Guest Post: Pay for a Webinar? Why not?

By Melanie Turek, Industry Director, Frost & Sullivan

As companies get more comfortable delivering content over the Internet, they are looking for ways to actually make money in the process, by charging attendees to participate in the events.

This is not a new idea, of course. Organizations have long offered events and training sessions for a fee—sometimes, a very steep fee. People will pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to learn more about their industry, develop best practices, and get trained on specific tools and technologies to better do their jobs. But will they pay for that content online? Yes—but with some caveats.

First and foremost, when you take training and education out of the literal classroom, you need to make sure the content is king. No one likes business travel. (Well, OK, some people like business travel, but most people don’t—and their numbers are dwindling thanks to high gas prices, lousy airline services, and the rapid spread of bedbugs across the world.) But people continue to attend in-person meetings for the networking as much as for the information. That networking is less likely in a web conference, which is not necessarily a bad thing—without the socializing, events can be shorter and more focused. But it puts pressure on the presenter to make attendance worth everyone’s while.

The great thing about webinars is that they can deliver clear, specific information to a targeted audience at a very low cost, and without the need for travel or time wasted getting to and from the event. So what attendees lose in networking, they gain in time and productivity. But they also expect the content they receive to be worth the time they do invest—especially if they are paying a fee to hear it.

So as you consider offering webinars as a way to generate revenue, pay close attention to the information you’re delivering. Generally speaking, you should start with training that you would normally charge for in person, rather than entirely new content. This will appeal to an existing customer base that already understands the value of your sessions, and which is looking for an alternative to the high cost of travel and large commitment of time such events require.

Once you see success moving from an in-person delivery model to an online one, you can start to explore other topics for fee-based webinars. These might include industry or job-role best practices that will resonate with your customer base, or market trends they need to understand to better do their jobs and stay competitive.

Make sure your presenters take advantage of the tools web conferencing provides to deliver interactive and engaging sessions, including chat and polling capabilities. And price online events lower than their in-person counterparts, at least until you test the waters and get positive feedback—and strong revenue—from your initial efforts.

For more on paid webinars, please join me for a (free) event on the topic. Register here.

Frost and Sullivan Analyst Melanie TurekMelanie is a renowned expert in unified communications, collaboration, social networking and content-management technologies in the enterprise. For 15 years, Ms. Turek has worked closely with hundreds of vendors and senior IT executives across a range of industries to track and capture the changes and growth in the fast-moving unified communications market. Melanie writes often on the business value and cultural challenges surrounding real-time communications, collaboration and Voice over IP, and she speaks frequently at leading customer and industry events.

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