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Tech checklist for your first webinar

Bryan Smith
November 5, 2019

Like with anything, hosting your first webinar can sound as attractive as it is daunting once you start to look into it. There are a lot of webinar software packages available out there, and not all of them have the same features and needs. This can make things tricky, but this guide is here to help you map your way through it, and to make some friendly suggestions from an experienced viewpoint.

Some of these feature differences between webinar software can include:

  • Some webinar software has video capture included, and others rely on separate video capture solutions.
  • There are webinar software packages that include a call-in feature so users can use their telephone connection to call in. This is used because it bypasses all of the audio configuration problems that come with having a large meeting of PC users.
  • A big part of running a successful webinar is in the pre-registration and marketing for promoting your webinar. You can’t have success without attendees, after all. This is why it’s highly recommended to pick a webinar platform that has a registration page for you, so that your registrants can sign up to receive your reminders for when your webinar is going to go live. There are separate tools online that achieve something similar to this, but higher-end webinar packages have these purpose-built and included in them.
  • Drawing and other visualization tools. Have you ever had to scribble something down on paper when explaining something in person? Turns out it’s no different online. The better software out there is going to give you plenty of options to show what you want (static images, screen capture, multi-camera angle support), and it’s also going to give you the ability to draw. We offer a whiteboard feature that’s exactly for doing this.

What kind of physical equipment do you actually need?

Hosting a webinar can technically be as minimal as just using your mobile phone these days, however, creating a successful, and professionally done webinar experience is going to require some hardware.

You’re going to want to gather:

  • A high quality webcam. “High quality” can mean a lot of things, but there are two specifications you should be concerned with when selecting a webcam for making good-looking online events. Resolution and frame-rate. High-definition video is considered to start at 1280 x 720 pixels resolution or higher and better chips usually also have better color depth and therefore perceived image quality. You also need a high frame rate so that your video looks smooth. Look for something with 60 frames per second (fps) or higher to be future-proof, but 30fps will do as well. Good webcams can be very affordable these days, but generally will run about $60 and up.
  • A dedicated microphone. While most devices have built-in microphones, your audio quality will greatly increase with dedicated stand-alone microphones. Ask for a large diaphragm mic. There are desktop versions that start at $40 that have much better audio than the on-board microphones in laptops and other devices. Or, use a good headset, typically the closer the microphone is to your mouth the less background noise it will pick up and the more pleasant the experience will be for your counter-parts. We cannot stress enough how important good audio quality is, poor audio will cause stress in your audience and prohibit them from absorbing the message you are transmitting in the best possible way.
  • Good lighting. It’s easy to neglect how production-quality lighting actually plays a role in what’s subconsciously perceived as professional or not. The trick is in diffusion, basically professional lighting evenly spreads light sources over a large area to give a nice even coverage of what’s being presented. Ever had your picture taken and seen those reverse umbrella looking things? Those are light diffusers. You can buy a few of those, but they’re costly. Another quick hack to get pretty good quality lighting is to just tape wax paper over lamps. It’s not as good as diffused light, but it’s cheap and it will get you started by softening up your light sources.
  • A backdrop. Chances are you don’t have a studio environment to shoot your first webinar. Eventually you will once you get into the swing of hosting successful webinars, but when you start you need a backdrop. This is just a sheet held evenly behind you. In video capture software you can usually edit this to be transparent, or replace it with whatever imagery you may want.

The software you will need

Webinars can need a fair bit of software before you start. Especially if you have relatively high standards and want to host a successful webinar the right way.

  • The webinar software itself
    Selecting the correct webinar software to start with is dependent on what’s appropriate for you. There is no one-size-fits all for every need. However, you can come close. Samba Live is one of the leading recommendations for webinar software. It contains all of the features that are used to host successful webinars in one streamlined package including landing pages, email sequences, telephone dial-in and cloud recording.
  • Marketing automation platform
    Some webinar software comes with solutions to market and generate a list of registered attendees before you host your live webinar. In case your webinar software doesn’t include that, you’re going to have to use either a piece of dedicated software to manage email invitations and reminder emails, or you could use an online service to act as your marketing platform to promote your webinar.
  • Video capturing software
    This is also sometimes a necessity in case your webinar software does not include the actual capture and streaming component of live video online. This is usually in the form of OBS, but it can be any video codec that’s compatible with your webinar software.
  • Video editing software
    In case you want to collect a few video clips to use during your webinar presentation, an editing software is a good idea.
  • Presentation software
    To prepare your slide deck you’ll need software like PowerPoint or a OpenSource equivalent. Most webinars rely heavily on powerpoint presentations.

Down the webinar tech checklist

While there can be plenty of complications that go into actually getting to host your very first high-quality webinar, the basic principles to cover are actually a fairly simple checklist.

  • Some software to actually host your webinar from.
  • Something to promote your webinar with in advance.
  • A camera to capture your physical presence.
  • Some software to manage what digital video feed goes where in your webinar (offered by most webinar softwares as an optional feature).
  • A microphone to capture your voice.
  • Some software for your visuals. Powerpoint, video/image editors, whatever you have to do to get visuals.
  • And last but not least, an optimistic attitude to get started in the world of webinars!

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