two people sky diving without parachutes
PHOTO: Kamil Pietrzak

You’re familiar with Zoom fatigue. Heck, you probably suffer it daily. If it’s not 60-minute meetings for work, then it’s family Zooms, neighborhood Zooms and Zooms with your kids’ school teachers (note: insert your favorite video conferencing system in this paragraph).

In case I sound like an ingrate, I do appreciate connecting with others over video. And I am fortunate and privileged to earn a living working from my home office.

But it’s quite tiring. For me at least, half of the energy spent in a meeting is watching my own image out of the corner of my eye — making sure my hair isn’t sticking up and projecting the appearance that I’m fully engaged. Adding to that, I’m in the same chair the entire day, barely getting up to grab a bite or for a nature break.

In short, it leads me to tweet this:

There’s a close cousin to Zoom fatigue and it’s called webinar fatigue. Some webinars literally use the Zoom platform, which only serves to extend our “Zoom work day.” No matter which platform is used, everyone is hosting webinars these days. Promotions for these webinars are filling our inboxes and social media feeds.

And yet, audience engagement and lead generation must go on in 2021. So marketers are stepping up to … DO MORE WEBINARS.

In a prior CMSWire article, I wrote that marketers ought to zig when others zag.

This article is a continuation of that concept. To combat webinar fatigue and reach your audience (yeah, with webinars), you need to think and act differently.

It Starts With Pre-Webinar Promotion

Forget about producing a unique webinar if people don’t show up in the first place. You need to start zigging with your promotions. One tactic I observed in 2020 was short promotional videos from presenters. They record a simple, low-production video from their laptop or smartphone. They include a short message about the talk they’re giving and a “what’s it in it for me” for audience members.

Presenters can post the video to their LinkedIn profiles. I think the LinkedIn algorithm is still favoring video (i.e., compared to links or plain text posts), which means that a good percentage of the presenter’s connections will see the video. As the post receives likes, shares and comments, it gets amplified to reach the user’s second or even third-degree connections. Just be sure that the presenters include the webinar’s registration page in the post!

Related Article: Shifting to a Virtual Events Strategy

Webinars Meet Food Network

The most creative webinar I’ve seen was produced in the early days of the pandemic (e.g., April 2020). It was a virtual event called “Reboot 2020,” hosted by EventGeek (the company is now named Circa). A panel discussion focused on how to engage WFH (work from home) workers.

I arrived thinking I’d hear an interesting discussion about WFH. I did get that, along with a whole lot more.

The panel was done in the style of “Chopped,” a popular food competition show on Food Network. Three panelists cooked dishes from their kitchens, while simultaneously answering questions related to the panel discussion.

At the conclusion, audience members voted on the winner. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and was bummed when the panel was over. How many webinars can you say that about?

Here’s a short video from the panel:

Give Them Some Good News

During the early months of the pandemic, I was obsessed with John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” The program aired once a week on YouTube (it’s since been acquired by ViacomCBS and will air on television).

Krasinski’s programs had a “feel good” aspect, something we all needed. But beyond that, there are lessons we can learn in developing creative, distinctive and compelling programming. Members of the class of 2020 were invited onto the program. Krasinski surprised guests with celebrity appearances from Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Malala Yousafzai and Jon Stewart. The celebrities gave personalized advice to the graduates.

In another episode, labeled as “the perfect #Zoom surprise for his new friend Aubrey,” Krasinski invites the cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” into a video session to do a surprise performance for his guest.

Of course, most of us lack the budget or connections to bring celebrities like these onto our webinars. But you can still capitalize on the element of surprise. Give your webinar attendees something they never would have expected. Think who's your industry’s Oprah Winfrey or Hamilton cast.

Related Article: How We Generated 700 Live Attendees for a B2B Product Launch Webinar

How Can You 'Change the Field of View'?

If you drive on the highway every day and the billboards and buildings never change, you easily tune out. There’s no reason to look left or right while driving. But what if one day, the buildings are gone and there are elephants, giraffes and zebras roaming the field? You’d snap your head so quickly you might hurt your neck. You’d take a photo, post it to Facebook and it would go viral.

And that, folks, is how you should be thinking about webinars in 2021.