriately. Choose a team member (or two or three) to monitor the poll and flag any notable themes or responses for the speakers and emcee.
Slido offers many engaging poll templates and can be accessed from a simple QR code added to a welcome graphic. Attendees can easily respond to the poll from their mobile phones while they’re waiting for the webinar to begin.
Once the webinar starts, you can display the results of the poll within the webinar platform and discuss any interesting results.
Guide: Best Practices for Your Webinar
Discover useful tips for hosting great webinars, from preparation to execution to follow-up.
Get them thinking with discussion questions
If a poll isn’t quite right for your group, try a discussion question instead.
Post one or two discussion questions on the welcome screen and encourage attendees to share their answers in the chat while they wait for the webinar to start.
Like a poll, discussion questions can get attendees in the mind space to think about your topic, helping them transition fully into the webinar and leave behind distracting thoughts about their next meeting or long to-do list.
Have the emcee interact with the responses in the chat. Summarize key themes, spotlight particularly great comments, and use responses as a springboard to preview points you’ll cover in the webinar, generating interest in the topic.
Gamify the experience with a fun challenge
Consider gamifying the webinar experience by posting a short challenge on the welcome screen and asking everyone to respond in the chat. It can be as simple as asking them to guess the speaker’s favorite ice cream flavor or it can be a trickier trivia question related to your topic.
Tell attendees that everyone who participates in the challenge will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for a prize (and winners will be announced at the end of the webinar).* Doing so can help boost engagement, as well as audience retention.
*Tip: Check with your legal team before launching any drawings or contests, just to make sure your company policy allows it.
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Putting it all together: Sample pre-webinar agenda
Incorporating one or more of the above strategies, map out a detailed plan for the 5-10 minutes before your webinar starts and the 2-3 minutes after it does while you’re waiting for attendees to trickle in.
Let’s say your webinar starts at 10am. Here’s what your pre-webinar agenda might look like:
9:45am: Set the Stage: At least 15 minutes before the webinar’s start, launch the practice session where your speakers, emcee, and other team members can privately gather to ensure everything’s in order. In Webex Webinars, starting the practice session will also automatically launch the pre-webinar welcome experience, displaying your custom start graphic and playing the music you selected in advance.
9:50am: Early Welcome & Intro Pre-Webinar Activity: As attendees start to trickle in, have the emcee or another team member welcome them via the chat, encouraging them to start working on your chosen pre-webinar activity. With Webex Webinars, the emcee can easily communicate with attendees without leaving the practice session.
Also include a message on your welcome screen that highlights the pre-webinar activity (a poll, introducing themselves in the chat, responding to a posted discussion question in the chat, or another activity of your choice). The emcee can monitor the chat for questions or responses to the activity, chiming in as appropriate. They can also use this time to share any useful resources or updates via the chat.
10:00am: Official Welcome & Pre-Webinar Activity Reminder: End the practice session to bring the emcee and speakers into the main webinar. Welcome everyone and let people know that you’ll give others 2-3 minutes to trickle in. Have the emcee continue to engage with attendees’ responses to the poll, discussion question or whatever pre-webinar activity you chose. (You can also choose to start promptly, and latecomers can catch up when they arrive. Begin by debriefing the results of the pre-webinar activity.)
10:02am: Webinar Officially Begins: Officially welcome everyone and kick off the webinar.
Continuing the momentum
Once you’ve nailed the opening of your webinar, you’ve got to keep your audience engaged throughout. For tips on how to do this, see our webinar best practices guide. It covers critical elements to consider before, during, and after your webinar to make sure it’s a success.
And explore Webex Webinars today to learn more about how this interactive webinar platform can help take your virtual events to the next level.
Mar 16, 2023 — Tanuj Goyal