What’s a webinar worth? (Part one of two)

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How much can I charge for a webinar?”  Usually the question is asked by trainers or speakers, but I also frequently speak to purchasers of their services struggling with the same thing.  The result:  one big mess.

Pricing, by definition, is a “what the market will bear” proposition.  Speakers, like writers, are a dime a dozen.  There are more who want to make it than have made it.  Supply is often greater than demand.

That said, here in part one are five of ten questions that sellers of their speaking/training services should consider to optimize their revenue.  And buyers of those services can use to better evaluate (if not negotiate) those deals when hiring a speaker for a webinar, webcast, or virtual classroom session.

What’s your/their business model?
The classic speaking business model has three parts:  speaking fees, products (perhaps for back of room sales), and follow-up consulting/training.  Some speakers speak for free to get leads because they want to sell you their services.  Some charge for speaking because it’s an irreplaceable experience.

Lessons learned
As an old timer in the web conferencing industry, I spent years selling/marketing professional services from startup to Microsoft to startup (that we sold to Intercall).  The goal of someone selling services is to tell you why you want to continue to use their services…it’s how they grow their business.  Now, however, 1080 Group is purely education, and it changes the dynamic of what you’re motivated to do.

Question to explore
Speakers:  What’s your business model?  Is it speaking for exposure?  To sell books?  To get other gigs?  If you don’t know your mix, you’re going to struggle with moving it online.  It’s not wrong to mix them, but it does change your motivation in terms of where you place emphasis.

Buyers:  Regardless of their content, does their business model align with how you want/need to serve your constituents?  Are they willing to change?  Would you want them to?  Is what they offer a one-trick pony, or can it be tailored to what you need?

What’s your/their delivered experience?
Our brains are both cognitive and affective…knowledge/fact oriented and emotional/experiential.  Some things you get in a book, and some things you can’t learn that way (or learn much better some other way).

Lessons learned
Now I’m purely in the experiential education business.  I teach people how to do it themselves, not why they want to hire me to do it for them.  You can get a piece of my brain and the 700+ virtual presentations I’ve made for $20 on amazon.com, but I know what I deliver.  It’s not just about content, it’s about experience.  By analogy, the last time I dropped $18 on a CD, I also spent $120 to go to the concert.

Here’s how I know what I do is highly experiential…because nobody who contacts 1080 Group is “just starting” webinars and trying to figure out where to start.  They start by getting a piece of software and they don’t even know the right questions to ask.  Those who call are like the government agency in the UK I talked to yesterday who said, “We’ve tried it, but now we’ve figured out it’s just not the same as training face-to-face and we need some help.”  As we’ve learned to quip, “Microsoft will teach you how to use Word, but they don’t teach you to be a writer.”

Question to explore
Speakers:  If you want to deliver an experience, have you adapted to a new medium?  So that it enables instead of inhibits great connections?

Buyers:  Is it JUST about content?  If so (to play devil’s advocate), why are you even doing a live gig?  Couldn’t a DVD or ebook serve that purpose? Make your speakers send you a recording (or at least convincingly articulate how they’re going to deliver the goods).

Is your/their material made-for-webinar/webcast or the same stuff in a new medium?
Transmission or medium theory of communications suggests that the medium affects how messages are delivered and understood.  It’s obvious if we say, “You can tell a story in a book or in a movie,” but it’s less obvious when we move our voices and PowerPoint from face-to-face to online.

The sad truth is that many (if not most) webinars are delivering broadcasts that are way worse experiences than what we’ve grown accustomed to culturally (e.g., television, movies).  They’re neither visually engaging, nor do they take advantage of the fact that they’re live (When you go to an in-person “seminar,” do you expect a non-interactive lecture?  Not usually).

Lessons learned
I got an email recently from an instructional designer at a university in Iowa saying, “I missed your live webinar, and wow!, I was actually engaged during the recording…and that’s hard to do!”  We’re all visual creatures, and we’re used to talking to people, but we don’t do it.  It doesn’t have to be that way, we just need some new skills (which, by the way, aren’t “software skills”).

