Guest Author: Ken Molay, President of Webinar Success – Scheduling Your Webinars
Yes, content is still king. Presentation style can make or break your webinar. Having acknowledged those ultra-important aspects of webinar preparation and delivery, let’s turn our attention to an area that seems trivial in comparison: scheduling your webinar.
I will start with the most common and obvious question – what days and times work best? The key advice here is to avoid Friday afternoons and any time on Mondays. I ran a survey asking webinar attendees about their preferences, and those were the only times that they clearly did not prefer. I was surprised to find that many attendees liked Friday morning webinars. The differences in preference (and attendance rates) on Tuesday through Thursday were inconsequential.
Of course these statistics refer to business audiences who can watch during work hours. If you are trying to reach consumer audiences, all bets are off. The performance of any single live event will pale in comparison with the eventual draw you will get from having on-demand recordings available over the long term. There is no way to plan universally available times or accommodate all viewing preferences for households.
In terms of time of day for reaching the business community, I have come to the conclusion that any time between 10am and 3pm (from the attendee’s perspective) is as likely to work as any other. I have seen lunch and learns perform just as well as morning or afternoon sessions. Your primary consideration is to cater to as many time zones as you can. That is why American business webinars are so often scheduled to start sometime between 10am and 11am Pacific. People on the East Coast may be back from lunch, people in the middle can watch during lunch or schedule around it. Don’t get too hung up on the exact start time during the 10-3 window. Other factors will have more impact on your success.
Why not earlier or later? It simply cuts down on a percentage of your potential audience. You want to try to catch people who work a flex-time schedule, those who get caught in difficult commuting situations, and those facing deadlines and meetings that require attention at the beginning or end of the day.
On to the question of consistency… If you run a series of webinars, should you schedule them for the same day of week and time of day each time? While this makes it easy to promote your events with a single standardized ad and set the time in peoples minds, I prefer moving events to a variety of days and times. You don’t want to run every webinar during your target’s weekly staff meeting, report run, or squash game. Mixing things up gives your prospects more chance of finding a webinar that fits their calendar.
Don’t forget to be crystal clear on the time zone you use for your announced time. Avoid abbreviations, such as ET or CST, when promoting to international audiences who may not be familiar with your country’s time zone abbreviations. Also, some abbreviations are ambiguous because they are used in multiple locales (did you know that CST stands for China Standard Time, Central Australia Standard Time, Central America Standard Time, and Cuba Standard Time?). Consider referencing a city, such as 1pm New York or spelling out the time zone, such as 1pm US Eastern.
I am also a huge fan of including a link to a time zone converter on your email invitation or web-based event landing page/registration page. Don’t make people register first and then get a conversion link in their confirmation email. My favorite utility is the Event Time Announcer on TimeAndDate.com. You post a link to the event time results page and anyone in the world can check the equivalent local time in their time zone.
One final suggestion is to try scheduling your webinar duration for 45 minutes rather than an hour. This lets prospective attendees know that they will have some free time before their next appointment. It may make them more willing to wedge your webinar into their busy calendar.
I hope these tips help to make your webinars more successful and valuable for your company and for your attendees. Please feel free to search through my posts on The Webinar Blog for additional pointers and best practices.