The Future Looks Bright

In our sixth episode of The Webinar: Lessons From the Frontline, we talk about the rapid growth of webinars and their place in the marketing industry. Virtual events and real-time interaction have become the gold standard. Successful brands will leverage these tools to reach their customers around the clock, creating an ideal opportunity to use webinars.

In Our Sixth Episode We Discuss

  1. Artifical Intelligence: There are two sides to a webinar or a virtual event. The human and technological elements of webinars need to work side by side.
  2. Longevity: From a technological standpoint, webinars are going to have a place in your marketing stack for a very long time.
  3. Omnichannel Approach: Webinars will be delivered through multiple mainstream channels because it will become snackable and on-demand content.
  4. Globalization: Webinars have given startups the ability to reach and sell to people all over the world.

The Complete Video Transcript

Mr. Peter: Matt Ley.

Mr. Matt Ley: Peter.

Mr. Peter: Welcome back to webinar Lessons From the Front Line. Love the sunglasses.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yes, well, this is the final episode.

Mr. Peter: Final episode and it happens to be about?

Mr. Matt Ley: The future.

Mr. Peter: The future. So, you’re wearing sunglasses because the future I imagine you are implying?

Mr. Matt Ley: That it’s bright for webinars.

Mr. Peter: Bright for webinars. So, on that subject let us go right in. We’re doing this series because webinars are experiencing such rapid growth. Do you expect that trend to continue?

Mr. Matt Ley: I do. I think that you go through a phase of I mean, they’ve been around for a long time right, and as I mentioned before it’s only now that they’re getting cool and we are being invited to conferences do talk about it and part of that is because adoption has led to, there is an embedded nature of webinars within marketing anyways. And as the marketer continues to grow in importance in an organization, the webinar being this intrinsic tool that helps them accomplish all of their outcomes I think we’re just going to see more of it being used.

The other side of the webinar and we talked a lot about webinars specifically but virtual events in general, and the ability to have a real-time communications, real-time interactions and real-time experiences with customers, which webinars are part of and, overall virtual events are part of, that’s growing a lot in what I keep referring to as the real world or normalized, Facebook live, YouTube Live, Twitch.

All of these real-time experiences that are becoming these real-time events that we participate in. They’re just growing and so brands I think are continuing to leverage this in many different ways, and so I think it’s a good time to be in webinars in general.


Mr. Peter: Your timing is excellent.

Mr. Matt Ley: My timing is – I waited though. I mean –.

Mr. Peter: You waited 10 years. You’re an overnight success.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah, exactly.

Mr. Peter: It only took you 10 years to get here. So long-term though or not even long-term, short-term where is the webinar heading in terms of business tool? How is this thing going to evolve?

Mr. Matt Ley: I think that what you’re going to see and it’s already happening within a certain top percentile of the businesses is the first was the realization of how powerful it can be to move people through the funnel or to engage with customers, prospects and otherwise.

Then what we started to see is this idea that the webinar was a content asset and it’s not a moment in time. It doesn’t happen Tuesday at 2 and then it’s over. It’s a resource that we invest in, both our time, our planning, all of the research you did to get to this point, that we can continue to use and use.

So, where it used to be our top 9% we justified them been calling them top 9% because they had over 1000 live viewers live and 1000 live viewers on demand, is a lot of those customers are moving away from having those large audiences. And instead they are running webinars, hundreds of them, ballooning to like Microsoft stats where they went from I don’t remember where they start but they were at 130 a month last year and now we’re hearing they are over 200 a month in a department of four or five that run these webinars.

And it’s, they’re leveraging the technology in really interesting ways, utilizing all of the new technology that goes along with integration and simulated live, so that they can ensure that people get the right message at the right time to help them make buying decisions. And that’s a part of webinars I think is going to change, is going to change the most and people are going to start to see that. With programmatic marketing, they’re going to be able to reach a different type of audience with the right message more often. And a lot of people who I talk to about this and I talk about I say oh, simulate a live feature can be a game changer for you because that webinar that worked really well in January it should be run in February and March and April or whatever it might be.

They find this idea of simulated live as disingenuous as on-demand, it’s not quite as valuable but all they’re doing is going against the trend of what their audience wants and their audience who’s self-educating to a point of not wanting to deal with humans anymore until the end.

