We have certainly all had our fair share of virtual events during the current global COVID19 pandemic.
Whether it is Zoom meetings or physical events pushed on-line via webinars and virtual events, this element of digital transformation has become ubiquitous.
It is easy to forget that webinars have been around for less than 25 years – the Internet and the World Wide Web created the technology and the venue for events to go on-line.
In fact, I remember doing one of the earliest webinars at Compaq “way back” in the late 1990s. Granted the technology was crude — it was literally “talking heads” on a conference call supported by visuals back in the day. We have come a very long way!
Today, webinars are more important than ever. Our “new reality” has accelerated the pace of digital transformation and webinars are a critical component of the marketing toolkit to deliver events and engagement with customers in a time where we cannot do in-person physical events.
I drank the “webinar Kool aid” long ago. We were early adopters of webinars at SAP Marketing and executed many on-line events with webinar platforms, providing great awareness and lead generation tactics for our field marketing and regional teams.
When you are an early adopter you must learn on the fly and develop your own best practices. I found that one of the best ways to learn is to network and attend events with your peers and learn from fellow subject matter experts (SMEs).
One such person is Jaime Allison Snyder, a Senior Marketing Specialist at RSM, which focuses on tax, audit and consulting services for the mid-market.
I met Jaime several years ago at an ON24 Webinar World event and was extremely impressed at the webinar program she and her team had developed. Jaime has run a successful webinar program at RSM that is both highly scalable (more than 200 webinars per year) and features strong knowledge transfer and value, utilizing Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.
It was my pleasure to recently catch up with Jaime and discuss the current state of webinars and on-line events and how virtual on-line education and training is being shaped by ongoing digital transformation.
Q: Jaime, at a recent ON24 Webinar World event you were christened “the Webinar Queen of RSM” and your success with your webinar programs was compared with Mark Bornstein, the VP of Content Marketing at ON24 and their self-professed “Chief Webinerd”. What are the critical success factors of driving a highly successful and visible webinar program at RSM?
A: Organization and attention to detail are both critical success factors to me. I’m typically managing multiple events per week, sometimes even at the same time. Making sure all the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed is paramount to successful execution.
Q: You have background in radio and communications from before you joined RSM marketing. Jaime, what skills from that experience have you leveraged in marketing and events for RSM, and what are some best practices people can learn from to make their webinars and virtual events more impactful and engaging?
A: For me, aside from being a solid communicator, it is remaining calm under pressure and knowing how to troubleshoot and solve technical issues.
Q: Jaime, you deliver over 200 webinars a year for RSM. What is the “secret sauce” to delivering such a highly scalable yet varied program? How does knowledge transfer and CPE credits work in positioning and delivering your webinars and how do you manage such a wide array of subject matter experts?
A: Again, it all comes back to organization and attention to detail. With multiple events happening simultaneously, it is critical to take a step-by-step approach and confirming every detail of every event. Mistakes happen…. but not on my webcasts.
CPE is a huge value-add for our webcasts, especially in 2020 with no in-person events happening. Offering a quality program that informs the participant, as well as providing that needed CPE credit, can set up apart from our competitors.
Q: How does Marketing Technology (martech) and the virtual on-line webinar platform enable you to deliver a quality customer event experience that clearly brings strong repeat attendees? Any thoughts and best practices on reporting and analytics to communicate your success and deliver leads and prospects to sales?
A: Our ON24 platform integration provides a seamless experience for participants; once you are registered for the event, there’s no need to login a second time. Additionally, having the reporting integrated automatically following the webcast eliminates extra steps for the team and puts the data at the fingertips of marketing and sales.
Q: Jaime, we have talked about how “modern marketing” has produced the “modern webinar” and with a it a rich, branded and highly engaging on-line experience. Where do you see this going and what are the skills, technologies and more people should be looking at/investing in to prepare for this “digital future”?
A: Online events have changed drastically in 2020 and will continue to evolve in the coming years. I think we have seen an end or a dramatic shift to the in-person events industry, and that puts online events at the forefront of setting the tone for events going forward. A perfect example of this is RSM’s 2020 Virtual Tax Summit in Nov. 2020. Once a full-day event in multiple locations, RSM’s pivoted this year and offered an exclusively virtual environment with interactive features to engage participants. In 2019, we had 643 registrants and 359 attendees across all locations of our RSM Tax Summit as a physical, in-person event. Our 2020 Virtual Tax summit had 4,360 registrants and 3,065 attendees for the ON24 webinar environment itself. This was very scalable — 15 out of 16 of the plenary sessions had over 1,000 attendees, with over 23,000 webcast attendees across the entire virtual event. This was a hugely successful event for RSM and quite a litmus test for virtual events moving forward. For future events, we will allow more time for technical build out of the platform and have a more solid follow-up plan in place in advance of the event. This will be the trend in events going forward for RSM.
Jaime thank you for your time today and a highly informative discussion of webinars during an incredibly challenging time. Your experience and success as the “webinar queen of RSM” are both inspirational and a fascinating “case study” of virtualization and digital transformation. We look forward to hearing more in the future as you expand and innovate your webinar program at RSM and more.
Jaime is Senior Marketing Specialist at RSM and an experienced marketing and communications professional who has led RSM’s marketing webinar program since 2014. Connect with her on LinkedIn
Fred is a Research Director at Dresner Advisory Services, a high technology industry marketing veteran and former Senior Marketing Director for SAP Global Marketing. Join him online at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn