Live Vs. Pre-Recorded Webinars: Pros, Cons, and Case Studies (Updated for 2020)

Right now, we’re all adjusting to having more remote meetings, watching broadcasts instead of attending live events, and spending a little more time on camera than normal.

Now, many entrepreneurs are thinking, “Hey, this video thing isn’t as bad as I thought… maybe I can do this more for my business?”

We’ve talked about webinars here on the Kajabi blog before, but we know that many of you are interested in diving deeper (especially now). If your goal is to connect with your fans, get more leads, and grow your business, webinars can help.

Webinars — whether live or pre-recorded — can help you achieve those goals.

And thanks to recent updates in our Email and Pages tools, it’s easier than ever to create and share an event (complete with countdown timer).

But maybe you’re not sure about live webinars. They can seem intimidating at first. And what’s the difference between a live webinar and a pre-recorded webinar?

Let’s dive in together.

What is a Webinar? 

Like a live in-person seminar held at a local conference space, a webinar gives a subject matter expert (in this case, you) the opportunity to share in-depth information in an engaging, fun way. Usually, there’s some sort of pitch or offer made after the audience is warmed up and knows the speaker has something valuable to offer.

If you’ve seen any of our Fireside Chats or Let’s Talk broadcasts, you get the idea. But most often, webinars are simply someone broadcasting from their laptop at home.

(You know, like you’ve been doing a lot lately?)

This means audiences can tune in from virtually any internet-connected device, such as a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

Why Webinars Matter So Much Right Now (April 2020)

As of this update (April 2020), we’re all sharing a weird experience via social distancing.

On the one hand, customers are spending big online. Klaviyo reports ecommerce sales on April 16 were 123% higher than the average January day! That’s incredible. And if post-quarantine trends around the world follow trends in China, we can expect to see ecommerce sales continue to rise even as brick and mortar businesses re-open.

Kajabi users are also reporting webinar performance is increasing during social distancing. Kajabi Hero Tina Tower, who offers multiple courses, says, 

"Our webinar performance has gone way up on both webinars and on Facebook and Instagram lives too. Everyone at home and looking for entertainment and information. Get on it!"

But there’s a catch: while audiences are spending more online, they want to spend from brands they trust. Fortunately, the webinar format is the perfect way for you to immediately build trust and earn a sale.

Right now, it’s not possible to shake hands and build trust as we would in normal times. Yet thanks to the virtual face-to-face of webinars, and the way most people have gotten used to communicating through video chat, you can still establish a meaningful connection with your viewers.

Webinar Success Depends on Content

Most often, webinar topics relate to upcoming course or product launches. A common way to build email lists and pre-warm audiences for a launch is to run a series of webinars related to the course material.

Here’s how it works:

  • The audience sees a promotion for a free webinar
  • The webinar offers real value, educating the audience and establishing the webinar presenter as an authority
  • The presenter shares information about a new course, product, or other offer
  • Because the audience has already seen how they can benefit from what the presenter has to say, they’re much more likely to purchase the course

But for this to work, the webinar content needs to be relevant, timely, and tailored for the audience.

How do you decide on a topic?

Mine your best blog posts. Conduct keyword research, send a poll through your email newsletter, or visit Quora to figure out what questions your audience members are already asking.

Generally, a webinar contains between 45 minutes and 2 hours of rich content—no fluff. Choose a topic that you can cover in an hour or two, then start mapping out the content you’ll deliver. You’ll speak directly to your audience during the webinar, whether you host it live or pre-record it for future viewing.

Benefits of Hosting Webinars 

Like any video format, webinars might sound like a lot of work at first. But once you get the hang of them, they’re fairly easy to set up and run.

“Whether it’s a recording or live, once it’s set up, you can run it over and over and over,” said Irene Pavico-Tsukayama, Kajabi Live Video Production Lead (and fellow course creator). 

No matter which type of webinar you deliver, here are some of the benefits you can expect to see:

  • You can customize and improve your content every time you deliver a webinar. Because you’re able to adjust your content during your delivery, like a conversation, it’s a great format to customize for the specific people viewing it.
  • You get to create a human connection. Like using video in an online course, webinars let you show off your personality and unique presence. And if this resonates with your viewers, you’ll get more people signing up for your offers.
  • You can sell more, higher-priced offers. We’ve already covered how webinars build trust. But they also give you the opportunity to offer limited-time discounts, bonuses, and other benefits for audiences who enroll during the presentation. Urgency encourages sales, and webinars are the perfect time to deliver this.
  • You’ll build your authority. Since you’re presenting information in a unique format, and because you’re willing to get on camera and promote your brand, audiences view your business as more transparent and trustworthy.

Let’s dive into the differences between live and pre-recorded webinars.

Should You Choose Live Webinars?

Pros of Live Webinars 

  • Emotional connections with the audience. It’s the “live” part of the channel that drives emotions. Your audience will watch you in real time, connecting with your story and tactics you use to sell your online courses. Even your mistakes can help build this connection. If you're able to laugh off misspoken words and other goofs, you'll come across as authentic and human.
  • Live Q&A. The opportunity to answer questions lets you tailor your content on-the-spot to the exact needs of your audience. Naturally, this makes your presentation much more compelling.
  • Connecting with your top fans. You might discover that some people reliably attend your webinars again and again. They’re big fans of your brand and they don’t want to miss an opportunity to connect with you. Giving them a shout-out during live broadcasts lets you build a strong, long-lasting relationship with one of your true fans.
  • Faster to produce. "Imperfect but live" is better than "working forever towards perfection." Procrastinators tend to do well with live broadcasts. Sometimes the best move is to go live, spend an hour sharing your message, and call it good.

Cons of Live Webinars 

  • Unexpected visitors. If you’re working from your home office and have kids or pets, it’s likely you know the feeling of being interrupted during a video call. While we’ve all learned to be more understanding, that kind of disruption might throw you off your game.
  • Finding the right time. Your audience probably lives across multiple time zones. So what might be the perfect time of day for one person might be the wrong time for another. You can send a replay, but then you lose the potential engagement of a live broadcast.
  • Potential technical issues. Home internet tends to be more spotty than the connection at an office. Connection lags, software issues, and other unforeseen technical issues can send a presentation off the rails.

Live Webinar Case Study 

If you think you’re industry or niche isn’t exciting enough to make webinars work, think again. Our Kajabi Heroes have grown businesses with webinars on:

  • Knitting
  • Music production
  • Graphic design
  • Horses

...and many more.

What does this show? You don’t need a “hot” niche or topic to make webinars work for your business. 

If you need some more inspiration, you can look at one of the most “boring” sectors: 

We mentioned during our announcement of the new Events feature on Kajabi that live webinars and other events can work wonderfully with pipeline marketing. That’s exactly how Recall and The Arketi Group managed to generate nearly $300,000 from a single webinar.

According to The Arketi Group, Recall hosted a live webinar that was designed to educate its audience on the importance and best practices surrounding data and document control.

Not exactly an exciting topic. Yet the plan worked.

The webinar drew nearly 30 percent more attendees than predicted. How did they manage this?

They offered a special discount in a call to action for anyone who registered for the webinar. 

That’s excellent pre-webinar marketing. Then the followed it up with offering their webinar recordings to generate even more leads, repurposing their marketing assets (another smart strategy).

What’s the takeaway? Use live webinars to generate sales, then use recordings to generate warm leads and build relationships with potential customers.

Pre-Recorded Webinars 

If you’re not quite ready to go live to the world, you’ve still got options. Pre-recorded webinars let you present without the pressure of a live audience, but still share your content when you’re ready.

Pros of Pre-Recorded Webinars 

  • Edit out mistakes. If you record a webinar for future viewing, you can map out every second of content before you record. Plus, you can splice in photos, other videos, and special content to make the presentation more professional.
  • Re-recording sections that didn’t quite work. Not happy with how you delivered a section? You can re-record it to try again, or just swap out one segment for a new one.
  • Add effects, graphics, and more in post-production.  You can also edit the video content however you want. Maybe you want to add special filters, transitions, or other effects to the presentation. If you’re skilled at post-production (or if you hire a post-production team), pre-recorded webinars might seem more polished than a live version.
  • Feel less “stage fright”.  Some people experience more anxiety when they speak in front of a live audience than when they record for a camera. That makes pre-recorded webinars a good choice for them. (Just be watch out for perfectionism and getting caught in endless editing.)

