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Webinars, Web Conferences, Webcasts: Sweet Marketing Tools by Any Name

webinarsEarlier this month, we posted an article about incorporating Twitter into presentations at health IT conferences. But what about the presentations themselves? Is there a technology to help you extend the audience for your talk or demonstration, hold follow-up discussions beyond the scope of the show, and generate high-quality marketing leads—all at the same time?

Of course there is. Webinars are one of the hottest trends in health IT marketing.

A mash-up of the words “web” and “seminar,” a webinar can take several forms. A live webinar is often called a “web conference,” and allows the virtual attendees to see, hear, and interact with your presenters as the action is happening. Live webinars are typically hosted by services such as GoToWebinar and Adobe Connect, and may include features such as two-way videoconferencing, live chat, data sharing, and even support for high-definition (HD) video or mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.

Browse any of the trade websites, such as Healthcare Informatics, Healthcare IT News, or Modern Healthcare, and you’ll find a host of webinars on virtually any topic or technology. As conference season draws near, we’ll start to see even more webinars from heavy hitters like GE Healthcare, Siemens, and Dell.

Held in conjunction with a live presentation, a well-designed webinar can attract a large virtual audience from all over the globe. Even before the webinar starts, you can begin collecting information on potential customers through registration forms.

And if you don’t catch everybody the first time, you can record the presentation and broadcast it again—with or without a live moderator to field questions and comments.

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Hosting services also offer innovative ways of interacting with your audience. Polling is a great way to get feedback from your audience as a group—both during and after your presentation. You can also answer questions publicly or via private message, chat with participants, and even invite people to join the webinar via email, instant message (IM), or text.

Once a webinar is recorded, it’s commonly known as a webcast, though as we mentioned, webcasts can also include interactive features such as live chat or Twitter backchannels that enable the audience to communicate with the presenter, giving it a live “feel.” Webinar recordings can also be made available for download, for the viewer to watch at their convenience. In these cases, the immediate interactive element is missing, but viewers can still leave comments or ask questions to be addressed later.

Including contact information for the speakers and presenters (email, phone number, Twitter handle and LinkedIn URL) also encourages feedback, especially when a viewer does not wish to comment publicly.

No matter which form it takes, a webinar can be a gold mine for health IT marketers.

Traditionally, participants are required to register, so you can gain a wealth of information to aid in lead generation and opt-in marketing. The presentations lend themselves to a variety of applications, including news and announcements, product demonstrations, user education, and, of course, customer interaction and feedback.

Webinars also help you increase return on investment (ROI) from your live presentation. And if an error is made, or new information comes to light, the webinar and associated materials can be edited on the fly. In the world of online marketing, a “do over” is entirely possible.

czphoto1Caroline Zelonka is a guest blogger for Kitterman Marketing Group. She is the former senior writer for White Space Healthcare Marketing and Publicis Dialog Healthcare Marketing Practice and has worked with Abbott, Baxter, Edifecs, LifeScan, Microsoft HealthVault, Ventus Medical, El Camino Hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center, and Swedish Medical Center.