The End of Live Webinars?

Web seminars continue to be a mainstay B2B demand gen tactic, especially in the technology space. Up until now, Webinars have come in two flavors: the live event, broadcast at a specific date and time, and the archived event, hosted on the advertiser’s site or by a third party for on-demand viewing.

Now, it would seem, there’s a third. A growing number of Silicon Valley companies are promoting Webinar events broadcasting at a specific date and time, but that (unbeknownst to the attendees) aren’t broadcasting live. Companies just flip the proverbial switch at the appointed time and play the recorded event, even including a canned Q&A session at the end.

As one marketing manager told me recently, “We had hired a big name analyst as a featured speaker, but his travel schedule just wouldn’t mesh with our planned broadcast date. So we just recorded the event one day at his convenience, and then broadcast the Webinar at the advertised day and time.”

What about Q&A? “We wrote our own questions and the moderator selected a couple to address during the session. Attendees could still post their own questions; we just responded to those individuals after the event.”

So does this new strategy set your moral compass quivering? Consider this: attendees get precisely the content they registered for. They won’t get their questions answered live, but that’s the case for most live Webinars anyway, when the number of questions almost always exceeds the time available to answer them.

The advantages to the marketer are obvious. As noted, the event can be recorded when most convenient for the participants. Technical issues or speaker flubs are a thing of the past: just hit pause, rewind, and start again (or edit the event after the fact).

Is promoting Webinars in this fashion misleading? This non-lawyer says no, providing you’re not using the term “live” in your invitation or registration copy. In the meantime, your event retains the cachet of a live event, with considerably less hassle.

What you do think?

For further advice on successful Webinar promotion, see our free white paper: “How to Choose Your Carrot: Effective Lead Generation Offers for High-Technology Marketers.”

5 thoughts on “The End of Live Webinars?

  1. Brant Cooper

    Rubs me the wrong way. Is it live or Memorex? I’ve always offered archived copies as a separate offering. Whether fully realized or not, an expectation of live “feels” different that recorded. Be clear and you’re fine. Ambiguity, in this scenario, equals deception, IMHO.

  2. Maura McNulty

    Thank you, Howard, I love the idea of canned vs. live, sounds hassle free, less expensive, and simply more podcast like. There is no ethical argument here, the content expertise is equally valuable when downloaded, as it is whenever and wherever it’s uploaded. What provider do you recommend for a lower-priced than Webex and corporate crowd solution?

  3. Dale Wolf

    In the era of “customer experience” and the requirement of building trust with customers, this strategy seems to make no sense at all. Sure a live event has a sense of urgency that can stimulate a surge in attendance. But this white lie is just not worth the risk. You can fool a customer once. After that, they will not believe anything you have to say.

  4. Ray Harris

    We have clients who do true live events, pre recorded events with live Q&A and purely pre recorded events. In some cases, a client’s legal team may want to control the content but in most cases the client merely is looking for a presentation without the ums and awkward pauses.

    However, when a client runs a series of events, we always see the true live events maintain a larger audience. A dynamic live event with presenters who interact with each other and the audience is far more compelling to attend than a canned performance.

    In the end, it is up to the client.

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