Illustration of a science webinar presentation

6 Reasons Your Science Webinar Isn’t Working and How to Fix It

Webinars are a great way to build brand awareness and provide value to your audience—when done correctly. Here are some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

By C&EN Media Group

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Since the world made a hard shift towards becoming fully digital during the pandemic, there has been more emphasis on webinars as an essential marketing tool. A good science webinar provides value to your customers while drawing in your audience and positioning you as a thought leader in your scientific industry niche. A poor science webinar is a droll slog through lifeless content, representing a missed opportunity to learn about and engage with your customers. Here are some common webinar pitfalls and how to avoid them with easily implemented webinar engagement strategies.  

#1 Your Title Doesn’t Identify an Audience

Science webinars aren’t for everyone—you’re looking for a certain audience. To help the right viewers find you, you need a title that is specific in scope and identifies the audience you are trying to reach, so they will know your content is meant for them. For example, the following titles make both the topic and the intended audience clear: 

  • Biology meets programming: Bioinformatics 101 for NGS researchers
  • Fiscal fitness for young scientists: The price you pay for ignorance”

If the subject matter requires participants to have prior scientific or industry-specific knowledge, advertise that. A smaller but more relevant audience will be more beneficial than a larger but more generic one.

#2 You Have an Expert, But Not a Public Speaker

Just because someone is an expert in their field with decades of experience doesn’t mean they will be captivating to a digital audience. Hosting a webinar takes more than just being knowledgeable on a topic. Speakers have to engage the participants, keep track of time, prepare slides, and be able to take questions, all while being affable and professional. That can be a lot of skills to find in one person. An excellent way to help your experts shine is to use an experienced moderator to ask questions and keep the presentation moving. This person can turn a monologue into a conversation, allowing your expert to focus on sharing their knowledge while someone else manages the logistics.

Bonus tip: Leveraging multiple experts can help you pull in a wider audience. Your event moderator may also be an expert who shares insights, or you can have a question-focused moderator who facilitates a panel discussion. By bringing together more than one leader in a field and advertising them well, you can pull in audience members who follow them, hopefully picking up some new participants along the way.

#3 Attendance is Lacking

Even the most renowned speakers with the sharpest content will go unheard if you don’t promote your science webinar frequently on various channels to gather attendees. Most people need to see a message several times before they engage. You should be tweeting about your upcoming webinar, writing blog posts promoting the topic and speakers, advertising it on LinkedIn, and asking participants to submit questions in advance. You might consider offering incentives to anyone who tweets about your science webinar beforehand, such as free products, conference tickets, or other perks. Consider using a specific hashtag for your webinar presentation. It will help you track and follow up on any technical questions participants may have after the webinar.

Once potential participants have registered, follow up with a good cadence of email communication. Send the first invitation two weeks before the webinar, then send two more reminders in the run-up. The last reminder should arrive on the day before or the day of the webinar to ensure the event makes it onto people’s calendars. 

#4 Your Slide Deck Looks More Like a Manuscript

Any visual aid should be just that: visual. Slide decks should be image-heavy and incorporate mixed media whenever possible. Short videos, audio clips, graphs, and diagrams can maintain interest and give your participants something to respond to and engage with.

Bonus tip: Keeping an audience engaged often means finding ways to connect with them. Don’t be afraid to highlight a personal connection with the material, share a personal anecdote, or make a joke. It can go a long way towards pulling your audience in and adding a human element.

#5 It’s a One-Way Conversation

No one likes to feel like someone is “talking at them.” We all remember a teacher who could put an entire classroom to sleep with their never-ending monologue. Engagement is the antidote! Use polls, breakout sessions, or a live chat function to keep participants engaged and break up the presentation.

It can also be helpful to have FAQs prepared ahead of time so you aren’t left hanging if no one in the audience has one to ask or to get the ball rolling while waiting for participant questions. You can also solicit questions on social media ahead of time—however, if you choose to do this, make sure to indicate when you’ll be taking additional questions and if answers will come during or after the presentation. You should tag your speakers in any promotions and do follow-up posts to answer additional questions from participants. Not only does this help you to maintain engagement, but it demonstrates a commitment to your audience, solidifying a positive relationship. 

A good rule of thumb: aim to focus 25 percent of your time on interactive activities. For a one-hour science webinar, 45 minutes should be content, and 15 minutes should be webinar engagement strategies—preferably scattered throughout the hour rather than in a single block. 

#6 Participants Aren’t Staying for the Entire Presentation

People leave science webinars early for various reasons, but it’s never an ideal outcome. Common contributing factors include going past the stated end time or laying on the sales pitch too thick. Always adhere closely to the advertised time frame; otherwise, people might start to drop off and miss the call to action at the end. You should also be careful not to bombard your audience with aggressive sales pitches. They came to the webinar for information, and they wouldn’t be engaging with your content if they didn’t already have some positive feelings toward your brand. You’ve already got them on the hook, and this is a moment to demonstrate your value, provide actionable insights, and position yourself as a thought leader. Maintaining a sympathetic tone can help. Ask questions like, “Is this valuable to you?” or “Would you like to know more?”

Bonus tip: Don’t miss an opportunity to collect data

Your opportunities for data collection are numerous—they start with registration, but could also include poll questions, a call-to-action prompt, or a post-webinar survey. You can ask what roles attendees work in, what geographic areas they live in, or their seniority level. By gathering data in this way, you can sketch a profile of your most engaged customers that will help to inform future marketing efforts.

Host Your Next Webinar with C&EN

Eliminate the guess work and host your next webinar with C&EN. Our team will guide you through the process to host an interactive session that gets results. To get started, download our Lead Generation Playbook, which provides full details on our webinars as well as additional lead generation products, solutions, case studies, pricing and package components.

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