BrightTalk CEO reflects on 10 years of watching webinars evolve beyond ‘a voice with slides’

BrightTalk Paul Heald webinars
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Though his firm has spent a decade serving as a hub for hosting and maximizing the effectiveness of webinars, BrightTalk CEO Paul Heald increasingly finds himself referring to the content as simply “talks.”

While some BrightTalk users continue to follow the “voice with slides” approach, for example, Heald has been noticing a lot more integration with a screen share, a video or other element that makes the overall experience richer. In the end, however, it all comes down to expertise delivered as clearly and accessibly as might happen in a one-on-one conversation or lecture.

“It isn’t one-size-fits-all anymore,” Heald told B2B News Network. “(Audiences) like the mixed media . . .  Perhaps contributing to that trend is just how much the marketing community has recognized that sharing thought leadership (in a webinar) is really contributing to their own success. The engagement they’re getting is helping them get educated about their audience.”

If webinar are becoming talks, a lot more people are listening. According to the 2018 Webinar Benchmarks Report that BrightTalk published last week, for example, there was a 27 per cent increase in average viewing time, which now stands at 42 minutes. While registrations were down 4.5 per cent, the report suggested this was due to increased competition: the total volume of webinars on the BrightTalk platform increased 40 per cent year-over year.

Source: 2018 Webinar Benchmark Report, BrightTalk.com

“Anything a professional finds useful is using their time, and the webinar format is a thoughtful piece of content that requires time to engage,” he said, distinguishing the content on his platform the education business people might get through training services like Lynda.com or SkillShare earlier in their career. “The type of things that webinars really satisfy are when professionals are busy, in a job, solving problems, need information and realize the source of that information is a thought leader.”

Since BrightTalk launched in 2008, the firm has built upon its platform for hosting and embedding webinars with a professional network based around job function and industry communities. Heald said the firm has surpassed the seven million member mark, and has two million unique users in any given quarter. In the last three years, meanwhile, BrightTalk has introduced what he described as an artificial intelligence tool that “works out what the user is really interested in and surfaces content in both organic and paid way.”

The benchmarks report had a few surprises, including the fact that Mondays now show the best engagement of the week at 38 per cent, and that 8:00 am to 9:00 a.m. are the best times to host a webinar in North America, as opposed to lunchtime. Training-style webinars were the most preferred kind of content, but Heald said there was still a place for product demos and service walk-throughs.

“You’re trying to get the last click — somebody who has really understood this topic, this issue for their company,” he said. “(Most likely they’re) now in the final phase of journey to really consider which company do they want to work with, and they probably already know the three or four companies they’re considering. Those people will engage in demos.”

Marketers should also ensure they think well beyond the live event portion of a webinar. According to the report, 48 per cent of an audience was gained, on average, 10 days following the event via an on-demand option.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.