Is your webinar ready for prime time?

Overall, webinars and webcasts can be extremely useful vehicles to communicate your brand to both patients and HCPs. Here are some recommendations for you to consider.

The audience

Need to have a very clear idea of who the audience is and where they are in their understanding of the disease state, therapy and support services. It's very difficult to address multiple audience segments equally in a single webinar.

The topic

It's very important to have a defined and focused topic. The audience should know exactly what ground you are going to cover and because of the limited amount of time, it is optimal to restrict the webinar to a single topic (subtopics should be directly related).

The message

From a marketing perspective, it is extremely important to carve out just a few simple and straightforward messages that you want all attendees to walk away with. What are the 1-3 things that by the end of the webinar you want people to be sure to understand. It's always a good formula to tell them what you are going to tell them, tell it to them and then summarize at the end. So long as you bring the messages to life in different ways, the repetition of the messages is a good thing.

The flow

It's best when the flow is linear and does not jump around much. This can work in a variety of ways. For example a panel discussion, expert opinion or patient testimonial. But from a listener perspective, it's optimal to keep the flow easy to follow. It's also important to have clear transitions between subtopics and participants.

The visuals

Ideally a live feed is more interesting than slides, but not always possible. Slides should be kept extremely simple and very visual. You don't want viewers reading slide content when you are hoping they are paying attention to the speakers. Slides should only be used to support the speaker and this is most viably done with key supportive visuals (a picture or chart for example). Show it don't put it in text.


Fair balance and important safety information are essential, but just as with other collateral, there is no mandate to lead with the disclaimer before making claims. It's important not to let the balance grow out disproportionate to the claims within the planned discussion. The result can be an overwhelming sense of negativity/risk without enough motivation/benefit.

Remember who you are talking to

This is particularly important when engaging patients. Too often internal jargon or medical terminology seep into webinar content. You need to have a healthy respect for your audience and not talk down to participants, but at the same time, you cannot assume they will understand all of the terminology and acronyms. Often guest speakers within the presentation need to be reminded of this. It's completely appropriate to put information into patient-friendly language and maintain the integrity of the statement. This also applies to supportive visuals. Any charts or diagrams geared toward HCPs should be adapted for lay audiences.

Be natural

Nothing is worse than being read to. It's understandable that regulatory will want to know what will be discussed. But scripting every word can lead to presenters literally reading to the audience. The result is that the presentation feels canned, and it limits interest. Speaking points that are geared to staying on message for the topic of the webinar is essential. It's also optimal to allow for some degree of spontaneity. This could take the form of someone telling a story to exemplify a point (and the story can be pre-cleared).

Interact when possible

Optimally viewers would be able to ask questions at the end of the webinar and all participants would be able to hear the voice of the individual calling in (much like an investor call). The presenters should be trained on who and how to best handle the questions compliantly and an operator or screener can even pre-clear calls by speaking briefly with those who dial in (much like an investors call). If live phone is not an option, it is a good idea to at least personalize the question by referring to the person's first name and possible location (John from Houston, Texas has a question for Nancy…). This makes this section of the webinar more real and engaging. Also provide a means for people to ask questions after the webinar and encourage them to do so (We're out of time for tonight, but if your question was not answered, please let us know by either emailing us at… or calling us at…).

Assume nothing

You know your topic and presenters better than anyone. It's important to remember that your audience may not have that same sense of familiarity. If you recognize a presenter, it's important to acknowledge what has made that individual special an why this warrants your recognition.

Moderate strategically

Just like an investor call, let your presenters do the heavy lifting. The moderator (which can also be one of the presenters), should help make introductions, move things along and reinforce the key messages for the webinar topic. The presenters should conduct the bulk of the discussion and make the most salient points. This can keep the webinar more focused and interesting and further augments the credibility of what you are trying to express.

Don't kitchen sink it

Fight the temptation to cover too much ground. The webinar does not have to be all things to all people and it does not have to address every topic that an audience might be interested in. Optimally, plan a webinar series for specific audiences where topics can be singled out to meet specific objectives. Overloading the agenda with too many things makes the webinar lose focus and impact.

Webinars can be a powerful marketing and educational tool. But they need to be placed into an overall strategy that is deliberate and focused. And webinar content must always be calculated and calibrated to your audience (and sub-populations). This is when you are most likely to make a meaningful connection with your market and support your brand in compelling manner.

by Jonathan D. Katz