April 22, 2022

Event Strategies

7 Reasons People Hate Webinars (And How to Host a Webinar People Love)


Victoria Rudi

Webinars can be the worst, but yours doesn’t have to be. Host online events people love.


In the multitude of growth strategies, event marketing is the only framework that helps marketers generate positive results across all stages of the emotional buyer’s journey. And no wonder: Events speak to a variety of audiences, uniquely allowing the speaker to connect “face-to-face” with any emotional stage.

Why Marketers Should Invest in Webinars

According to The State of Virtual Events, a global survey by Kaltura, organizations run virtual events like webinars as a growth strategy to achieve greater ROI. They provide benefits including: 

  • Streamlining the entire marketing funnel by facilitating the CRM integration of all steps, from attendee registration to post-event interactions 
  • Removing any geographical borders so marketers can connect with audiences they wouldn’t reach out to otherwise 
  • Providing richer data thanks to powerful event tech software, which gives marketers access to various insights regarding their attendees’ experiences and behaviors. Subsequently, marketers can use this data to improve their webinars and achieve a bigger impact 

As a result, webinars help marketers: 

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Establish thought leadership 
  • Attract new contacts and potential customers into the CRM 
  • Increase the value of their pipeline 
  • Generate revenue by closing deals 
  • Nurture existing relationships 
  • Generate dollar-based value from cross-sells and upsells at events 
  • Get existing customers to attract new referrals 
  • And more

Attendees, meanwhile, benefit from webinars by: 

  • Being able to attend the event from any corner of the world, while remaining in the comfort of their houses or offices 
  • Saving time and money on travel and accommodations 
  • Accessing the event content at their convenience, even after the event is over
  • Connecting and building relationships with like-minded people 
  • Avoiding any logistics-related annoyances
  • Eliminating risk from external health/safety threats 
  • And more 
Link to checklist for creating killer webinar content.

In other words, a webinar marketing strategy can be mutually beneficial for both organizations and attendees. However, you might not realize the full effects of these benefits if people hate your webinar.

Unfortunately, you may be so caught up in the webinar planning logistics that you forget what makes a webinar great. As a result, you’ll see a high event abandonment rate, low business impact, and poor ROI. 

On the other hand, attendees will feel like they’ve wasted their time and will probably avoid attending your future events. 

Your webinar can go wrong in several ways. To prevent a total failure, you need to understand why people might hate your webinar and learn how to fix it by creating engaging experiences for your audiences. 

Woman working on her laptop

Reason 1. It Felt Like Another Zoom Meeting

Zoom meetings aren’t inherently bad. They facilitate open, clear communication between a company’s departments and teams. However, when it comes to live webinars, there’s nothing worse than offering your attendees Zoom-like sessions. 

First, Zoom-like webinars don’t feel like an experience. What does this mean? When webinars lack the experiential factor, they fail to leave an impression on attendees. In other words, they’re basic online gatherings that miss the wow factor and are quickly forgotten. 

Second, Zoom-like webinars lack a clear vision. Like regular meetings, zoom-like events may lack purpose, structure, and a good understanding of what people need and want to gain by attending. In this case, marketers usually focus too much on planning and dedicate little time to building a transformative experience for their attendees. As a result, people feel lost without getting closer to the desired feeling. 

Third, Zoom-like webinars are based on the order of the day, rather than a well-defined and rich agenda. The webinar structure may be missing elements such as: 

  • Evenly distributed breaks
  • A purposeful mix between knowledge, entertainment, networking, and in-between activities
  • Simultaneous tracks

Finally, marketers tend to run Zoom-like webinars on Zoom. Yes, you heard that right: Some companies use Zoom for their webinars.

Here's how you can avoid the Zoom pitfall and keep your attendees from abandoning your sessions:

Step 1. Approach webinars as experiences, not meetings. 

Webinars work when you develop the right mindset, remembering that “extraordinary” is what makes events stand out from other types of experiences. This mindset will allow you to integrate wow elements, such as entertainment sessions, unexpected contests, online relaxation spaces, etc. By doing so, you’ll steer clear of Zoom-like sessions and create memorable experiences for your attendees. 

Step 2. Determine how attendees should feel after the event. 

Defined marketing and sales business goals for your webinar are important, but there’s more to it than just numbers. You need to develop a clear vision based on how attendees should feel after the event.

After your event, attendees should feel differently than they did when they entered the event.

This framework will help you identify the end goal for each stage of your buyer’s journey and how people should feel once the event is over.

