Through the years I’ve participated in a number of webinars. One of the first occasions was a webinar sponsored by a manufacturer. In addition to a huge network of distributors, the manufacturer maintained a large database of contractors. The webinar was promoted to all of them.
Personally, I have a hard time watching a webinar. I’m a little too A-D-D to sit still during voice-over-PowerPoint slides, especially if the speaker is slow and methodical.
Arrgh. Waterboard me. Pull out my fingernails one by one. Just don’t make me sit through another boring, tedious, monotonous, dry, dull, voice-over-PowerPoint presentation.
People tell me I’m not very patient about these things. Well, I have to do something else while the webinar is going on. Typically, this means flipping back and forth between the webinar in my web browser and another application.
Because webinars are attended at the desktop, the tendency is to continue working until the instant the webinar starts. As a result I’m usually in the middle of something when it’s webinar time. Unless the subject or speaker is especially compelling, I don’t stop what I’m doing and by the time I finish, the webinar is also finished. I’ve missed a lot of webinars this way.
If I’m this way, I figure most contractors are as bad, if not worse. They’re going to have trouble sitting through a webinar and are always in the middle of something else, whether it’s at the office or in the field. Thus, out of the thousands of invitations to the manufacturer’s webinar, I estimated no more than a couple of hundred might actually attend the webinar featuring moi.
It wasn’t even a couple of dozen.
This probably means I’m not a very compelling draw. Of course, I’m not alone. I talked with a number of organizations about webinars. Attendance is usually light. This should be expected. Consider the following from the eMarketing^2 website…
Let’s say you have a database of 5,000 subscribers, you send them 1 invitation and a response rate of 2% - Let’s apply the formula:
5000 subscribers x 1 invitation = 5,000 contacts
5,000 contacts x .02 response rate = 100 registrants
100 registrants x .4 attendance ratio = 40 attendees
Is a 2% response rate reasonable? Frankly, I think it’s on the high side. For highly technical subjects plus a strong customer list and an audience in the computer field, MarketCapture’s Eran Livneh reports response rates has high as 5%. Howard Sewell of Connect Direct notes that 0.5% is more typical (Source).
The 40% attendance rate is on par with the numbers claimed by webinar expert Ken Molay and that webinar hosts have reported to me, though greater than the Web Conferencing Council’s figure of 25%. For contractors, it's probably reasonable to expect between 30% and 50% of the individuals who register will actually attend.
So in theory, how many contractors could anyone get to attend a webinar?
If we include plumbing and HVAC, there are approximately 85,000 contractors with a payroll. Another 110,000 are sole proprietorships or partnerships without a payroll. If we round to 200,000 companies and contact ALL of them by email with the 0.5% response rate and the 40% attendance rate, we can expect an attendance of 400.
At a 2% response rate, attendance would be 1,600.
These numbers explain why most industry webinars are lightly attended. The starting pool of contractors is simply too small. No one has the email addresses to reach all 200,000 companies. Even if someone did, it’s tough to get contractors to sit still in front of a computer screen at a scheduled time. Thus, a host is doing well to get 50 to 100 people to attend a non-technical webinar.
So how come I keep seeing ads and invitations to webinars that first, claim that space is limited and second, proclaim the last webinar was attended by three to five thousand people?
Frankly, I doubt the veracity of anyone making such claims. Why make them? Why not simply stress the content, instead of making purported fabrications about the audience size and Internet space limitations?
Omit the audience and capacity limitation claims and the webinar is no less attractive. So why interject them? Why lie when you don’t have to? Is it because some people can’t help themselves?
If I believe someone is lying to me to get me to attend a webinar, I’ve got to wonder, how much honesty can I expect within the webinar? Apparently not much. Certainly not enough for me to give up 30 minutes of my life to sit in front of a computer screen listening to another boring, tedious, monotonous, dry, dull voice-over-PowerPoint presentation.
No wonder people hate and distrust marketers.
(c) 2009 Matt Michel