7 Tips to Improve Your Webinars

Having worked for a professional hospital CIO association for over six years, I’ve moderated and attended my fair share of health IT vendor webinars.  I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Webinars should not be taken lightly, and should ultimately provide educational insight to attendees and your business. Webinars can help establish you as an industry expert, attract new customers, and add value to your brand.

Here are seven tips to help boost your next webinar and key mistakes to avoid.

  1. Don’t be a Car Salesman

    Nothing will kill a presentation faster than an overly aggressive, unsolicited sales pitch. Leave that to your sales team. If you want to be truly compelling and solidify your company as a problem solver, focus on the key issues that impact your audience and share best practices for overcoming them.  Rather than sell every bell and whistle of your product, draw upon examples of how your business is allowing existing clients to reach their goals. Focus on lessons learned.
  2. Don’t Pull a Bait and Switch

    Your webinar title and abstract say you are going to discuss how to build and maintain an effective population health strategy, yet you spend 60 minutes doing a product demo.
  3. Be Polished and Prepared.

    The best presenters are experts in their field, have a strong voice, and are experienced.  It’s always good to have a presentation outline in hand with concise bullet points for each slide. Don’t write a script out word for word. Not only will you sound like you’re reading it, you’ll end up relying on it – and if you lose your place, you’ll become flustered.  Plus, it’s a distraction from the computer screen should any technical issues arise (i.e. you are on the wrong slide, a question is asked).
  4. Don’t Save Questions for the End

    Don’t save the Q&A until the end of your presentation. Strike while the iron is hot and take periodic breaks throughout the webcast for questions. This makes the presentation more interactive and gives you a breather from being just a talking head. Also, not every attendee can stay the full duration and will appreciate the opportunity.  Additionally, it helps if you have a team member dedicated to monitoring questions or comments that come in from the audience. This is an effective tactic to ensure questions are addressed – or even skipped over. Nothing worse than reading a question a loud and it’s one you can’t answer or completely irrelevant/inappropriate.
  5. Survey Your Audience

    Nearly ever webinar platform has a poll feature. Take advantage of your audience as your own personal focus group. They have already proven interest by registering and showing up, so leverage their time and insight to help your business. Plus it makes the webinar that much more engaging if the audience feels involved, and they will be interested in the feedback of their peers.  Just be sure to give attendees sufficient time to weigh-in. Strong questions ought to lead into the next presentation topic and help dictate the amount of time you should spend on that issue.
  6. Don’t Bedazzle Your Slide Deck

    Slides should be visually appealing but keep the animations at bay.  They rarely ever work on cue, and slow your presentation way down.  Also, don’t use hyperlinks in your slide deck. Any sites you’d like the audience to visit should be posted in the chat window. Keep your slide deck font simple. Avoid elaborate fonts that almost never translate to webinar platforms. Arial is an easy to read, universal font. Try to stick with one color palette and select data and images that reflect your key points.
  7. You Nailed It, Now Continue the Engagement

    When the webinar has ended, continue the engagement by sending attendees a pdf of the slide deck and an archive link to the recording. Be sure to include the speakers’ contact information and request attendee feedback via a brief survey. Entice your participants with a special offer or prize drawing.

With the above in mind, here are a few other tips to ensure your next webinar is a winner:

  • Be cognizant of time zones and holidays when selecting a date and time for your webinar.
  • Send an attendee reminder the day of and the day before.
  • Log in early. Show up at least 15-20 minutes to ensure the audio and technology is working, Test advancing your slides as well.
  • Begin on time. If your registration number is high but the attendee number is low, allow one minute after the hour to begin. It’s unfair to hold up the rest of your attendees.
  • Include photos of any and all speakers. It makes the presentation more personalized and allows participants to put a face with the voice coming over their speakers.
  • Turn off all devices (and dogs).