That audience wants the option to opt-in for these things, to these webinars and to these content assets and so I think what we’re going to see is just the sheer volume is going to explode. I have some data to support that.

Mr. Peter: Surprising.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah. Last year one of the stats on our website is 4600 webinars delivered last year or web events delivered on a platform but at August we did a midyear regroup with the company and we were already at seven. Our business has not grown that much, in that percentile from a new customer account acquisition. It’s that our customers are doing that much more.

Mr. Peter: Right. They recognize the strength of the webinar and do where they did one, now they do two or three or whatever.

Mr. Matt Ley: Or 10 in some cases, yeah.

Mr. Peter: In some cases. So, let’s talk about serious future now. There’s things out there already, technologies out there that are transforming all kinds of businesses, all kinds of evolving technologies, machine learning, artificial intelligence. Like, where does that fit into the equation? What is that going to do to webinar platforms?

Mr. Matt Ley: Well, I know I heard the CTO of speak in March and he talked a little bit about this and we were a little bit like I think Facebook was or Google was when they first started tracking everything we did and weren’t really sure what they were going to do with it. I think they very quickly figured out a monetization model that they were going to start serving us ads and all of that, but I think initially it was just track it all, keep it all and kind of figure it out.

So, the first thing that we started to do was collect all of this data on viewers, that was the first step. Then we started aggregating that data across different webinars. Then we started seeing what trends can we find within the intelligence source or within the activities that they are taking so that we can better inform other smarter technologies, which are marketing automation tools and CRMs and the like that generally are measuring sales readiness.

And so that’s where we kind of are today but now that we are connected to the marketing automation tools and CRMs and we are collecting all of this data, the intelligence where I think the machine learning, or the artificial intelligence is going to start to come in is the ability to provide a customized experience to every single viewer through that intelligence.

So, let’s look at a couple of podcasts ago I talked about how as marketers you need to ask for the business. So, if you want somebody to take action and book a meeting with sales next you need to ask them that at the end of your webinar, don’t wait to follow up. But imagining your future where we know that of the two of us who attended a webinar, you are at this webinar, but you are engaged with sales and you’re midway through funnel and we’re trying to get you across. Or they know that I am a churned account that used to be here before.

We could even knowing both of those things through the intelligence, offer special deals to each other where you could get a different deal than me. We don’t want to screw up the deal we have got working with you but with me maybe I need a 50% discount to come back. Maybe I need whatever. We could offer that but through the console based on all of this intelligence that we have on a person, the fact that we are tied into these other systems.

So, what we’re moving towards and I think all marketing technology is, is this idea of personalization, almost ridiculous personalization. I was on, I got sent an email the other day which was the start of this and it was a very simple thing. It was from a great Canadian tech start-up called Vidyard and they said you know, enter your name to get your personal video in your email.

I was like okay, what does that mean, and I did it, I entered my name and my email and the next thing you know comes back a video talking to me about the power of Internet video, but my name was embedded all in it. There was a cake with my name on it, the person said my name. It was a pretty simple use of it, but it happened within like a second of me sending it out. There wasn’t a big turn in it, but it did, it put a smile on my face and I can only imagine if they knew more about me my position, my title, my role, where I am in the pipeline, what I’ve done that they could start feeding me stuff that was more pertinent to me in that very personalized video.

And that’s where I know that we’re talking about going with webinars and it’s all about just getting a higher level of conversion. Then when we’re in there we barely talked about some of the other use cases for webinars in learning and companywide and employee communications, but it starts with marketing and kind of goes out into all of these other places where I think that personalization is going to be a big thing.


Mr. Peter: It is interesting because you think about even where people are looking on a page because right now all you know is if somebody is asked the question.

Mr. Matt Ley: That’s right.

Mr. Peter: But if you have some sense of how they are even interacting beyond that thing and you’ve got a platform that actually can come back to you and make recommendations and say 70% of your audience is trending toward this thing maybe you want to pivot here or whatever in terms of like as you are in real time delivering the content.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah, I’ve seen that, not from us but from others who are trying to understand the audience in real time, to adjust the presenters’ kind of content. I think in our world because we deal en masse so often rather than changing your message it’s going to be about changing the message that these different subsections of your audience get. If it was me and you or me and three people –.

