9 High-Impact Webinar Formats to Cut Through the Noise

June 19, 2023
Meisha Bochicchio
Meisha Bochicchio
Senior Content Marketing Manager at Goldcast

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Believe it or not, webinars have been kicking around since before the dawn of Amazon shopping. As one of the oldest and most trusted event formats, you can think of them as the dinosaurs of the virtual event marketing world.

But unlike the dinosaurs, webinars have proven extinction-proof. In fact, they’re still rapidly evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of modern attendees.

Consider these statistics from our latest Attendee Sentiment Report and B2B Webinar Benchmark findings.

The results are in, and the data shows that people are still all-in on webinars. But the way we approach webinar programming has changed over the years. In fact, today's webinars are so diverse that the very definition of what a 'webinar' is can vary depending on who you ask.

At Goldcast, we've seen organizations take a variety of approaches to their webinar strategies depending on factors like:

  • The goal of the webinar
  • Where it sits in the marketing strategy
  • And who within the company owns it

‍There are dozens of different webinar formats to choose from. While there's no one way to create a successful webinar strategy, here are our favorite types of webinar formats to boost your attendance, engagement, and event ROI.

The best webinar formats for almost any goal

  • The top trends webinar
  • The Q&A or 'ask me anything' webinar
  • The expert panel
  • The product showcase webinar
  • The webinar series
  • The research report reveal
  • The product demo
  • The customer-centric webinar
  • The community builder

How to structure a webinar that gives attendees what they really want

Back in the early days, webinars got away with offering the bare minimum—a virtual meeting place, topic, presenter, and visual.

These days, expectations have changed, and competition in the virtual event space has raised the bar sky-high.

To make sure your event meets those expectations and your revenue goals, start with these foundational questions:

  • What stage of the marketing funnel are your attendees in?
  • What kind of information is the most useful to them?
  • What is your primary goal for the event?

Next, take time to think through the essential elements of a best-in-class webinar.

  • Content: You already know content is the bread and butter of your webinar. But next-level webinar content means finding a topic people genuinely want to hear about and adding your unique angle to hold their attention.
  • Delivery: How you deliver the content also matters. Set aside time to practice your pre-event routine for a more polished and meaningful result.
  • Engagement: Despite the love for virtual events, the number one drawback for attendees is the lack of face-to-face networking. Keeping webinar engagement high requires ample opportunities for peer interaction.
  • Platform: User experience can make or break attendees' perception of your event. Take your time to find a webinar platform with the features and support you need.
  • Equipment: Hardware is as important as software. Fast wifi and a reliable camera and mic are crucial for your presenters. Always check your tech.
  • Accessibility: Your attendees come from all walks of life. Make sure your event is accessible and inclusive for everyone.

Exceptional webinar formats to engage your audience

Once you've nailed down your event goals and audience, consider these 11 engaging webinar format ideas.

1. The online event or conference

Funnel stage: Top

Goals: Brand recognition, affinity among a specific target audience

We'll be real with you: Planning a virtual conference is a lot of work. 🫡

But it can also be a lot of fun — especially when it provides you with a rapid jumpstart on building trust with a specific audience segment.

Hosting an engaging and educational event helps position your brand as the expert in your field.

Example of an online event webinar

In the middle of a pandemic, our friends at Smartling pulled off a killer virtual event that blew their goals out of the water, bringing in 1,400+ registrations with a 42% live attendance rate.

"Attendees from all over the globe were wowed by their experience at Global Ready Conference," reflects Kelsey Woodworth, marketing manager at Smartling. Their secrets to success? The event's high-quality content and interactive format.

Pro tips for brilliant results

The secret to success for an online conference is building an event with zero downtime. Give attendees a 30-minute intermission, and they're unlikely to be back.

But to make this happen without burning out your attendees, you need an agenda jam-packed with engaging and exciting guest speakers. To keep attendees entertained, try filling five-minute time gaps with short videos promoting your company and your partners.

You can also create buzz and curiosity among attendees by including non-traditional sessions — Smartling treated their audience to a live performance by The California Honeydrops. Don't forget to remind attendees who's responsible for your awesome event with a great webinar branding.

2. The expert panel

Funnel stage: Top

Goals: Brand trust, thought leadership, collaboration

Similar to the virtual conference and Q&A formats, hosting an expert panel discussion shows attendees that your organization is at the forefront of the latest conversations in your industry.

The benefit of having a panelist discuss topics and FAQs is that the conversation flows easily. You don't need a scripted webinar presentation. You don't need questions from the audience (although, hey, they wouldn't be a bad addition).