Step 3. Create a well-defined and rich agenda. 

A strong webinar agenda should include activities such as: 

  • Knowledge sessions (roundtables, keynote speeches, fireside chats) 
  • Entertainment sessions (online concerts, wine degustation, culinary or drawing classes, yoga, meditation) 
  • Networking sessions (scheduled meetings, ad-hoc networking, group meetings) 
  • In-between sessions (breaks)

Your agenda must combine all these activities purposefully. In other words, a webinar agenda that stands out from the rest requires more than just knowledge activities. You also need dynamic interactions like entertainment, networking opportunities, and breaks. 

Step 4. Find a reliable webinar technology partner. 

Look and feel matter in a webinar. You need to find a powerful webinar platform (not Zoom) that allows you to design a sleek and beautiful online environment where webinar registration and creating connection is easy.

Follow these steps to create a memorable webinar experience for your attendees, instead of another boring, Zoom-like session.

Women meeting in conference room

Reason 2. I Didn’t Learn Anything New 

A desire or need to learn is one of the main reasons people attend webinars. As The State of Virtual Events survey suggests, attendees expect to learn more about the brand/company organizing the event and access educational content. Without offering this possibility, you’ll fail to: 

  • Meet your attendees’ main expectations 
  • Help people move to their desired feeling 
  • Provide any value, which puts your thought leadership at risk 

As a result, people may end up hating your webinar. 

Content is the most important element of your webinar. It’s the main channel where you can deliver value and transform attendees’ perception of the challenges they face. 

So, be purposeful when choosing your topic and building your event’s knowledge sessions. Here’s how you can do it: 

Step 1. Set a well-defined goal for your event. 

“Why do I want to run a webinar in the first place?” That’s the question you should ask yourself before you start to plan. Your event goal needs to come first. 

The goal of your webinar derives from your business goals. So, schedule a meeting with your marketing and sales teams to discuss and align your overall business goal(s) for the event. During this meeting, you may identify a strong need for more free trial users. Or, you may discover your marketing and sales teams have trouble converting free trial users into paying customers. These conversations will help you determine the call to action you want attendees to take.

If you have trouble articulating your goal, take advantage of the SMART goals framework. SMART stands for: 

  • Specific: What’s the goal? 
  • Measurable: How will I know if I met the event goal? 
  • Attainable: What do I need to do to meet this goal? 
  • Relevant: Is this goal relevant to the overall company objectives? 
  • Time-based: What’s the deadline to meet this goal?

For example, your goal could be to attract 50 new free trial users by running an engaging webinar at the end of the current month. 

Step 2. Identify your target group. 

You need to know who your target audience is to develop a strong event topic. We recommend you consider the emotional buyer’s journey stages mentioned previously to help you narrow your audience. Each stage corresponds to a specific type of audience. Here’s how it works:  

  • The Frustration stage focuses on top-of-funnel leads and is usually oriented toward attracting new contacts to the pipeline. 
  • The Optimism stage speaks to middle-of-funnel leads, educating them on what tools and resources could help them overcome a challenge. 
  • The Confidence stage strives to attract bottom-of-funnel, high-quality leads and convert them into paying customers.  
  • The Gratitude stage hones in on paying customers, opening them up to partnerships with your brand. 

Each audience type has unique interests and needs. Your event goal helps identify the emotional buyer’s stage you’ll target, revealing the type of audience you need to engage at your webinar.

Step 3. Decide on a relevant topic. 

After identifying your goal and audience type, you should finalize the topic of your webinar. To do this, you’ll need to understand your audience’s desired outcome. Let’s use the emotional buyer’s journey stages as a reference: 

  • Those in the Frustration stage may have problems identifying their desired outcome. At this stage, you want to articulate the challenges your audience is experiencing and provide them with possible solutions.
  • At the Optimism stage, you’ll want to focus your topic on tools and resources to help attendees reach their desired outcome. 
  • For those in the Confidence stage, build your webinar around your product by educating attendees on how to leverage it. 
  • Finally, the event topic for those at the Gratitude stage should reveal future partnership benefits. 

Your event topic should be relevant to your industry and tackle existing pain points. 

Step 4. Break down your topic into knowledge sessions. 

Once you’ve established your event topic, identify potential sub-topics. Let’s say you’re in the MarTech industry and aim to connect with those at the Frustration stage of the buyer’s journey. 