How to Produce a White Paper in 2016

Don’t let its deceptively sterile name fool you—the venerable white paper still packs a lot of punch. It remains the ideal medium to educate and make a comprehensive case for a new product or approach, and B2b marketers repeatedly cite it as a top producer of leads on their websites. You can even extract smaller articles and blog posts from it. In short, the white paper is beautifully versatile…so much so, there’s room for getting even more mileage out of this marketing and PR favorite with just a few new updates. Here are four to get you started:

Pair your white paper with a Periscope interview of the author. Your white paper is full of new and provocative information…so broadcast it! With the Periscope live video streaming app, interviewing the author about some of the white paper’s most intriguing points is a snap.

Include an infographic. Make use of catchy graphics to capture the most interesting information in your white paper. Encourage members of the media to republish your white paper’s infographic in their coverage (and don’t forget to add it to the digital assets library in your online media room).

Create an audio version of your white paper. This will especially appeal to road warriors with perpetually attached earbuds. Add your new narrated white paper to a playlist of other audio pieces, which you can promote as a “Know on the Go” series.

Call it a “guide” instead of a white paper. This just has a warmer and more helpful ring to it, doesn’t it?  And it’s an accurate term for a piece that guides prospects to making a wise and informed decision. Of course, no matter what you call a white paper, it needs substance and it needs to be deftly written.

Have additional questions about white paper promotion? Need one written? Shoot me an email at sjanard@acmarketingpr.com.


Climbing Jacob’s Ladder of Analyst Briefings

In the Old Testament, Jacob’s Ladder refers to the connection between earth and heaven that Jacob dreams about during his escape from his brother, Esau. Healthcare tech companies dream of a similar ladder – the connection between the grounding of their value proposition in the market and the steps up and to the right of their competitors in the Magic Quadrant, MarketScape, Wave or Market Trends Reports.

In last week’s post, we talked about why and when you should do briefings with industry analysts such as GartnerIDCForresterFrost & Sullivan and Chilmark . Other analyst firms who may benefit from a briefing with your organization throughout the year – and not just before HIMSS – include OvumIHS and Alterum.

This week our focus is on the next steps up the analyst version of Jacob’s Ladder – the ethereal briefing itself.

One Step at a Time

There has been an explosion of healthcare technology companies seeking to mine the gold rush started by the Affordable Care Act. And there has been a corresponding growth in the number of analysts and analyst firms covering the healthcare IT market.

Unfortunately, many tech marketers and executives today do not have a clear view of which analyst influencers they should be briefing, nor what story they should be telling, nor how they should tell that story.

Analyst firms add credibility by providing independent, third-party validation to IT buyers in healthcare and several other vertical industries, including financial services, pharma and consumer goods. They also provide deep expert insights on the market to vendors during briefings – sometimes only through a paid relationship, but often as part of the discovery process for their industry market reports.

The Gartners, IDCs and Frost & Sullivans of the world have scores of analysts who at first glance you might think should all be interested in your company and technology. However, usually only up to four analysts participate in briefings – it is much more likely that only one or two analysts will attend the briefing.

That’s where your PR firm can help. If your PR rep has a strong track record in working with the industry analysts, that person will be able to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff – both in terms of which firms will have the greatest impact, and also when it comes to which analyst(s) within those firms are the best target(s), based on their coverage area(s). Firms often have several analysts focused on different points along the HIT horizon for payers, providers, pharma and consumers – so you may need to schedule multiple briefings for the different target market segments.

Why is it important to take the first initial steps one at a time? If you think back to HIMSS 16, everyone seemed to be locked in to positioning themselves for population health, patient engagement or care coordination throughout the hall. Those topics cover wide swaths of the HIT landscape. Your PR rep should first drill down within those broad categories to target the most relevant one to four analysts at each firm, and then submit a compelling briefing request through the analyst bookers to secure briefings.

This usually involves creating a brief synopsis explaining your company, its HIT solutions, and your target market, as well as background on the healthcare IT experience of the executives presenting the briefing. Other information that may be requested includes revenues (past and projected), market size and competitors (more on that later).

Getting the briefing, the first steps up the ladder, is actually the easiest part. The steps get a lot more difficult as you begin to shape your vision, market position and messaging for the analyst influencers.