Cons of Pre-Recorded Webinars

  • Lack of audience engagement. When you’re presenting live, you get real-time feedback from your viewers. This lets you adjust your direction based on what they want to learn. If you pre-record your webinar, you miss out on that opportunity.
  • Less emotional resonance.  Some viewers dislike pre-recorded webinars on principle. “I’ve heard of people getting upset because they thought a pre-recorded webinar was going to be live,” said Dave Hinchman, Kajabi Video Production Lead. “But if you’re clear up front about the recording and give audiences the good content they want, they’ll love it.”

Like live webinars, the response to a pre-recorded webinar comes down to your content. Are you adding unique, relevant value in an engaging, educational way?

One more quick warning about using pre-recorded webinars: internet users are savvy. If you’re presenting a recording as “live”, you’ll get found out, fast. Remember, trust matters more than ever right now.

Pre-Recorded Webinar Case Study 

Let’s take a look at a case study in which Jenna Soard, an entrepreneur who owns YouCanBrand.com, generated $17,000 from two webinars, the second of which inspired sales long after the webinar went live.

According to Femtrepreneur.com, Jenna generated $5,000 from her first webinar, which drew just 30 attendees. Most of those sales occurred during or right after the live webinar.

However, her second webinar didn’t generate nearly as much case during the live portion of the event. She found herself frustrated by the lack of interest in her product, but she didn’t know where she went wrong.

But she didn’t just give up and assume that those conversions were lost for good. Instead, she took a proactive approach and figured out how to generate conversions from her pre-recorded webinar.

Since she’d already done the work with the live webinar, she decided to use the recorded version to bring aboard more customers.

According to Femtrepreneur, 70 people showed up for her second webinar. That’s more than double the audience of her first webinar. Still, she generated no sales.

To rebound from what she considered a “failure,” Jenna sent out a series of post-webinar emails. From those emails, she earned $12,000 in just 24 hours.

As we’ll cover below, your post-webinar activities can make a huge difference in your overall profits. And pre-recorded emails can help you bring on more customers even after your live webinar has aired. Alternatively, you can skip the “live” portion of the process and simply post your pre-recorded webinar on a landing page.

It’s completely up to you.

How You Can Get the Best of Both Worlds 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose between a live and pre-recorded webinar. Why not combine them?

“I’ve seen a lot of businesses run pre-recorded webinars, but have a team member online to answer questions during replays,” said Irene. 

Consider holding a live webinar, then using the recording in one of the following ways:

  • As a lead magnet to build your email list
  • Edited down into social posts
  • As a blog post
  • In your paid ads as a reason to click-through
  • Repurposed on YouTube

Whether Live or Pre-recorded, Webinars Can Help Grow Relationships During Distancing

Live, recorded, at the end of the day, it’s the humans behind the screen that matter most. Here are some ways you can make any type of presentation successful:

  • Practice engagement techniques to keep your audience interested. This includes asking questions, responding to specific comments, and encouraging your viewers to take notes.
  • Run through your presentation live with a test audience (like your team). This lets you become familiar with the software you’ll use on the “real” broadcast before the pressure is on.
  • Ask follow-up questions if you’re responding to your audience. This lets you dig deeper and offer more valuable, actionable content.

Allie Fernando, Kajabi Director of Brand Experience, had planned a cross-country tour of meetups with local Kajabi Heroes.

But once the scope of social distancing was clear, plans had to change. Allie and her team pivoted to hosting virtual meetups with local groups. She followed a similar pattern many entrepreneurs, experts, and influencers follow when running webinars:

  • She had a pre-registration page. This helped Allie know exactly who to expect at the meetup and send reminders to attendees.
  • She prepared beforehand. While the purpose of the meetups was to highlight other local Kajabi users, Allie spent time making sure she could keep the conversation going.
  • She shared highlights afterwards. Just like how you might reuse a webinar recording, Allie had a video produced to share on social:

Many of us have had to recently pivot our businesses. But in some ways, these pivots let us connect with more people in new ways.

If you’ve been considering using webinars to grow your business, now’s a good time to try. We're all a little more forgiving of imperfect video presentations, taking the pressure off. You'll get practice delivering impactful presentations. And the potential for real-time feedback means you'll learn even more about how you can serve your audience.

Plus, with Kajabi Pipelines, you can set up a webinar campaign in just a few clicks:

Whether it's pre-recorded or live, what matters is taking action. From establishing yourself as an authority to earning more sales from your audience, webinars and pre-recorded videos are proven ways to grow your business online.

Not on an all-in-one platform with integrated events? Your free Kajabi trial awaits.