As a result, you decide the focus of your webinar will be discussing how marketers can break through the noise and grab people’s attention online. That’s a broad topic you can break into several smaller, more specific sub-topics, which can then translate into knowledge sessions. For example, you could segment your event topic into sessions such as:

  • Specifics of the attention economy
  • Challenges of grabbing people’s attention
  • Battle-tested practices for getting noticed
  • Industry examples

Your speakers can help you refine the sub-topics and angles for your webinar. 

Step 5. Design the structure of each knowledge session. 

Knowledge sessions require a higher level of focus, which attendees may find difficult and draining. That’s why thoughtful webinar design is necessary. To maintain a dynamic flow, include multiple knowledge session formats in your agenda. Your webinar can offer knowledge sessions such as: 

  • Keynote speeches
  • Fireside chats
  • AMAs (Ask Me Anything)
  • Expert battle
  • Leadership panel 
  • Training sessions

Combining different activity formats reduces the monotony of a repetitive session layout. As a result, you’ll reactivate your attendees’ interest throughout the entire event.

Step 6. Find well-articulated and knowledgeable speakers. 

Learning from industry thought leaders is one of the main reasons people attend webinars. You might have an excellent topic, but if your speakers aren’t eloquent and insightful, you’ll lose your attendees’ attention. So, make sure to find speakers who: 

  • Are knowledgeable and have something interesting to say
  • Have strong industry experience
  • Have public speaking experience

Remember, a good speaker will always meet basic criteria derived from deep industry knowledge and refined public speaking skills. 

By utilizing the steps above, you’ll nail your webinar topic and provide attendees with highly valuable knowledge sessions.  

Group work meeting

Reason 3. It Lacked Participation and Interaction

What’s the difference between watching a YouTube video and attending a webinar? The latter is more than just live streaming and should provide two-way communication so attendees can participate and interact. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing people’s interest. Nobody wants to listen to a 40-minute keynote speech passively. (We have YouTube for this type of experience.) Webinars should focus on creating an engaging environment that encourages audience participation. 

Audience participation means incorporating opportunities for attendees to interact and make their voices heard throughout the event. Intentional moments built for audience participation helps attendees to: 

  • Have a gratifying learning experience
  • Understand the topic more clearly
  • Memorize key takeaways
  • Get involved in the webinar experience
  • Clarify doubts 
  • Feel heard and acknowledged 
  • Enjoy the event and have fun  

Luckily, you can alternate and explore different types of virtual audience participation, such as: 

  • Live polls and surveys. You can gauge your audience’s interest and understanding by asking questions and providing several answer options. A cool aspect of this dynamic is that you can showcase the results almost immediately. 
  • Q&A sessions. Interacting with speakers is crucial to eliminate doubt, answer questions, and better understand a subject. So, Q&A sessions are indispensable for this clarity. To add a higher degree of participation, you can display the questions and allow your attendees to vote for the most relevant ones. 
  • Quizzes. Incorporate quizzes to help your attendees memorize the insights provided during the knowledge sessions. 
  • Games. Invite attendees to take part in virtual games such as a virtual scavenger hunt or game show.  
  • Workshops. Workshops are a great way to gather real-time insights from a smaller number of attendees.

Unfortunately, there are no official benchmark for how many interaction moments you should include per session. However, don’t let more than 20 minutes pass without engaging your attendees. Why 20 minutes? Usually, after 15 or 20, people’s attention tends to wear out. You can reengage attendees with a quick interaction session, such as live polls, quizzes, or Q&As. 

Note: Study the four tenets of engagement marketing to master the creation of effective attendee interaction moments during your events.

Woman speaking during virtual meeting

Reason 4. I Was Lonely and Missed Real-life Connections

Networking at live events is the main expectation from attendees. According to The State of Virtual Events, networking and building new relationships are the third most important reasons people attend virtual events. (The first two are to learn about the company organizing the event and to access industry knowledge.)

This social opportunity makes virtual events like webinars feel more human, adding a different layer to your attendees’ overall experience. Incorporating networking in your event agenda allows you to: 

  • Create a spirit of togetherness and connectedness 
  • Encourage people to build meaningful connections that will positively impact their professional trajectory 
  • Connect the offer and demand, and ignite new collaborations 
  • Build a genuine community around your event 

Events are all about learning and connecting, so virtual ones can’t miss the networking element. Luckily, there are different types of networking dynamics you can include in your webinar agenda: 

One-on-one networking. These networking sessions are focused on conversations between two attendees. 

Many-to-many networking. Create guided group dynamics where people discuss, answer questions, and get to know each other.

