How COVID-19 Changed Webinars: 3 Takeaways for Law Firms

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...digital events have proven their value and will remain a key, primary aspect of much programming.

My colleague Michael Mayday recently looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic was changing webinars hosted by ON24. He found that there has been a clear shift in webinar trends, beginning with a sharp increase in the number of digital-first events: in March 2020 alone, the number of programs hosted on the site skyrocketed, jumping by more than 330%.

That increase has provided a rich set of data that offers some interesting observations to law firms interested in maximizing attendance of their online programming:

1. Tuesday is the new best day for webinars

Midweek has always been a good time to hold your webinar. In fact, prior to the arrival of the pandemic, webinars held on Wednesday and Thursday captured 56% of audience. That number dropped to 41% in March 2020, with Monday (up by nine percent) and Tuesday (a ten percent gain) picking up the lion's share of participants who were willing to attend webinars held on a different day. Another surprising winner is Friday, which saw its share of webinars increase from 10% to 13%. In fact, the only days where attendance has dropped are Saturday and Sunday.

The bottom line: Tuesday is probably the best day to hold your program, but if that doesn’t work your audience is still likely to increase as long as you don't host your webinar on the weekend.

2. Tuesday is also the best day for promoting your event

Promoting your program is a different story. While Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were the best days to announce your webinars in 2019, Monday has moved up as a solid day for sending out invitations and promotional emails. In fact, those four days account for nearly all – 83% – of webinar registrations.

Messages sent out on Tuesday do retain a slight edge over those sent out on other days (by three percent), but promotional emails distributed any of those days will probably do nearly as well.

On the other hand, although the overall success of emails sent out on Friday and the weekend didn't change, you should still avoid sending out messages on those days which together, only produce 18% of registrations.

3. COVID-19 has flattened the curve for best time to run your webinar

Generally speaking, the Coronavirus has smoothed out the advantages of running programs at any particular time. While 11:00 am PT (2:00 pm ET) remains the best time to schedule your webinar, the difference isn't as great at pre-pandemic. In fact, attendance at webinars earlier – at 8:00 and 9:00 am PT – has gone up in each case by two percentage points.

The main takeaway here: don't be afraid to start your webinar earlier in the day. Clients are eager for insight and thought leadership, and they're now more willing to join morning programs (one reason could be the elimination of commute time for employees working from home).

With that in mind, I'd recommend you experiment with start times to see what works best for your targets because, as Michael points out, the best time for a webinar is always one that fits in with the schedule of your audience. You might be surprised at the results.

A New Normal: Digital First, Going Forward

Finally, I'd be remiss for not pointing out an even larger trend we are seeing (and hearing) in the legal landscape today. It has become clear that, even when we can begin to plan and host physical events again (projected now to be some time in 2021), digital events have proven their value and will remain a key, primary aspect of much programming.

I am hearing from clients who are building strategy around the idea of "digital first" event programming, with some plans for hybrid, digital and in-person, as well.

During this time of physical distancing, digital events not only enabled firms to continue the types of engaging programming their clients expected from them, they also proved their extraordinary value from a data and relationship-building point of view. Feedback tells me that marketing and business development teams now count on the type data just a single event can generate, providing insights about individual prospects and clients they never had available to them before.

These types of digital insights will remain at the heart of event programming, going forward.

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[Katie O'Rourke is Regional Vice President, Sales at ON24. Connect with her on LinkedIn; follow for her latest writing on JD Supra.]

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