Questions to explore
Speakers:   If you’re going to talk at people and 45 minutes later ask, “Questions?”, your webinars will fail to inspire.  What’s it going to take to adapt to a new medium and deliver with the same power and grace you’re used to delivering?

Buyers:    People multitask more in front of a screen.  It’s how we’re cultured.  Even if it’s a knowledge-rich event, will the speaker keep people engaged so that audience cognition and retention are optimized?

Is your/their presentation cookie-cutter or customized?
Ask any professional speaker their secrets of success, and one of the things they’ll say is that they study their audience, their idioms, politics, and business.  And then they tailor their presentation.  As a full and active member of National Speakers Association, I can assure you it’s what they’re teaching.  The challenge, if you want to be a pro, is that customization you provide takes time…a lot.  If you’re a buyer, you’ve got the same challenge.

Lessons learned
Often I’ll get a call from someone who says, “I just saw you do X, how much to do that very same thing for my organization?”  And then I take out my “some will some won’t” piece of paper that has a line drawn down the middle of it.  Some people will get it that it takes a lot of freaking time to really dial in a presentation.  By analogy, a house looks like a house when the frame goes up and the drywall goes on, but it’s the finish work that takes time and expense.  On the other side of paper is the “some won’t,” in which case I don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince them.

Questions to explore
Speakers:  if “same” is okay, it’s not wrong.  Just know where you fit relative to your competition and value delivered.  But you better get clear, because your business model demands it.

Buyers:  if “same” is okay, it’s not wrong.  Does the speaker offer to get to know your audience and organization?  Can they offer practical ways they’re going to tailor their presentation and experience for your audience?  Just know what you’re getting.  There’s a reason superstars are superstars, and it’s not because they’re cookie-cutter.

Is your/their pricing based on price or value?
All buyers make decisions on price until they see the value.  The challenge for speakers and buyers alike is that it’s hard to quantify value and experience times two.  One version of experience is that which is delivered.  One is the depth of knowledge and experience the speaker brings to the table which, assuming there’s a dialogue instead of a broadcast, adds a richness to the experience that is hard to duplicate.

Lessons learned
I had a client tell me recently they sat through a product training class from one of the biggie web conferencing providers where the trainer wouldn’t answer her question.  I asked her, “Do you think they were being rude or just didn’t know the answer?”, watching the lightbulb go on in her virtual head.  The reality for all of us that it’s not just what the instructor knows when we sit in a class, it’s sometimes the ability for us to ask a question for clarification, context, or personal application.  For some of us, that answer is as important as much of the rest of the content delivered.  Worth noting, just because someone calls themselves a guru doesn’t mean they are (swing a deceased feline around Twitter for 20 seconds and you’ll smack a pile of them).

Questions to explore
Speakers:  Can you articulate how your experience will benefit the organization in question?  Have some examples ready about how, during or after a presentation, you delivered value.

Buyers:  How are you valuing the “beyond the objectives” depth that the speaker brings to table?  It’s hard to put a number on it, but real experience has those on-the-fly anecdotes and how-to comments that add a dimension you may otherwise be missing.

Questions about what to do about recordings, mixed/hybrid events, and more?  Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “What’s a webinar worth? (Part one of two)

  1. What’s a webinar worth? (Part two of two) — The Virtual Presenter

    […] yesterday’s post we explored the first five of ten questions.  See that post for the brief into to why, otherwise read […]

  2. 7 reasons why webinars won’t make you rich (and how to avoid my mistakes) — The Virtual Presenter

    […] P.S. Are you speaker who wants to dive into it for real? Read this […]

  3. Julie

    It’s so true that people multitask in front of a screen, even if they are watching a webinar they paid good money for, as opposed to watching one live. But even then, people will let their minds wander if they aren’t constantly being mentally stimulated. But it’s easier to keep them focused when it’s live.

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