Best Practices for Creating a Quality Online Experience

Author Avatar Oliver Bridge wrote this on Jun 22, 2020

 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, conferences, networking events, and meetings have gone virtual. 

Big events like SXSW, Google I/O, and Adobe Max have all been forced into cyberspace, while smaller organizations have taken to Zoom to host classes and connect with clients.

While many of these virtual events are a temporary solution for adapting to a global health crisis, online experiences are likely to stick around.

From seamless screen-sharing and hosting virtual meetups to embracing the live stream and sending personalized messages, there's a lot that you can do to upgrade the online experience for your audience.

In this article, we'll discuss ways to create positive virtual experiences that provide real value. We'll also explain why building a great virtual strategy now may be a critical success factor long-term.

Webinars

Webinars are pretty hit-or-miss.

Done right, they entertain, inspire, and provide useful information. 

However, most don't make the cut. The problem is, many marketers see webinars as a lead magnet, not an opportunity to create a great experience for their audience.

Another reason that things might fall apart is that some content isn't suited to the format. Here's a quick look at content that does work for this format:

  • Panel discussions
  • A deep dive into a niche topic
  • An examination of a hot topic from a new angle
  • A presentation of unique research 
  • Interviews with industry experts

Keep in mind; webinars aren't the best place for sharing updates, providing general information, or rehashing ideas. Additionally, if you're simply talking over a slide deck, your audience is bound to get bored the second they see the first slide. 

Here are some examples from HootSuite that represent what, exactly, a webinar topic should look like.

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Remember, webinars are events, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re offering something that users can’t just look up on Google.

Tips for Success:

  • Book some experts. Plan ahead and reach out to knowledgeable experts in your industry. These might be industry influencers or someone from a complimentary company within your niche. In any case, you'll want to invite people that your audience is excited to hear from.
  • Write a script. You'll definitely want to make sure you write a script for your webinar. You'll either be talking for an extended period or introducing speakers/facilitating interactions. Even if you really know your stuff, you'll want to make sure you have your talking points down perfectly.
  • Prep your space. If you're hosting from home, you'll want to ensure that attendees aren't looking at your unmade bed or a growing pile of dirty dishes. Select a space that’s clutter-free, neutral, and ideally, lets in some natural light.
  • Choose a format. Will you be hosting this alone, with colleagues, or a panel of speakers?

Finally, you’ll want to choose a platform for hosting your webinar. A reputable platform makes it easy for people to sign up and log-in to the event--some even come with marketing tools like landing page builders, analytics, and branding tools. 

A few options:

  • YouTube Livestream is a free option for hosting live webinars (good choice for smaller brands). 
  • Demio allows users to host live webinars or pre-recorded events and provides features like private chat, polling, and CTA buttons to drive engagement.
  • WebinarNinja supports 1000+ app integrations and Facebook Pixel tracking and offers the option to live stream, run multiple sessions at a time, automate pre-recorded segments, or a hybrid format.
  • GoToWebinar

Virtual Networking

Since conferences and industry meetups are off the table for the foreseeable future, many companies are looking for new ways to connect virtually. Instead of hosting larger webinar-style events, you might try hosting “curated” networking events with small groups. 

Here, you can use webinar software or something like Zoom, which allows you to create breakout rooms for connecting people with shared interests and use group chat to share resources. 

You might also consider adding an interactive element, like this virtual wine tasting AEM is hosting in place of their annual conference. The signup page provides instructions for registering, and a deadline that ensures that participants receive their wine kit ahead of the event. 

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You might also apply for this "order ahead" kit idea to walk participants through the steps of a project or prepare a meal—whatever relates to your skillset or business model.

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One more thing: make sure that you provide some guidance around using the virtual platform, especially if you're hosting an event with multiple "rooms" or self-guided activities. 

Consider providing a one-page guide with basic FAQs, including how to ask a question during a session, where to find help if there's a technical glitch, how to connect with contacts, etc. Additionally, a short video that shows users how to navigate through the platform can go a long way in removing friction and ensuring registrants get the most out of the event.

Online Courses

E-learning maybe wasn't the best replacement for school-age kids or their parents. 

However, it's an excellent tool for companies looking for a new channel to share their knowledge--whether that’s training employees, upskilling to meet new demands, or learning how to use a new tool. 

According to a report from Global Industry Analysts, the e-learning industry is expected to grow to $325B by 2025. Another study found that companies have increased the use of online training by 900% over the past 16 years.

While developing course content is a significant upfront time investment, they present an opportunity to create a recurring source of revenue with pre-recorded content. 

Before you get started, you'll need to make sure you choose the right idea. A few things to consider:

  1. Take stock of the questions people are already asking. Look at your keyword analytics to find out what queries users are entering into Google to find your company. Check out trending topics on social media platforms. Dig into your support desk ticket. Anywhere you can learn more about what your audience cares about is fair game. 
  2. If you run a service business—consider the problems your clients struggle with most. What do people ask you about? What services do you perform for them? If you sell a SaaS product or some other type of tool, you might focus on addressing advanced use cases that help your audience get more out of your tool.
  3. Identify and eliminate pain points. What problems do you solve? Consider the challenges your audience faces and where you can step in to help. Make sure you explain the purpose of your course in the description and promotional materials--outline modules or milestones that let people know what they’ll get from this experience. Here’s an example used for a Skillshare writing course:

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A related idea is offering custom courses that address client-specific issues. Unlike a traditional consulting session, a custom course series offers your audience a valuable resource they can access as needed.

Wrapping Up

In the end, nailing the virtual experience is one more way to connect with your audience. Whether that’s maintaining a connection with clients who aren’t in a position to make a purchase or creating new revenue streams, now is the best time to focus on new strategies as audiences form new habits.

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