Mr. Peter: That’s easy.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s easy but that’s one thing. Another thing that I think we are going to start to see in webinars is we’ve had already started seeing how the webinar is embedded within the marketing stack, but the webinar is an easy, real-time live communication mechanism.

Most of the webinar platforms out there that when we were talking about meeting tools versus webinar platforms, most of those webinar platforms utilize standards-based streaming technology. So, whether it’s on a camera or it’s just audio through voice it is all there. And so, one thing that I think we’re going to see sooner than later is more of an omnichannel approach to how you deliver your webinar.

So, if I’m doing this podcast when it goes out to my base or I put it into a webinar how it goes out, this is only going to go out to those people who I know. There is going to be an email that’s going to go out, I could potentially buy ads and people who don’t know me at all would make a decision to login and watch it.

But that’s a certain group of people who are somewhat known to me. There is all of these other channels that we have access to of people who are not known to us, social media is that big example and now that they are embracing live in such a big way would it hurt me in any way to offer this same content live through Twitter, through Facebook, with no gate? Because all I am going to do is reach people who I would never have reached through my conventional way anyways.

Mr. Peter: So you’ve got the platform, you are doing the webinar but it’s also converting –.

Mr. Matt Ley: And plugging into other places.

Mr. Peter: In real-time, I assume.

Mr. Matt Ley: In real-time, yeah. I mean even you and me, right, we sat around when I met you the first time and you were like you come from podcasting, I’m in webinars. We came to this conclusion that what is a good webinar if not a good sort of interview style podcast? Let’s come up with this idea that we can do this one day, spoiler alert, this was all shot in one day.

Mr. Peter: No, it was in weeks.

Mr. Matt Ley: You did a lot of work leading up to it, but you know, one day a couple of different shirts. We set down and we recorded these, right. Well, we can deliver it as a podcast so that’s going to reach a young demographic, people we don’t know, who don’t have to give us their name or email and worry that we’re going to hit them up. It can go out to our known prospect base and our 20,000-person database of marketers that we have in CRM.

It can go on social media and that idea as we move away from gate everything as a marketer, this idea that the same content can be used, the very same, good content can be used omnichannel this way I think is something that we are going to see more and more and more. And hopefully I know that we’re talking in our roadmap of doing it, hopefully the platforms will advance with this and not be afraid of free or not be afraid of those but rather work really hard to integrate into them.


Mr. Peter: Right. There could be a time too, in the future where Facebook has its own platform, webinar platform, maybe Google does, whatever. They’ve got hangouts but it’s a little bit different. So, let’s go way out there, way out there.

When you’re lying in bed thinking about the world as we all do, what kind of technology has not yet been invented that will change the way webinar practitioners do their jobs?

Mr. Matt Ley: I think that — I mean that’s a good question. One of the things that we’ve, that webinars or broadcast events have always been is sort of a one-way, it’s been a one-way communication, but it’s been connecting people into it in a high-quality way from different places in the world can be hard.

So, when we were talking about virtual event fails, a lot of that came and we were trying to bring in speakers from abroad or different locations and so right now there’s a lot of work being done to be able to have presenters come in from any device at any time. A guy walking down the street doing it on FaceTime, can be talking to me in the studio with all of these broadcast cameras, can be talking to somebody on a phone.

I think that is important to format that the technology become really easy for people to connect to that way. I think what we haven’t gotten to yet is the weird thing is that all of the meeting tools that I have bashed this whole week, it’s real easy to pull in a participant and let them participate in the dialogue and in the conversation.

It’s not in these broadcast mediums. Part of that, you’ve got 200 or 300 people watching. There’s just certain inherent delays and certain technologies like on radio or TV where you have to mute lines. It comes a little messy bringing the participant in, but I think that we probably all want more UGC or more audience participation who want to participate in the webinar. And I have got to think that everyone’s trying to figure out right now how do we do that and how do we bring that in.

Mr. Peter: And that’s some sort of converter, some sort of switch where all signals come in, it converts into some –.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah, some easy way for me to grab you and pull you in as a presenter while not disrupting your experience as a, I have seen some stuff. It is hard to do on a mass night and I fully understand that, but I mean Hangouts has a capacity to do that even though Hangouts broadcast is out there, so I think the technology is there.

