Webinars Are Not Only for Business

Webinars, those live webcast presentations that you watch and listen to online from the comfort of your office (or home), have become a staple of the business world. The tech community has embraced them because they find that these live sessions create a meaningful connection with an audience that differs from any other kind of marketing or promotion. Webinars tend to attract the most interested people, whose attention you command for 30-45 minutes. Compare that to the few seconds people spend reading an email or the few minutes they spend on your site, and you can easily see the value. Here at Patron Technology, we offer more than 300 webinars per year for our PatronManager current and potential customers.

So, why aren’t webinars used similarly by more arts organizations? After all, we have an audience we’re eager to engage with — and artists, musicians, actors, and directors, all of whom are eager to talk about their work. And our research tells us that our audience is fascinated with all things “behind the scenes.”

Pre-show concert lectures and post-show talk-backs offer the same value, and often they draw significant interest, but they are limited to the audience in the house. Personally, I don’t like them very much. If it’s before the show, you have to rush through them or sacrifice dinner with friends. And after a show, the fear of being held captive in a mid-row seat late into the night often stops me in my tracks. Webinars, which not only are offered live but also can be made available in a recorded format on your site or YouTube channel, come with none of these constraints.

Or, rather than making your webinars available to everyone, you could offer them as private sessions for donors at a certain level, or as perks for first-time ticket buyers. And because you’ll require registration to attend, you’ll get the names and email addresses of those who attend (and don’t attend) — providing you with a group of engaged patrons to whom you can sell tickets or memberships, or from whom you can solicit a donation.    

This is why I believe every arts organization should offer a regular series of webinars. You’re limited only by your creativity. If you’re hosting a dance event with a choreographer who is based in Europe, he or she can participate live, regardless of the location. This holds true for actors, conductors, artists, curators, and the like.

I hope these ideas inspire you to think about the multiple benefits of webinars in a new way. In the past, you’ve had to rely on a local critic to interview your stars, or a radio station to agree to interview your conductor, in order to offer this kind of connection to your artists and programs. Today, you can create and control that direct avenue to your audience.

If you’re new to this, there are many technology options to choose from. We use GotoWebinar.com, a fee-based service. We’ve also tested Google Hangouts, which is free, but you get what you pay for. If you’re doing webinars now, please link to them below, and if you know of great ones coming up, please let everyone know below.

Webinars are not for business anymore — they are for the arts, and their potential has yet to be fully tapped.

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