Tighten the Knots

There are several reasons to brief analysts – it may be just to introduce them to your company, review your go-to-market strategy, or provide an update (we recommend updating analysts at least once or twice a year). You may also have a new product launch or significant corporate news, such as a merger or acquisition. Or the analyst may be doing research for a report that you want to be included in.

To have the most impact on the analyst and subsequently the tech buyers they are advising in the marketplace, it’s important to tighten the knots on the story that you tell. Usually, analyst briefings last no more than one hour. So the story your team tells has to be compelling, concise and complete – all while still leaving plenty of time for you to tap into the analyst team’s market insights as well.

What makes a compelling story? First and foremost are client success stories you can share with the client. Yes, you want to provide a brief history of your company and a brief overview of its most relevant products, but don’t get lost in the weeds for either of those topics. Analysts are looking for proof points, so just like working with the media, the more compelling success stories you have to share, the more weight that will carry with the analysts.

We recommend organizing the presentation in this format:

  • Make Introductions
  • Encourage Analysts to Ask Questions at Any Time
  • State the Desired End Result (“If you get only one thing out of this briefing, it is…”)
  • Preview a Success Story (should reinforce the one “get” for the briefing)
  • Provide Market Overview (targets, size, challenges, competitors)
  • Share Company Background (history, size, locations, top executives, number of employees)
  • Provide Solution Overview (with demos and product roadmap)
  • Share Key Partners (if applicable) and Customers
  • Highlight Customer Impact (cost savings, improved outcomes, streamlined processes, success stories)
  • Request Analyst Input (questions, feedback, market insights)
  • Confirm Next Steps (schedule next update, discuss pending reports, meet at upcoming conference)

Who’s Climbing the Ladder?

Frequently, there is an internal debate that may occur when it comes to who should be included from your team for the briefing. There is no hard and fast rule – it really depends on the knowledge level of the person or persons who have the most insights on the target market, your solution and the competition.

However, Amendola usually recommends that no more than three members of your team sit in on a briefing – a senior healthcare business executive, someone from product marketing/development, and/or a CTO or VP of technology (to cover the more geeky questions). More is not necessarily better. One really good executive briefer is better than three mediocre briefers.

The call should be hosted by your analyst relations or PR agency rep, who should then become a (mostly) silent partner who starts the call with introductions and finishes the call with a brief recap of the information covered and a summary of the next steps. This person should also serve as the scribe for the call, so the other participants can keep their focus on communicating their key messages to the analysts and probing them for market insights from the analyst’s perspective.

Lighten the Load

One of the biggest mistakes made in analyst presentations is trying to cram 100 pounds of company/solution/market information into a five-pound rucksack as you climb Jacob’s Ladder. You do not – repeat, do not – want to fall off the ladder because you tried to pack too much into your PowerPoint presentation.

The ideal length for a presentation is 10 to 15 slides – no more. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it should leave them hungry for more, so it gives your analyst relations rep or PR firm a reason to follow up with additional information such as white papers, case studies or data sheets (if their questions are more technical in nature).

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be prepared to expand in detail about your slides. While you want to send a clean deck to the analyst firm, use the Notes view for your team to have information they need readily available for questions you anticipate from the analysts.

Second, most analyst firms request that the presentation be sent to them for review at least one day in advance of the briefing. The reason for this is that the analysts want to cut right to the chase in the call. By being able to review your briefing ahead of time, the hour can be spent in a more productive way than just reciting bullet points on a slide that their own two eyes have already seen. That is time better spent on exchanging insights on the market opportunity, competitors in your space, unique differentiators of your solution, or the seaworthiness of your corporate strategy and value proposition.

Also, if you are doing a demo, it is critical that the demo has been rehearsed, tested and aligned with the story you are telling in your presentation. Ideally, the demo is reflecting a real-world situation, walking the analyst through the process of how your solution solved the challenge and benefitted the customer.

Please note: demos should not go on for more than five minutes at the most. Again, this is an opportunity for your rep to set up an additional call down the line for a more extensive demo, if the analyst is interested.

