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How long should your webinar be?

How long should your webinar be?
There seems to be a preconception that webinars need to be a certain length. But once you begin asking around, you hear all kinds of numbers. 60 minutes is a popular one, so is 45 minutes. Others will tell you that nobody will sit through more than 25 minutes. So, which is it? Read on to find out.

Let’s start with the much quoted 60 minutes. One hour sounds like a lot to sit through, doesn’t it? Where does this number come from? Well, many webinar providers use 60 minutes as their standard maximum length per webinar, i.e. the maximum amount of time you can run your webinar for before you get charged an additional fee. In most cases this is based on nothing else than a standard one hour meeting we all know from our offline work lives. The 60 minutes were just transferred into the online world. There certainly is no technical reason for webinars to be 60 minutes or less. The internet, or your webinar vendor’s servers won’t collapse, if we all ran 90 minute webinars.

In fact, some webinar vendors have started offering 90 minutes as the default time per webinar. That said, the technology buffs amongst you may be interested in the fact that there is a technical impact for long live streams (e.g. 3+ hours). Depending on the platform and technology used for live streams, the likelihood of a stream failure at some point on longer streams is higher.

However, depending on your topic and presentation skills, 60 minutes can also go by in no time at all. Who are we to judge whether 60 minutes is boring or beyond our audience’s attention span. No doubt we’ve all sat in 60+ minute presentations that were extremely interesting, even riveting.

60 minutes? 45 minutes? 25 minutes?

Often, 45 minutes are quoted in the context of the 60 minute webinar, when the presentation is set to be 45 minutes long, but then followed by 15 minutes Q&A. Other times, you see a total of 45 minutes, which includes 15 minutes Q&A. Tomayto/Tomato. At the core, it’s the same argument as the 60 minute webinar.

In fact, it’s the same argument for 25 minute webinars. The answer to the question ‘How long should your webinar be?’ comes down to only a two things:

Key factor #1: Your content

How much content do you have? And how much time do you need to convey it? A rule of thumb you may wish to follow is “Your webinar should be as long as it takes to deliver your content in an engaging way.” If you have enough engaging content to spell-bind your audience for 60 or 90 minutes, go for it! If, realistically, that content could/should be broken up into two or three separate pieces to make it truly engaging then your audience may be better served by running a webinar mini-series.

Equally, don’t do your presenters an injustice by giving them too little time. Say you have three presenters for a 45 minute (plus Q&A) webinar, that gives them a maximum of 15 minutes each – or less if you also account for introductions and house-keeping at the start of the webinar. If you bring on three subject matter experts, will 12 minutes really be enough to allow them to convey their content fully and properly? Your alternative is to have less speakers or to extend your webinars length.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of filling or padding a webinar beyond your core content. If you only have enough content for a 25 minute presentation, that’s ok. Don’t attempt to turn it into a 60 minute webinar just because that’s what others do. In this scenario, your audience is likely to disengage and turn off.

Key factor #2: Your style and format

Depending on the style or format of your webinars, the webinar duration may be a logical conclusion. The multi-presenter format discussed above makes it more likely (and justifiable) to have a longer webinar. But if you have a “Quick-fire Q&A webinar with ‘Expert X’ “ then you should probably opt for a shorter webinar.

You may also want to consider the sales cycle stage your webinar is addressing. If you run “Weekly live demos with our CTO”, you are combining a weekly recurring event with an advanced sales cycle stage. Arguably, each of these two factors could warrant a shorter webinar format. Weekly recurring webinars with the same content don’t need to be as long as something you run annually. Equally, a webinar addressing prospects in an advanced sales cycle stage doesn’t need to be long. It just needs to address the core points of interest for the prospect. A conversation with a sales-ready lead can then take place in person or on the phone.

Apart from the extreme ends of the spectrum, there is little correlation between the impact of webinar duration on lead generation and conversion effectiveness. These factors are influenced more by the quality of your content, delivery, follow-up, and product-offering.

Conclusion

First, stop listening to other people’s opinion on how long or short your webinars should be. And don’t be tempted to “get value for money” by using the full webinar duration included by your webinar vendor, if you don’t have the content to fill it.

Instead, look at the content you have available and consider how long you can full engage your audience with it. That should be your gauge of how long your webinar should be. It’s ok to run over slightly, if the content is worth it and your audience is firing questions at you. It’s also a nice touch to end your webinar early by saying “Well, we’re ahead of schedule, so we’ll give our listeners 5 minutes of their day back.”

Taylor your webinars, their content, and their format to your organisation. Make them your own, instead of just doing what everybody else does. As long as it provides good results, you’re on the right track. Let us know how you get on and how long your webinars are, by commenting below.

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Also ready our blog about "3 Unexpected Webinar Truths"



 

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