There’s a lot of negative opinions about webinars. There are message boards full of people who harp on about them as if they’re the most evil thing ever, complete with plenty of eye-rolls about fluff and deceit.
I think we simply might be misunderstanding what webinars even are, and we need to reframe that. And I think this falls on the shoulders of both attendees and hosts. The hosts try to cover up what is actually going on, and the attendees show up with the wrong expectations. If we can reframe the experience, we can enjoy webinars again from either role.
First, what we need to come to grips with, is that a webinar comes under the umbrella of the sales genre. That’s why it feels different from another kind of class (and maybe a good reason we should stop calling webinars workshops and masterclasses. The only problem is that “webinar” in itself is not a great name for what it actually is, because webinar just means a seminar that is on the web. But for the purposes of this article, I’m talking about the webinar genre that many online educators use to sell their info products.). A webinar is like walking into a store. If you’re a webinar host, there’s no need to apologize any more than a store owner needs to apologize for foot traffic. Imagine you’re going to Restoration Hardware to decide which sectional would work best in your living room. You sit on different couches, feel the different fabrics. The sales person talks to you about where you’d like to put the couch. She shows you that yes, you really can wash grape juice out of white fabric. You say, “wow, really?” and all of the sudden the heavens open and you realize it’s possible to get the cream couch you never thought you’d be able to have because of your toddlers. You sit there for a moment in a sort of stupor as your mind realigns to what your future life looks like.
This is what a good sales conversation can do. And this is what a good webinar can do. As hosts, we need to make sure that attendees know that they are walking into a store, not being invited over for a hangout and a new-best-friend-with-the-hook-up situation.
I want you to pay attention to two kinds of pressures that you might feel in webinars:
In my webinars, I am only speaking to people who are already feeling internal pressure about something they are wanting to do, and they could use a frank, yet inspiring conversation to release them from the beliefs that are holding them back, get a birds-eye view of what’s possible, and get clarity on the actual decision facing them and whether The Aesthetic Way is the right choice for them. I spend time going over the product in my webinar not because I think that the longer I talk about it, I think you are more likely to buy. No, it’s because when you’re considering making a relatively big investment, you need to know as much as possible in order to make the right decision for you.
We’re just not used to this with education. When you go to college, you make a big fuss about where you’ll go to school, you pay tuition, and then you enroll in classes. You go to class, learn, do the assignments, and you pay your annoying tuition fee to the tuition office. Your professor doesn’t have to handle payment for their class. They just get to teach. Maybe they have to sell you staying in your class a little on the first day with the syllabus and the intro to the course if it’s not a required course, but they’re not having to also take on the load of what your fears are, what you don’t think is possible, and to support you through that decision process. A good sales person is thinking of those things. “But I know that if I enroll in a college course, at least I’m going to have someone who’s trained, who has a Phd. These webinar-teaching people don’t have a Phd. Are they really credible?” Some are, some aren’t. But most college classes are taught by graduate students who are getting on-the-job training. They’re overworked, underpaid, and rarely have benefits.
In business education, you could have a Phd, but that doesn’t matter as much as what you’re able to DO. Being a brilliant entrepreneur doesn’t require previous training, which is why someone like Cornelius Vanderbilt, a poor kid from Staten Island, could start with one boat (a gift from his mother) and row people to and from Manhattan, build an empire, and then over the course of decades, amass a wealth of $200 million dollars. It’s possible that people on webinars can conflate what they’ve done or even lie, so it’s possible that you might end up choosing someone whose stuff you don’t love. This is okay. Get a refund if you can, and learn for next time. Plus, lying in business is getting less and less profitable. People are getting exposed all the time. Customers are losing patience for liars. It’s not a good business model. If you regret a purchase decision, there’s always more money to be made in your business, and your heart, knowledge, skills, and judgments are your biggest assets. Plus, you’d have to spend a LOT of money before you’d get anywhere close to the $200k price tag a friend of mine spent to get her MBA. I know it can feel really stressful making decisions in the short term, but if you zoom way out, recognize that you’re going to make multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond every year in your business, so you can handle a less-than-great investment every once in a while.
I also think we can get complacent on the internet. It feels like we should be able to learn whatever we want whenever we want for free. That’s the promise of the internet. But here’s the thing about a webinar: you’re just sampling what’s possible. Do you get mad when a cheese stand gives you a piece of cheese and then doesn’t give you the whole wheel? Do you get mad when she offers to sell you the whole wheel since you liked the sample? Of course not. Do we tell them that they’re pulling a bait and switch by offering us a sample and then saying that to have more, we have to buy the whole wheel? So then why do we get angry when people selling information do this? If you’re tired of going to webinars and only scratching the surface and wishing that someone would just finally go deep instead of focusing on the sale, then you’re asking for the wheel and getting mad that you have to pay for it. We live in the age of information. The right information at the right time from the right person who has been obsessing over this can make HUGE shifts in the work you’re doing. One strategy has the potential to bring in a hundred grand. Another can help you do that consistently. But not all of the levers are for you, and they’re definitely not all for you right now. The key is to feel connected to what you want, and make sure that you’re choosing based on that internal, expansive place, and not from fear.
Next time you sign up for a webinar, know what you’re in for. You’re walking into a shop with products that could potentially change everything. Or not. Pay attention to how you feel. When the expansive feeling aligns with your gut, you can’t go wrong.
What I’m trying to say, is that when I create a webinar, I make it for you. Sure, because I need to sell the cheese wheels, but also because you need to know what’s possible. If you’re thinking about giving your business idea a real shot, how you’re going to access the core of what you’re doing and be able to translate that for people to understand immediately, and what strategy you’re going to follow to get there. My job is to help you find clarity about what you want, show you that what you dearly want really is possible, and help you get there.
If you’d like to approach business from an expansive, creative place so that you can unlock your capacity to create whatever you want, reach out to me here and we can have that conversation.
Emma Natter is a business coach and writer. Her work intersects entrepreneurial strategies with the creative process so career hopefuls can find success, impact, fulfillment, and confidence in going their own way.
I’m Emma Natter, a path-to-success paver and art-trained business coach who first shattered her own career expectations by selling out of handmade styling goods from her little NYC apartment. Now as a strategist to thousands of creatives, I teach you to harness your passion so you can do the same.
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