Considerations for pre-recording vs. recording live

A key question in creating webinars is whether to record live on the promoted date or to pre-record days or weeks ahead of time.

In our experience, there are elements and best practices to consider as you make your decision. Let’s break those down so that you can best determine when and how to record a webinar that fits with your short- and long-term goals:

Value of on-demand webinars

With the right strategic marketing approach, most webinars should provide long-term value. Promoting an on-demand webinar extends the lifecycle of your webinar – in fact, on-demand webinars often see higher engagement over time than on the original air date.

As you record your webinar, keep in mind that not all viewers will watch on the original promotion date. Many viewers engage with the webinar weeks, months or even years later – and having a polished, smooth, and professional webinar may be more likely to engage those future on-demand viewers. With a pre-recorded webinar, you gain higher levels of quality control and even the ability to edit your recording before it becomes publicly available – benefits that are not available to webinars recorded live.

As you plot out your webinar content, keep in mind the shelf-life and evergreen nature of your messaging. Some webinars are fixed to certain points in time, such as reacting to a real-time news event or previewing the top trends for the coming year. In these cases, you may anticipate that most viewer engagement will occur on or shortly after the webinar’s original promotion date – and therefore, recording live may make more sense in that scenario than pre-recording.

Alternatively, if you’re intending to maximize the impact of the time, money and effort spent developing webinar content (which can be resource-intensive), then it is important to consider replayability, audience applicability, promotional plans and the evergreen nature of any webinar you intend to create – as all can be adversely impacted if the content immediately dates itself. For example, asking a poll question about the viewers’ priorities in the new year will quickly be dated after a few months. Instead, ask about ‘upcoming priorities’ without tying the question to a specific date.

Audience questions

Recording your webinar live enables your speakers to have a higher level of interaction with attendees, such as responding to real-time questions in a Q&A format or conducting polls that solicit feedback from the audience, which you can comment on in your talk track to tailor the presentation to a live audience.

While a live webinar provides opportunity for spontaneity and real-time interaction, you can still utilize these features with pre-recorded webinars. Your speakers simply respond to ‘canned’ questions in the recording and then, shortly after the recording airs, your speakers or business development team respond directly to the attendee’s question(s) via email or call – potentially giving you additional opportunity to engage attendees and convert them into leads and pipeline opportunities.

Keep in mind that some live interactions with attendees may not be positive. A viewer could ask a question that challenges your speakers’ point of view or criticize your solution.

Speakers’ comfort level

Weigh the comfort level of your webinar speakers. Recording a webinar live can be intimidating for some speakers, especially those less comfortable with public speaking or less experienced with webinars. Even skilled presenters may prefer to pre-record certain segments and edit it later, which of course isn’t possible in a live webinar.

If your speaker(s) feels strongly that pre-recording the webinar will result in a stronger presentation, that may be the better path to follow.

Compliance and sensitive topics

Certain topics will bring additional oversight, such as when discussing sensitive content or a regulated industry. In those cases, your speakers, compliance teams and other stakeholders may want additional levels of control over the talking points in the webinar.

Pre-recording gives those additional stakeholders the opportunity to review the webinar and ensure that messaging meets their standards and doesn’t put your organization at risk.

Overall, the decision to pre-record or record live should be based on multiple factors – it can make sense to pre-record some webinars and record live for others. Weigh these factors as you’re determining what methodology is appropriate for your upcoming webinars.

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