I think for corporate, for B2B, it just needs to be bulletproof. Even if there is something out there that does it that’s not going to work for your CEO’s town hall or your marketing webinar that’s reaching hundreds or thousands of prospects. It just has to work, right.

Mr. Pete: Because as we’ve said you get one shot.

Mr. Matt Ley: That’s right.

Mr. Peter: All right, this is great. So, this is our final challenge, sixth challenge. Everything dies. I know you may be shocked to know, one day like the Roman empire webinars too will be relegated to history. What will you usurp with the webinar?

Mr. Matt Ley: Well, it’s interesting. I had a great conversation recently with a guy that was in, I think before I got in. His name is Ben Choder, he’s out of New York and he had his own company that he sold and he’s still in the game. He talked about when he sold his company some four, five years ago he thought that this might be over and now he’s back in it because he knows it’s not.

There’s money to be made and he loves it like a lot of us who do this, we do it because we love it. It’s a passion, it’s like people who stay in a broadcast. As you know, you might have friends in television. They don’t make the most money, they work long hours, but they love what they do. A lot of us are the same way.

So, I don’t know what’s going to usurp the technology that has changed and expanded so much as it has and is continuing to do so. I don’t think there’s a clear future where that’s going to happen unless there are some huge changes in the way business operates.

I guess what I mean by that is if artificial intelligence and machine learning can allow for bots to handle all communications then why would I ever deliver a presentation to the masses? Why would I not have it being done completely personalized for every data point about you so that the presentation is perfect, and you don’t need a human to be involved in it?

But I think as much as there are our fears of robots taking over or bots taking over or AI, we’re long ways away from that. The fact is that whether the company like you say you talk about the streaming network and why I’m excited and comfortable and don’t think this is going anywhere anytime soon is there are two sides to a webinar or a virtual event. There’s the human element and then there’s the technology side.

On the human element we still have a significant portion of our business that asks us to help them handle events whether it’s because it’s a huge event and it needs to be flawless or they don’t have the capacity internally. On that note, the fundamental things that went into producing a successful virtual event 10 years ago when I started, probably 15 years ago before I got into it, are the same things that will work 20 years from now if it’s all hologram technology and has nothing else going on.

It won’t matter, everything we talked about today if we were talking about a holographic, hollow net or whatever comes from Star Wars all of this would make sense even then to engage people and get them involved.

Mr. Peter: You still want to engage them, you still want to somehow get a sales pipeline going, sell them something.

Mr. Matt Ley: Exactly. So, a lot of what we talked about today is still going to be relevant and will continue to be relevant. My data, this podcast but wearing last year’s Hillary shirt, but four, five years from now a lot of this is going to be relevant.

Then from a technology standpoint is I think it’s going to have a place for a very long time because don’t think — I think we’re just now recognizing its true power. It was something that people did out of necessity because couldn’t get people in the room first. Then we did it because everyone else was doing it. Then we had this anecdotal information that seems like people who watch webinars end up buying from us, so we should do more webinars.

Now we know exactly who is becoming the buyers, why they are becoming buyers, the value of the webinar throughout the entirety of the sales funnel. And as we continue to have this globalization of an economy and have small little startups in places like KW reaching out and selling to the entire world, this tool is only going to continue to grow.

I don’t know what it’s going to look like in a couple of years, maybe you will invite me back and we can have another conversation, but I got a feeling I will be retired and hopefully my ten-year-old will be in the business before it’s gone.

Mr. Peter: There you go. Good. That’s a wrap. Thank you very much. That has been our podcast series and best of luck.

Mr. Matt Ley: Thanks, Pete. You know what? I just want to say I really enjoyed the experience on this and I do hope that I get a chance to come back.

Mr. Peter: I’ll have you back then.

Mr. Matt Ley: Thanks.




Matthew Ley

Matthew Ley

Matt Ley is the current President and co-founder of The Streaming Network. Starting his career in virtual events in 2007, Matt is an industry veteran that is passionate about helping customers stand out in their industry with compelling virtual events that people want to attend. The driving ambition for Matt is that virtual events are not a utility for information distribution but an opportunity for firms to create a competitive advantage. Matt is an accomplished speaker, moderator and a sought-after thought leader.

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