Why I’m Thrilled that Webinar Attendance Is Down – And What To Do About It

Webinar attendance is down -- and I couldn’t be happier.

Let’s start with the facts – On24 reports that the average webinar attendance rate is now down to 43% of registrants.

So why am I happy about this?

#1 – It raises the bar for webinar attendance – webinar attendance is now a higher quality metric than ever before. A prospect has to have a significant level of commitment to a topic or company to actually block out the time and show up to a live web event. So attending a webinar on a later stage topic and/or answering webinar questions to indicate readiness are becoming even more effective triggers for marketing qualification.

#2 – It demonstrates there is an increasingly stronger preference for on-demand content – which represents opportunity for marketers who can create programs that align to buying stage and help support buyers move through their buying process.

And, most importantly:

#3 – For those marketers who can figure out how to adjust in this increasingly challenging landscape -- this becomes a massive competitive differentiator.

Which gets us to the “what you should do about it” part.

I’ve grouped this into two sections – steps to take to ensure  your webinars significantly outperform the 43% average, and steps to take to simultaneously take advantage of the strong preference buyers are exhibiting today for on-demand content.

3 Keys to Driving Webinar Attendance and Crushing the 43% Attendee Rate

You need to treat the act of getting a registrant to show up to your webinar after they’ve registered with the same amount of creativity and effort as you apply to getting someone to register in the first place. And to do this, we need to move beyond the 15-year tradition of templated webinar conformation email, templated webinar reminder email without adding intrigue or reasons for that registrant to actually show up to the event.

Here are three strategies to employ to drive webinar attendance and beat that 43%:

1.  Get the registrants invested in attending the webinar

Leverage technology to give the registrants ways to contribute to the webinar programming, and let them know they have done so along the way.

Going to attend just-any-old webinar on a topic? – maybe.

Going to attend a webinar that you’ve contributed to what’s being discussed – much more likely.

This may sound hard to do at scale, but here are two examples of ways to do this – both of which can be introduced in the confirmation email for the event:

  • Invite the attendees to submit questions on the topic in advance, and after they have submitted a question email them two days later to let them know their question will be addressed by the speaker during the webinar
  • Create a section of the webinar which registrants can vote on which topic will be covered… e.g. invite the registrants to choose from 1 of 3 topics that they’d like to see covered at the event (maybe all three end up being covered anyway…).

The more that the prospect feels like he/she is contributing to what is being presented, the more bought in the prospect will be to the event and the more likely they will show up.

2.  Market to your registrants around “Why Attend?”

If like many companies you are using boilerplate copy in confirmation & reminder emails, you are missing a major opportunity to drive webinar attendance. Treat the webinar attendance as a program conversion, and work harder to create value for the registrants and answer the question “Why Attend?”.

Start with the reminder emails -- don’t overdo it, but the reminder emails should include content such as “3 reasons you don’t want to miss this!”.

Also consider alternative ways to reach your audience and get your reminders to stand out from the masses. Do you have a service to map prospects to social media profiles? Send out social media messages e.g. via Twitter the day of the webinar.

And lastly, part of selling the attending is to manage against the concern that “it’s just too much time”. Consider calling your webinars web briefings and let the audience know that (just like TED Talks) they will be 18-minutes in length. If there is an expectation of efficiency, quality and value… you will get more people to show up.

3.  Create an impactful and differentiated webinar experience

We B2B marketers face the same challenge as broadcasters aiming to maximize their advertising revenues via live TV audiences. How do you get someone to watch a TV show live when they can DVR it? The answer to that question is the live experience needs to be unique and “can’t miss”, and we B2B marketers need to do the same. This could take different shape depending on the type of event and your prospect preferences, but areas to consider:

  • Leverage a modern platform such as On24, ReadyTalk, Watchitoo or Google Hangouts to make the online webinar environment as appealing as possible
  • Use video as part of your presentation – does not need to be live video, in fact pre-recorded video will often yield a higher production value
  • Leverage social conversations such as a specific hashtag to make the live event a unique experience
  • Offer webinar attendees something completely unique – a limited time discount offer, a T shirt, whatever it may be – the more unique, the better

The experience here can also be leveraged in #2 as part of the “Why Attend?”, and an improved webinar experience will have a carryover impact of increasing the likelihood that prospect will attend another webinar in the future.


The specifics here are almost not as important as the essence of what I’m saying – which is to treat the attendance at the event as important as the registration itself…. Which few marketers have (again, if you don’t believe that just look at the blah-blah confirmation and reminder emails that 99% of companies are using).

The act of attending the webinar is a much more significant step forward in a buying process than in the past -- because it is such a significant commitment and fewer are doing it. You will differentiate your brand on the experience you provide during the live event, and you also create the opportunity to ask questions during that live event and get spontaneous answers, to qualify the prospect and where they are in the buying process.

In part two of this post I describe how to create on-demand landing page experiences which can supplement your webinar programs in driving demand with an “always on” approach.