Expand Your Reach With Webinars

More real estate pros are turning to Web-based seminars, a cost-effective option to land in front of more clients. Here's how you can do it too.

July 1, 2009

Many real estate pros use seminars to establish themselves as experts in the field. However, seminars can be expensive and time-consuming. But with the ever-evolving Internet, you can now put on Web-based seminars—Webinars—for nearly any kind of audience. Here’s how you get the most bang for your seminar buck.

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 Webinar Advantages: Better Than Being There?

A virtual seminar is a live event with a main speaker, in which attendees can view slides of the presentation on their computer desktops and the speaker's voice is delivered through the phone or computer speakers.

The advantages to you and your audience are many, such as:

  • Convenience: Your prospects don’t have to get into a car and go somewhere (nor do you). They can participate right from the comfort of their home or office, which means they are more likely to attend.
  • Control: Attendees will have less fear of being “overpowered” by a sales pitch because they are not physically present and can click off at any time.
  • Interaction: Most webinar systems give the speaker the ability to interact directly with attendees using real-time polls and a chat box for questions and comments.
  • Feedback: Some webinar solutions allow you to automatically launch a survey immediately after the seminar ends. This is a great tool to receive candid feedback to gauge how well you did, how you could make it better, and expression of interest (including buying signals).
  • Cost: If you choose wisely, you can put on a webinar for a fraction of the cost of a traditional seminar.
  • Content: If your webinar system allows you to record your sessions, then you have an ongoing source of updated multimedia information for your Web site or blog.

At this point you may be thinking, “OK, great, but does it really work to generate new business?”

Let me put it this way: As a professional international speaker for nearly 15 years, I can attest to the business-generating power of seminars. In fact, during the past six months, webinars have been my only method of delivery. They have empowered me to reach more people than I ever have before with just a fraction of the effort and time involved with traditional seminars. (View an example: See a webinar I delivered to Maryland Association of REALTORS® associates last April.)

You too can use webinars to establish yourself as an expert, reach far more prospects, and convert more of them into clients.

 The Technology You Need to Set it Up

Here are some tools you need to host a Webinar.

  • Webinar system: What you want from a webinar platform is a combination of affordability, accessibility, and user interactivity. The one I use is GoToWebinar.com from Citrix. (Not to be confused with GoToMeeting, which is offered by the same company but does not include polls or surveys and is limited to 16 people.) The company offers a reasonable “all you can meet” pricing model either by the month or annually. This means you can use the system as many times as you want, with as many people as you want (up to 1,000) at any time. You can even try it free for 30 days. Remember: You need to practice on the system a few times before you conduct a live webinar. Some other popular webinar vendors include Adobe Connect, WebEx, and ConferencePlus.
  • Internet connection: Make sure you have a reliable broadband connection because you will be broadcasting your voice and sometimes even your computer screen.
  • Cordless phone headset: During a webinar, people will hear your disembodied voice and see whatever you are sharing on your computer screen—and that’s it! This means your voice has to do the heavy lifting to keep the group engaged and their energy up. The easiest way to do that is to stand up and move while you are talking. This automatically improves your voice with that extra dose of energy and enthusiasm. A cordless headset can give you the freedom to do that. HelloDirect.com is one company that offers these; I personally prefer the GN950e, which gives you 350’ of freedom and can be used as a computer headset as well.

 Checklist: How to Prepare

Keep the following items in mind as you set up your webinar so you have no surprises when the time comes to put on your show.