The Next Rungs

Once the briefing is over, your work is not done. It is important to follow up on the action items summarized by your analyst relations or PR agency rep at the end of the call. This provides multiple opportunities to continue on up the next few rungs of the ladder – influencing the influencers, so to speak, as they evaluate your climb up and to the right in the market they cover.

The next rungs could be in the form of regularly providing relevant content such as press releases, white papers, case studies or research reports; insights on the market you can share with the analyst; reviewing the relevant section of a market report that includes your company and its solutions; or providing an update in advance of a milestone event, such as a product launch. In order to sustain your relationship with the analysts, it is important to be in touch with them throughout the year, and not just in the month before HIMSS.

The Benefits of “Earned” Analyst Relations

There is still a misconception that persists among many PR and marketing professionals today that analyst briefings are not worth doing unless their organization has a paid subscription with the analyst firms. We often find that analyst relations is one of the first things that marketers want to cross out of our PR proposals.

Our take – Vitare loquitur coniectoribus periculo tuo.

Or, for those former parochial school students like me still struggling with Latin: Avoid opportunities to speak with analysts at your own risk.

Even if your organization does not have a paid relationship with an analyst firm, we strongly believe it is worth your time to do an “earned” briefing – similar to the earned opportunities your PR team is proactively seeking from the media outside of the paid/advertorial opportunities that those outlets’ sales teams are pitching. As long as the privilege of an earned briefing is not abused, analysts are usually open to scheduling calls or even in-person briefings. But make sure you have something important to say, and that you are prepared for tough questions about your company’s direction, target markets, customers, and even its financials.

Analyst recommendations are among the most important influencers for those executives looking to make significant buying decisions about healthcare technology solutions. With all the noise in the marketplace – from walking around the HIMSS show floor last month, there are too many companies to count who lay claim as the answer to population health, or personalized medicine, or care coordination – it is critically important that your organization is included among vendor recommendations when your prospects check in with analysts.

Yes, you’ll probably have to take a sales call along with the briefing. But the intrinsic, long-lasting value of getting in front of key analysts who decides to make out the lineup for recommendations makes the briefing makes that 30 extra minutes listening to a sales spiel about their services and events well worth the effort. Plus, the media often turns to analysts for expert insights, and while they usually don’t reference specific vendors in their quotes, you do want them to be aware of your positioning so when they are quoted in the media your organization’s vision and positioning are helping to shape the thinking behind their comments.

Which are the key analyst firms you should consider targeting for “earned” briefings? In general, the most well-known firms are still Gartner, IDC, Forrester, Frost & Sullivan and Ovum. But it is just as important to hold briefings with other analyst firms who also have significant influence over buying decisions in the healthcare technology market, including (but not limited to) Chilmark, IHS and Alterum.

Your analyst relations strategy should incorporate regularly scheduled briefings with the relevant analysts at these firms. The first step is to reach out to the analyst firm to request a schedule of reports they plan to publish in the next year. Then, build out a briefing schedule, not only based on those reports, but also based on significant milestones you expect to hit with your corporate positioning and/or roadmap.

Keep in mind that analyst briefings do have a much longer lead time, so it is important to know the process through which briefings are coordinated. For instance, Gartner, IDC and Forrester have central bookers who schedule the briefings. Even if you have spoken by phone or in person with an analyst previously, you or your PR firm will still need to contact the booker or fill out a form on the analyst firm’s website to schedule the briefing. Give yourself 6-8 weeks lead time, so if you have a big launch coming up three months from now, you should be requesting a briefing now.

So you got the briefing booked. Now what? We’ll be covering the Do’s and Don’ts of preparing and holding a briefing in our next blog post, as well as the follow-up that is needed in a timely fashion to make the briefing a successful one.

Check back next week for our next post on prepping for and holding a briefing, as well as how to handle action items that need to be addressed coming out of a briefing. But in the meantime, share your insights in the comments below on:

  • Which analyst firms you find have the most impact?
  • What works well with analysts based on briefings you have participated in?
  • What are some of the common pitfalls of doing analyst briefings?