When it comes to selling out your event, the strength of your line-up will obviously be one of your main draws. However, sometimes securing the best acts means over-looking the bigger acts that come with a higher profile -- sometimes the best acts are the up-and-comers, who don't yet have the profile they deserve.
If this is the case, how do you persuade your audience to take that leap of faith and buy a ticket? For events like music festivals and concerts, it's quite simple: your act's back-catalogue does the talking. However, when it comes to business conferences, it's much more difficult. After all, how can you quickly and easily showcase a business speaker's talents?
When it comes to business conferences, you'll need to give potential guests a little bit more before they're prepared to purchase a ticket. You'll need to prove the business credentials of your guest speakers, to show your audience the value of attending.
In the past, I've spoken of the value in running a dedicated blog for your event, where you can gradually publish high-quality articles to raise your event's profile. You can take this one step further by hosting a free webinar to really hype up the interest in your upcoming conference.
A free webinar is the perfect way to introduce your speakers to your audience, as well as giving potential attendees more details of what to expect from your conference.
It's also a fantastic way to grow your mailing list, and acts as a very lucrative incentive for potential subscribers -- people perceive video to be far higher value than plain text, so will be far more willing to exchange their email address in return for a free ticket to an exclusive webinar.
Remember, these email addresses you collect can prove invaluable, too; you already have a highly targeted list of potential attendees to promote any future events to.
Webinar Service: AnyMeeting
Now that you're (hopefully!) sold on the benefits of hosting a webinar, it's time to show you how to host one.
Hosting a webinar is actually really easy, and there are a number of dedicated services out there. In my opinion, AnyMeeting is one of the best services to start out with as it comes with a number of great features.
Now, the AnyMeeting service is available completely free of charge, however this is supported by advertising revenue -- ads are positioned on the registration and log-in screens, as well as in a right-hand sidebar during the actual webinar.
In all honesty, these ads aren't particularly obtrusive, and are a small price to pay for a fantastic free service. For some events, though -- particularly larger events -- having untargeted adverts on the screen can look rather unprofessional.
You can remove ads from a full-sized conference by becoming a pro member, which costs $78 per month. There is no minimum subscription term, so if you wanted to host just one webinar completely ad-free, you'd be looking at a cost of $78. This is actually quite reasonable when you consider the potential ticket sales the webinar could generate.
AnyMeeting supports webinars with up to 200 attendees, and this is a firm cap -- there's no way to exceed this number. If you want to host a webinar with more than 200 guests, you'll have to host more than one. However, if you sign up for the ad-free pro account, AnyMeeting can record and host a video of your conference, where those that were unable to attend can watch the webinar in its entirety.
Another thing worth considering is that you could charge a nominal fee to attend the webinar -- AnyMeeting allow you to charge any price, starting from $5. Fees are paid via PayPal, with standard PayPal fees applying (starting at 2.9% + $0.30), as well as an additional AnyMeeting fee of 1% + $0.10. However, if you do decide to charge for your conference, it will be completely ad-free, making this an alternative to paying the $78 monthly pro fee.
Hosting the Webinar
If you decide to use the AnyMeeting service, webinars are quick and easy to set up, and have some great features.
You can send potential attendees to a dedicated registration page, where you can customise what attendee information you require, allowing you to gain useful information about your guests prior to the webinar -- this potentially allows you to talk on matters you know your attendees struggle with.
AnyMeeting also takes care of all scheduling for you; before the webinar starts, attendees will be sent an email providing details of the time and date of the event, as well as a link for them to follow to attend. Alternatively, you could create a first-come-first-serve webinar by emailing this link to your mailing list.
The actual webinars look fantastic, making use of a very clean design that's easy to use, with a bright, uplifting background.
Of course, more important than how it looks is what it can do, and there are a number of great features that allow you to interact with your audience.
First, you can have up to six people visible on screen at any given time via their webcams. This is a great way to increase audience' familiarity with your guest speakers. With a click of a button you're able to share your screen, allowing your audience to see exactly what you're seeing. This is perfect for showing your attendees specific documents or websites. If you'd rather not share your screen, you can just upload a document for anyone in attendance to download and access.
If you want to interact with your audience, users can communicate with you via a small community text window, similar to an instant messenger. Users can tell you what they think as the webinar progresses, or ask you to explain certain aspects in more details.
This feature is a nice touch and allows you to field a Q&A session at the end of your webinar, where your audience can ask specific questions relating to your event.
After the Webinar
Your interaction with your audience doesn't end when your webinar ends; AnyMeeting allows you to follow up with your audience after the webinar.
The extent of this follow up is purely up to you.
You can send your attendees a customised survey, where you can ask them specific questions regarding your content and any suggestions for future events -- this insight can be particularly useful, and allows you to tweak your formula for future webinars, which could allow you to sell more tickets. Or, you could send a blanket email, thanking people for attendance and including a link for customers to buy tickets for the actual conference. If people loved your webinar, they will be far more likely to attend the physical event.
And of course, if you're a pro member, AnyMeeting will have recorded your webinar, so you could send users a link to re-watch the webinar in case they missed anything. This is also useful for showing the video to those users that were unable to attend.
With a quick-and-easy setup, relatively low cost, and potentially lucrative rewards, every conference event should consider throwing a free webinar. Not only will this improve customer loyalty, but as you experiment with the content of your talk you'll begin to learn what type of material sells tickets.
Going forward, it will be a huge stress relief to know that, if you need to, you could throw a one hour webinar and sell 50 or even 100 tickets!
Have you thrown a free webinar? How did it go? Share your experiences in the comments section below!