You just need three or four industry leaders with different perspectives and a general idea of where the conversation will go.

Example of an expert panel webinar

Covid took a toll on all of us. We spent more than two years without in-person events. In January 2022, SaaS company Onspring was planning its first post-Covid, in-person company kickoff. Then, cases were on the rise again.

Three days before the event, they decided to take the whole thing online — expert panels and all. The good news is, they nailed it.

Pro tips for brilliant results

It's not very exciting to listen to people who all agree with each other. To foster a truly engaging discussion, make sure your panel includes speakers with different points of view.

For a little extra spice, try an "expert debate" take on the panel format to pique your audience’s curiosity and increase attendance.

3. The Q&A or ‘ask me anything’ webinar

Funnel stage: Top

Goals: Brand trust, thought leadership

A conference-style event with guest speakers is a truly timeless webinar format. But not everyone is going to be after the same insights on the same topics when they sign up.

To give attendees the opportunity to get involved and influence the content in real time, the 'ask me anything' (AMA) webinar is your go-to format.

Whether it's a leader from your own organization, partner, sponsor, or industry expert — this webinar format allows well-known experts to answers questions from the audience. A moderator typically runs the show and keeps the conversation on track.

Example of a live Q&A webinar

We're biased, but we think our CMO Diaries event series is a perfect example of an Q&A session-style webinar series. These 30 to 45-minute chats with marketing leaders give attendees an inside look at what it really takes to build a great B2B brand.

Pro tips for brilliant results

To mitigate some of the risk of this interview webinar format, build a list of questions ahead of time with the help of your registrants. When you plan your webinar email sequence, be sure to include a link to a super simple form in your reminders where your audience can easily submit their burning questions.

4. The thought leadership webinar

Funnel stage: Top

Goals: Authority, brand trust

Every organization has expertise in something. But packaging it up and delivering it to your audience in an engaging and educational way can be a challenge.

Get it right, and you can provide value to your audience in a memorable way that feels like you're asking for nothing in return.

Example of a thought leadership webinar

Software company Validere was in a webinar rut, falling back time and again on pre-recorded and edited webinars. "It worked to an extent, but I think there's only so much you can get out of that," comments Demand Generation Manager Tamara Teofanovic. "Our attendance rates definitely dropped, and there was not a lot of engagement."

Switching over to Goldcast empowered Validere to start running live, engaging virtual events with different thought leaders for every webinar.

Pro tips for brilliant results

Engagement is the key to pulling off thought leadership webinars that keep attendees coming back for more. Your event platform should give you the ability to upload documents, poll the audience in real time, and include an "instant access" link in webinar reminders.

5. The brand experience webinar

Funnel stage: Full funnel

Goals: Brand awareness

If your goal is to dominate your industry as the top-of-mind brand, don't skip the brand experience webinar in your virtual event lineup.

Many of the top-funnel webinars we've discussed so far are all about educating, entertaining, and giving wild amounts of value while expecting nothing in return. But with the brand experience event, there’s a built-in expectation to highlight your brand’s core value prop and how your products and services can help your audience members reach the next level.

Example of a brand experience webinar

Subscription management leader Zuora prioritizes brand experience as one of four key pillars of its event strategy. This pillar also includes corporate events, trade shows, and larger virtual events. Zuora’s brand experience events cover all their products and audience segments ranging from prospects to customers.

Pro tips for brilliant results

The brand experience event doesn't beat around the bush. It's about connecting your webinar audience with the strategies, products, and services that can help them achieve their goals.

For this reason, data collection and tech stack integration are crucial. Before launching your event, make sure you're set up to identify marketing qualified leads, send personalized follow-up emails, and track the analytics that are most important to your strategy.

6. The live training webinar

Funnel stage: Full funnel

Goals: Thought leadership, lead gen, customer retention

As an industry leader, live training events are some of the best opportunities you have to educate your audience. And the great part is, you can tailor this type of webinar format to almost any goal or funnel stage.

At the top of the funnel, you can live-train volunteers on best practices without mentioning your product. At the bottom, you can run product-specific workshops to transform new customers into power users.

Example of a live training webinar

Cognism's Cold Calling Live series is one of our favorite examples of live training. In these webinars, experts take sales professionals through various frameworks and approaches to cold calling.

Pro tips for brilliant results

The "live" element is what sets this webinar format apart. Be intentional about selecting volunteers that align with your audience personas. This will help your attendees relate on a deep level and come away from the webinar with actionable notes.