Scheduled meetings. This networking session is perfect for business events, where the offer meets the demand. It requires you to invite two different attendee types interested in meeting each other. For example, you could connect investors and entrepreneurs at your webinars. Ask attendees to fill in a networking form stating their business interests. Next, you can enable people to request, accept, or deny meeting invitations based on those interests. Subsequently, during the event, your attendees will have a networking agenda and be able to connect with like-minded professionals. 

Spontaneous meetings. Some may think webinars lack the spontaneity of connections one experiences at in-person events. You can recreate the feeling of spontaneous interaction by enabling ad hoc meetings at your webinar. This could look like your attendees requesting quick meetings during the event and jumping on impromptu calls with other attendees. 

Make sure attendee networking won’t clash with other sessions on the agenda. You don’t want to schedule networking and knowledge sessions simultaneously. Instead, combine the networking session with event breaks. Also, these sessions shouldn’t drag on; a few half-hour networking sessions during the event are enough for your attendees.


Attendees in a Demio Room joining for a networking session

Reason 5. It Was Boring and Dull

People don't want to be bored. Nobody wants to sit through exhausting knowledge sessions without the chance to relax, have some fun, and enjoy their event experience. 

Link to checklist for creating killer webinar content.

Leaving people with no chance to unwind after dense knowledge sessions may result in lower attention, interaction, and engagement. Consider planning several entertainment experiences for your attendees and distribute them throughout the event. 

When planning your webinar, you can choose between multiple entertainment types including: 

  • Virtual concerts: You can incorporate musical experiences into your webinar agenda through concerts ranging from 15 minutes to one hour. These concerts can be live or a pre-recorded video.  
  • Mindfulness exercises: Yoga and guided meditation are great for helping your attendees unwind after an intense knowledge session. Mindfulness activities are also known to boost focus. Yoga and meditation work well for smaller virtual events or webinars. Sometimes, a five-minute session can do wonders for attendees. 
  • Dance sessions: How about reenergizing and re-engaging attendees with a virtual dance session?  
  • Magic shows: Have you ever thought about playing mind tricks on your attendees? Invite a mentalist or a magician to your webinar for something unexpected. This provides an opportunity to engage attendees as well by bringing volunteers on the virtual stage.
  • A variety of classes: From coffee brewing and cocktail mixology to calligraphy and drawing, you can entertain attendees by including short courses interspersed between sessions. To make this experience more exciting and engaging, consider sending attendees a pre-event kit with the equipment necessary for the class.
  • After-parties: Last, but not least, you can throw after-parties with music, ad hoc meetings, active chat, and games. 

If you’re running a webinar, you can limit your agenda to one mindfulness activity. A single larger entertainment session may be enough if you hold a half-day virtual event. If you’re planning a full-day event, it’s necessary to schedule several entertainment sessions. Keep in mind these activities shouldn’t be too long. Instead, disperse them purposefully throughout the entire day to ensure your guests don’t get bored, and can unwind, relax, and have fun. 

Man listening to music and working on laptop

Reason 6. The Streaming and Sound Quality Were Bad

Nobody has the patience to sit through a webinar when the streaming or sound quality is bad. As Vimeo highlights, 59% of attendees said they would likely leave a webinar due to technical issues. 

People expect high-definition video and quality audio when registering for your event. They don’t want to waste time figuring out your webinar platform; they want to connect seamlessly and enjoy an intuitive experience. Here’s a list of considerations to ensure a high-quality webinar people will love and remember: 

Choose the right event tech partner. The look and feel of webinars depend on the webinar software provider. Your webinar platform must be visually pleasing and easy to navigate to provide attendees with an intuitive and user-friendly experience. 

Ensure minimum equipment. You don’t need expensive equipment to run a high-quality webinar. However, you have to check that your microphone and camera work well. Most computers have high-definition cameras, but consider buying an external camera if you need to increase your image quality. 

Instruct your speakers on your technical requirements. Great speakers are meaningless if your attendees can’t hear or see them well. Whether it’s the camera, the microphone, or the internet connection, your speakers may face various technical issues that’ll annoy your attendees. To prevent this from happening, educate your speakers regarding your technical requirements, such as ensuring good internet connectivity, a functional microphone, and a solid camera. You can inform them about these requirements through an email and highlight them again during the prep meetings. 