  • Schedule the day and time: Set the time, duration, and date that works best for your prospects. Try to keep the duration to no more than one hour until you develop strong confidence in your presentation skills. Also, be aware of what time zone you are using. Obviously, use your local one if all your attendees are local. Otherwise, for North America, use Eastern time, and attendees outside of that time zone can calculate for their own time (at least you hope they can).
  • Describe the webinar: Give your webinar a title and description. Make sure your webinar title is very compelling and attractive to your intended audience—otherwise, they will not even bother to register. Also, the webinar description copy should include bullet points that outline the benefits of attending.
  • Add panelists: These are people that either present with you or help you present (more on this later).
  • Customize the webinar theme: This is the look and feel of what attendees will see when they receive your e-mail announcement and when they first log in. You can change the color, upload your logo, and include your photo.
  • Set up a registration form: This is the information—mostly contact information—that your attendees will need to supply in order to register. Avoid mandatory fields whenever possible. (For example, GoToWebinar requires a name and e-mail address, but everything else is optional.)
  • Arrange for a post-webinar survey: Think through the questions you want your attendees to answer and be sure to ask if they would like to schedule an appointment with you (the call to action). Then, plan on sending the survey out to all your attendees following the webinar.
  • Set up your polls: These are a great way to get attendees to anonymously interact with you and each other in real time. They are typically used for larger audiences (50-plus). If you expect to use a poll in your webinar, set them up well in advance of your webinar and be sure to practice using them with a friend. Remember to talk to your audience while they fill these out, rather than just waiting silently and creating a “dead air” effect.
  • Coordinate your e-mail reminders: Determine when e-mail reminders of the webinar will be sent to the registrants and what they will say. You will want to send out at least one or two reminders to registrants so they don't forget about the webinar. Be sure to include important log-in information and a phone number, if applicable, so they'll know how to access the webinar when the time comes.

 2 Ways to Promote Your Webinar

So now that you have the logistics of your webinar all in place, you are now ready to announce it. Here are two primary ways to announce your webinar:

  1. E-mail. Most providers have some sort of e-mail template, as well as the means for sending it to registrants. I use the basic format generated directly by GoToWebinar and then modified it slightly before sending it out. For e-mail announcements and reminders, I have found that three times within about a 45-day period works best, with the last reminder just a few days before the webinar date.
  2. Web. You can post the registration link (using suitable promotional copy) on your Web site, blog, or any social media sites you belong to.

Don’t hesitate to use affiliate relationships (title companies, mortgage lender, attorneys, etc.) to help spread the word.

With most webinar vendors, you'll be able to log into your account at any time to see who has registered, who they are, and if they had any pre-attendance questions.

 3 Reminders for the Day of Your Webinar

Here are some things you'll want to have ready before your webinar goes live.

  1. Prepare your materials. Make sure that you have pre-loaded any Web sites and your PowerPoint presentation well in advance of launching your webinar.
  2. Adjust your screen resolution. Make sure your screen resolution is set to 1024 x 768, especially if you have a high-resolution screen. If you don’t, your attendees may have a hard time viewing details on your screen if you’re sharing it with them.
  3. Make a knowledgeable friend or trusted colleague a panelist. It is very important to have someone who is familiar with your content and who can answer most questions and even run through the typed-in comments within the Q&A box that come in from attendees. There is no way you can do this yourself and keep your presentation flowing smoothly. When your friend logs in as a panelist, be sure to make them an “Organizer” so she can see and respond to the typed Q&A questions.

 5 Presentation Tips

You want to deliver a high-performance and engaging webinar. Follow these pointers for presentation style.

  1. Have a killer opening. Briefly introduce yourself and your fellow panelists and explain why attendees are there (keep it benefit-oriented) in a way that will grab them immediately.
  2. Give an overview. Tell them what you are going to cover (again, stress the benefits).
  3. Be participant-centric. In addition to keeping the webinar benefit-oriented, allow for audience interaction, which is much more engaging than just listening to someone. Note: Don’t overwhelm your audience with PowerPoint slides. Use as few as possible and fill in the blanks with your personality and words.
  4. Review what you cover. Stick to a few main points and the benefits they'll receive from learning this material.
  5. Close with a call to action. Thank them for attending and be sure to remind them to complete the post-webinar survey too. In addition to establishing yourself as an expert, you want to use this opportunity to persuade them to become clients.

Due to high-speed Internet and affordable webinar systems readily available, webinars have made it easier than ever—and more fun—to show prospects that you’re a top professional in the industry. So jump right in and explore this whole new world of business-generating opportunity awaiting you and you'll be propelling your virtual stardom in no time.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.