7. The lead generation webinar

Funnel stage: Mid

Goals: Demand gen, lead gen

Speaking of lead gen being alive and well — make sure you have a program in place to collect and nurture prospects from your webinars. Time is precious and people who choose to spend it attending your virtual event can often be the best crowd to actively build relationships with.

A list-building webinar marketing strategy is designed to attract these high-quality connections. You can even build your approach on top of another concept — like the thought leadership or virtual conference formats. The difference is that this type of webinar format goes a step further with specific tactics to identify prospects and guide them through the pipeline.

Example of a lead gen webinar

ThoughtSpot is the easy-to-use analytics platform that helps businesses put the power of their data stack in the hands of every employee. As an authority on analytics, they host Beyond, a large data and analytics event.

The company's flagship event happens in Vegas, but has a robust virtual experience for those who can't attend in person. Beyond began as a customer-only event, but ThoughtSpot quickly recognized the untapped value and expanded it to prospects as well. In 2022, the event generated more than 1,000 leads and created $1.56M in pipeline. 🎉

Pro tips for brilliant results

Event marketers spend enough time proving ROI. Luckily, this type of demand capture webinar format produces immediate value that can be seen and appreciated by marketing and sales teams alike, namely — net new pipeline.

But tracking ROI with an integrated marketing strategy isn't always cut and dry. To measure success, ThoughtSpot's Demand Generation Manager Katie Dunn recommends focusing on key behavioral metrics like attendee experience, engagement, and sponsor experience. Always ask: Did the campaign perform? Will the webinar strategy scale?

8. The community webinar

Funnel stage: Full funnel

Goals: Brand awareness, customer retention, product development

While the customer advisory board is inherently limited in size, the community webinar aims to grow an audience around a specific topic — with your brand at its heart.

A community-based virtual event is the ultimate way to increase brand awareness, shape product development, and invite users to dive even deeper into your product.

This is one webinar format that can help you build a better product for your core audience and increase product 'stickiness' among current customers and power users.

Example of a community webinar

Waylay pulled off a brilliant community event with its inaugural Unicon in 2021. The event centered around a hot topic in the tech startup community: the low-code debate.

Industry experts converged to discuss questions like, "Is Low Code/No Code tech the future of automation?" With more than 50 speakers, Unicon attracted 1,700 attendees.

Pro tips for brilliant results

The perk of this webinar format is that it taps into an existing community. That means there's already a conversation happening — all you have to do is harness and shape it.

To do this, you need a close pulse on the community. To secure those increased attendance and engagement rates, you’ll need a holistic picture of the hottest webinar topics and biggest challenges for your audience.

9. The product demo

Funnel stage: Mid to bottom

Goals: Showcase your product, increase problem- and solution-awareness

It's a tale as old as time. Show, don't tell, how your product can change your potential customers' lives. While the product demo is one of the oldest webinar formats, it's still as relevant as ever.

However, it's also evolving. As Drift Director of Event Marketing Sara Lieber puts it, ‘People just didn’t want to hop onto another Zoom. You need to create a different experience.”

Example of a product demo webinar

Virtual events are a key part of Drift's marketing strategy. But as a leader in the conversational marketing space, the company needs events that are interactive and engaging.

They accomplish this with several different types of monthly webinars. Their Drift In Action webinars are 30-minute sessions on product basics, while Demo Day Live events highlight the product capabilities that impact businesses right away.

Pro tips for brilliant results

Product demos are often considered bottom-funnel tactics. But by lowering the barrier of entry, you can attract attendees who might still be lingering in the middle of the sales funnel. Drift's 30-minute sessions are a perfect example. These folks still aren't sure whether they need a solution at all — but you can help them get there.

Elevate your webinar marketing strategy with Goldcast

Webinars have come a long way. If you're still relying on pre-recorded or live stream-streaming virtual events, you're missing out on a ton of opportunities to create demand and build lasting customer relationships.

Today, 53% of business professionals agree that there are simply too many webinars. To stand out in a sea of webinar noise and Zoom fatigue, it's vital to bring your event marketing strategy into the future with webinar formats that surprise, delight, and leave a memorable impact on each and every attendee.

Virtual events are what we do at Goldcast, so we get it — pulling off an effective webinar is a tall order. We hope these ideas have given you plenty of food for thought. And if you’re ready to get cracking on one of these formats (or something totally different), book your free demo to learn how you can flawlessly execute your next webinar with our robust platform.

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