Test everything one day before the event. The uncertainty factor is always present when running events. Testing everything beforehand will help you reduce the chances of something going wrong during the event. Schedule quick meetings with your speakers before the event to test the virtual room and the equipment. This is when you can assess whether a speaker's equipment is good or needs adjustments. Also, that’s the day when you can gather all your speakers on the webinar platform and answer any questions they have about the webinar software

Expect the unexpected when running events. In most cases, such incidents are related to your technical equipment. Internet connectivity may drop, the camera may disconnect, or the translation channel may not work. To prepare for these incidents, discuss with your team and create a backup plan. For example, you can prepare pop-up messages for your attendees if there’s a technical issue. Or, you can agree to have a backup moderator if your connection is disrupted. With rational forethought, you can prepare yourself for the unexpected and find a quick solution to most emergencies. 

Man drinking coffee and working at table

Reason 7. It Felt Unprofessional

The messages and the value you deliver are not the only components of the success formula. The aesthetics of your webinar are also important: The way things look on camera says a great deal about your brand. A well-thought-out, professional image will almost always inspire trust and relatability, while an unprofessional look and feel may turn your attendees away. Considering the growing standards for webinars, launching something that feels homemade or unprofessional is a death sentence. You have to take care of elements such as:  

  • Lighting. Make sure the video will look good even without expensive lighting and equipment. Consider joining from a room that has natural light during the event itself to display a clear and natural image. 
  • Sound. In some cases, moderators and professional virtual event speakers will equip their space with a soundproof wall. That’s not always necessary, but remember that an almost empty room will produce an echo effect, making it difficult for your attendees to hear you. 
  • Background. Sometimes, a wall is the best background you’ll need. It’s even better if you can place your company’s logo on the wall behind you. Most importantly, avoid connecting your camera and having your messy kitchen table or the like behind you. This looks and feels highly unprofessional. 
  • Decoration. If you can, create a small space from which you can moderate your webinars. This space can include small decorative elements aligned with your company’s ethos to keep your brand top-of-mind for your attendees.

These simple steps can make sure everything looks neat and leaves a good impression. If that’s not possible, consider renting a studio to run or pre-record parts for your webinar.

Woman speaking on podcast microphone

Quick Recap

Audience engagement is the one requirement to host a successful webinar. Here, engagement refers to holding your attendees’ attention and maintaining their involvement throughout the entire event. This prevents attendees from feeling bored and leaving the session or switching to something else. Apart from the value engaging events provide, they also create memorable experiences for people to enjoy. 

The secret formula to producing engaging webinars is relatively straightforward, and you can use it to align your planning strategy as well: 

  • The right setup. Webinars are not Zoom meetings. So, design worthwhile experiences and craft well-defined and rich event agendas. Also, choose a robust event technology provider that will level up the look and feel of your event. 
  • Education. Learning is one of the main reasons why people attend webinars. So, build the core of your event around knowledge sessions. To do that, you’ll have to define the goal of your event, know your target group based on the emotional buyer’s journey stages, come up with a relevant topic, break this topic down into knowledge sessions, structure each dynamic, and find knowledgeable speakers to lead each session. 
  • Interaction. Attendee participation is key to keeping people’s attention on the webinar. So, design purposeful interaction and attendee participation dynamics, such as live polls and surveys, Q&As, quizzes, games, workshops, and more. 
  • Networking. Building meaningful connections is another major attraction for webinars. Networking is key to fostering new collaborations and making your webinar feel more human. 
  • Entertainment. Don’t pack your webinar with knowledge and networking sessions only. People also need to relax and have fun. Including entertainment experiences in your webinar agenda will reenergize and reengage your guests, resulting in meaningful, memorable experiences. These activities can include concerts, mindfulness exercises, dance sessions, magic shows, classes, after-parties, and more. 
  • Good technical quality. People tend to leave webinars that have technical issues. So, choose the right event tech partner, ensure minimum equipment is required, such as good cameras and microphones, discuss your technical requirements with your speakers, and test everything before the event. 
  • Professional production. Look and feel matter, especially in the virtual world. What your attendees see on camera can make or break your event. Consider as well the lighting, sound, background, and decoration to make your events look professional and organized.

Avoid the things that will turn people off your webinar and leave soon after it starts. Be thoughtful and purposeful about the experience you’re designing for your attendees. Although it may be challenging in the beginning to consider all the aspects we’ve mentioned above, the more events you run, the easier it’ll become to create engaging experiences your attendees will love

Finally, if you’ve been struggling to get your audience to register for your virtual events or webinars, it’s time to rethink your approach to creating killer content. Download this checklist and try our battle-tested strategies for choosing a topic that will have people clamoring to sign up.

Link to checklist for creating killer webinar content.

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