Webinars on mobile devices

Webinars on Mobile Devices: Should You?

Mobile webinars are mostly a bad idea. But "mostly" doesn't mean always.


“Optimize for mobile” is the biggest can’t-miss memo in digital marketing. If it doesn’t work on a phone, it doesn’t work (look no further than Google’s “mobile first” indexing).

But should you expect registrants to attend your webinars on mobile? Is there any advantage to your hosting  a webinar on mobile? 

The answer to both is no, mostly. But a little bit yes.

Attending Webinars on Mobile

On the attendee end, there’s a solid argument to be made for mobile optimization. 

That argument boils down mostly to a “customer is always right” attitude: if people are going to watch your webinar on their phone, you’d better make sure they’re able to, and that it’s a smooth experience for them.

In that sense, I’d argue that any decent webinar platform should make it possible to attend on mobile devices, as ours does. Like any content, the more accessible it is, the more likely it is to be consumed. So if people in your crowd want to see your spiel while they’re riding the subway, more power to ‘em. 

But depending on the content, it’s not necessarily something you want to encourage.

Most of our users utilize webinars as a teaching platform (bearing in mind that ideally you’re “teaching” even when you’re marketing or selling). In order for attendees to get the most out of a lesson, it’s usually best that they’re stationary, undistracted, and able to see a desk-or-laptop screen’s worth of whatever they’re looking at. 

That’s not happening on mobile.  

If your webinar is a software walkthrough or tutorial, for example, your audience will have to do  a lot of squinting to get any value from it on an iPhone. For that kind of reason, we encourage users to “prep” registrants, using the automated email sequences that webinar registration triggers. 

Before the webinar, instruct your registrants what they’ll need to bring, or be ready to do (take notes, ask questions, complete a poll, etc). This sets the stage for an interactive presentation and creates an atmosphere conducive to engagement.

Mobile, by contrast, is a much more passive window into a webinar, on which people are more likely to watch, listen, and not much else. Which is fine, if that’s all you want them to do. 

But is that all you want them to do? 

For marketing and sales purposes, the answer to that is usually no. Most of the time, you want more than passive spectators; you want focused participants. Encouraging registrants to watch from their computer helps create that.

Know Your Audience..and Maybe Just Automate

That’s not to say there’s no appropriate way to let folks enjoy your webinar on mobile. 

My best advice is to think about your audience; tailor each webinar’s content to the way you expect them to consume it. If research and experience with your particular audience tells you they’d benefit more from the accessibility of a webinar they can enjoy on mobile, make your presentation more host-centric and less dependent on back-and-forth. 

Better yet, make it an automated webinar

If your content and/or audience for a given webinar won’t suffer much from a super-simple format and a lack of live interaction, go pre-recorded. Automation is all about maximizing reach by making the webinar easier to attend. This comes at a cost to your conversion rates, but that’s why automated webinars are “top of the funnel” stuff.

A solid 30-45 minute automated presentation, available “on demand,” is a fantastic awareness-builder and lead generator. It’s far more targeted and effective than, say, a YouTube tutorial – and it’ll work perfectly on mobile if the content isn’t too complex.

Hosting Webinars on Mobile

As for hosting a webinar on a phone or tablet, my first reaction is usually “don’t do that.” Usually.

When you’re hosting a webinar, you’re doing a lot more than just talking. You’re managing the chat, taking questions, releasing and responding to polls, triggering sales offers, screen-sharing, playing videos, the list goes on. 

That’s what makes a webinar more powerful than a video or a podcast – and makes it godawful to run from something handheld.

Hosting a webinar on a mobile device is going to be an extreme PITA, most of the time. Without a proper monitor’s worth of real estate, and a mouse to navigate it with, handling the interactivity features of a good live webinar will be inconvenient or impossible. 

A mobile screen is just too small to display any decent kind of dashboard for chat, Q&A, offers, polls, etc – at least in any way that’s remotely ergonomic.

A webinar host needs to be loose, and anyone who’s tried to navigate a web page or app designed for desktop on a smartphone knows how un-loose that can get you.

Why Host on Mobile? (Seriously. Why?)

Again, it’s not that you can’t run a webinar on a phone. But you shouldn’t, unless you’re in certain unique circumstances. 

Say you dropped your laptop off a 5th-floor balcony 20 minutes before your webinar starts, or you’re teaching from the backseat of a car being pursued by federal agents. I would watch at least one of those, no matter the topic. Aside from that, there aren’t many good reasons to host on mobile devices.

That includes budget.

As a self-financed company founded by a couple out of our spare room, we totally get the impulse not to overspend. We always preach the doctrine of operating at a profit, however small the margins.

But if you’re considering running webinars on your phone because you don’t have a good laptop, it’s time to seriously consider making a modest investment in yourself. 

The good news? Computers are getting much cheaper, particularly laptops.

Less and less hardware is necessary when company servers are out there doing the heavy lifting, memory-wise. So take advantage of that, and get yourself a basic rig to start until you’ve seen enough revenue to upgrade. Webinar platforms like ours are cloud-based; with no software to download, you don’t need as much computer. 

But every business owner needs a reliable machine for…everything, really. Check out this episode of our podcast for a guide to buying a good laptop for your budget.

On the Other Hand...Exceptions That Prove the Rule

I can think of a few valid reasons to host a webinar from a mobile device.

But just a few.

Interactivity and engagement are a webinar’s greatest strengths. That said, a simple “talking head” webinar can be appropriate for certain limited uses, especially if it’s on the shorter side. Again, automation may be your best for a no-frills kind of lesson; since you’re not doing much interacting anyway, you don’t need to be “there” in real time.

As for live webinars, there is one kind of host who can comfortably do their thing on mobile without detracting from the quality of the presentation: a co-host.

If you’re joining someone else’s webinar as a co-host, in some kind of “special guest” or interviewee capacity, your face and voice are all that’s required. We always recommend bringing in co-hosts to boost the profile of your webinar and bring in more registrants, even if one host’s role is much more passive.

Any appearance by an expert or trusted figure can greatly enhance the value of a webinar. The more simplified “live via mobile” co-host role may even help you to convince a potential high-value co-host to get on board, with the understanding that you’ll do the heavy lifting of actually running the webinar while they simply show up and talk. Win-win!

So, can you run and attend webinars via mobile devices?

“Never” is never an answer in business (except, y’know, just then). But only do so when the circumstances are right, and remember that the power of webinars as a conversion tool is in their dynamism – and yours.

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