chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, momentum, networking, membership, webinar, education

I just built a full webinar series for 2023-24 in about an hour.

At Momentum, we are big believers in the webinar series as a powerful mechanism for chambers to connect with their members.

But webinars are a particularly effective tactic to help provide value to your smallest members – the ones that might not get the highest level of love and attention throughout the year.

Here’s why that makes webinars an invaluable tool in your chamber tool chest…

The 20/80 Rule

At the annual conference for the Chamber Alliance of New York State in June, we had the great honor of keynoting the program.

We called our talk, “The 20/80 Rule”: Creating Systems to Help Keep your Smallest Members Happy.”

The premise is simple…

Many consultants talk about the 80/20 rule, and the need to dedicate the bulk of your time to the members that keep you in business.

Can’t (and won’t) argue that perspective at all.

The trick is… How do you take care of the members that comprise 80 percent of your revenues, while NOT making the members that comprise 20 percent of your revenues FEEL like they are in a less-important category?

Why is that important? Well…

  • They may be a $250 member, which seems like a blip on your annual financial report… But there are a lot of them. Which might not show impact during good times, but when a bunch of small businesses that you didn’t pay attention to decide to drop due to, I don’t know, a recession or global pandemic, it hits hard.
  • When your biggest members sponsor your networking events, they want to see a bunch of small businesses in the room the night of. How do you keep them engaged throughout the year, so that they’re there for you the day you need to show your might to a big sponsor?
  • And, small businesses talk. I hear far too many stories about, “I tried the chamber for a year, but didn’t get any value out of it.” No one should ever be allowed to go out into your community with that message. Ever.

In our presentation, we talk about creating systems to make sure you’re providing value to your smallest members.

Those systems allow you to give more attention to your bigger members who are ensuring you get paychecks this month.

Now, “20/80” was a keynote presentation, so we offered lots of different tools and tactics to do this, but for the purpose of this blog, we’ll be talking about:

The Webinar Series

We will contend that there are few activities a chamber of commerce can take that provide better ROI than implementing a webinar series. Let’s take a look at why:

  • Cast a Wide Net – If you understand your members and what they need, instead of providing them educational programming one-by-one or in small groups, you can reach many of your smaller members at the same time. There are an unlimited number of topics that companies of all sizes have to deal with – think HR, marketing, regulatory, customer service, technology, etc.
  • Sponsorable – If you’ve created a worthwhile series and have attracted an audience, your bigger sponsors would be foolish not to put their names and logos in front of them.
  • Engagement – Let’s say you build a six-part webinar series… If you do panels (which we recommend, because one speaker on a webinar can be very dry), that’s 18 members (3 per) that you can feature throughout your series. You can tie those speaking roles to sponsorships, or just use them to give additional value to members who deserve it (recommended). You spend all year trying to find customized value for key members… “We’d like you to share your expertise on a panel,” is among the most powerful you can offer.
  • Content – Record every panel and make it available widely. My experience is that at least as many who attend a webinar watch it afterwards at their convenience. This is your social media fodder. This is your newsletter fodder. This is your “let’s get you across the finish line” prospecting fodder.

Webinars are tailor-made to fill a bunch of buckets for your overall efforts.

With limited staff and a big pool of companies to take care of, webinars can help you multiply the impacts of your work in the never-ending pursuit of showing customized value to every single one of your members.

Selecting Webinar Topics

Throughout our 20/80 presentation, we encouraged the chamber leaders in the audience to “think like a small business.”

That catchphrase took a number of different meanings in the program, but in this case, I want you to think about what information is valuable to a small business on any given day.

Successful webinar programming is not necessarily what the chamber staff thinks is valuable.

It’s also not necessarily what sponsors or the board thinks is valuable.

It’s getting down into the trenches with topics that small businesses can listen in, and come away with useable, practical, impactful things to implement when they get back to the shop.

I like to think about it like I do business books – and I’m a big reader of business books.

When you pick up a business book, it’s hardly realistic that every theme throughout the book will speak to you.

chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, momentum, networking, membership, webinar, education, social media, TikTokNo, you hope that three or four things resonate, and you can implement them into your daily life.

Webinars distill that down to 60 minutes… How can you be precise and strategic and surgical with your information in one hour so that an extremely busy small business person gets takeaways from it?

Well, it’s getting down and dirty in the topics.

A webinar on “social media” will be drab… But a webinar on how to use TikTok to attract Gen Z workers and customers to your business provides an innovative solution for a current pain point.

A webinar on “HR regulation”… Yawn. But, if you’ve delved into the mess that differing state-by-state rules about cannabis has created (while still being illegal at the federal level), you’ll know that’s a topic that people desperately need education on.

“Small business lending?” That can be a laugher. Many small businesses I know wouldn’t even try because they think it’s a waste of time. Who can you put on a panel to demystify that process for people? (Let me know – I’ll even sign in for that one!!!).

For a successful series, your topics need to be timely, relevant and impactful.

If you do that, you will get attendees.

Which will make your sponsors happy.

Need webinar topic ideas – check out our curated list of
timely webinar topics for chambers!

Webinar Format

chamber of commerce, chambers of commerce, momentum, networking, membership, webinar, educationObviously, there are many, many different ways to build a webinar, but we feel like our system works well.

We tend to build our webinars around an anchor speaker…

If the webinar’s on HR, we have an HR professional. If marketing, we have a marketing professional.

The next speaker is an auxiliary – they may not handle the topic on a daily basis, but they support it.

We often use an academic from a local university, or an attorney who might cover the area in this role – someone who can add additional perspective.

Third, and this one’s important, we try to find a practitioner… A peer of everyone in the room, and someone that has had success in real life in the topic.

Stories of real-world success are impossible to beat (which is why, back to my business book example, so many books are of the, “Here’s my premise, and now here are 30 stories that support my premise” variety).

As far as run-of-show, we tend to shy away from “presentations,” though sometimes the topic needs those kinds of visuals… Do what’s right in that regard.

But, we prefer moderated discussion – which means you need a moderator.

The All-Powerful WEBINAR Moderator

As basic as it seems, this is an incredibly important part of the process.

You could have top-notch content being delivered, but a dry or inefficient moderator can leave everyone flat, and missing the good stuff.

Your moderator needs personality, organization skills, and it’s best if they have some knowledge of the topic.

We see three options for a moderator:

  • Who’s your big personality on your chamber team, that is adept at steering a conversation?
  • Sponsors can provide a moderator, certainly… But they have to be good (know this before you offer or put it on your sponsorship sheet)… I’ve actually encouraged sponsors to moderate at times because while you’re not featured as an “expert” in promotion of the webinar, for those listening in, you can certainly position yourself in that regard.
  • Finally, just find someone who’s talented at it… Whether it’s another member, or even a media personality. This can often be the best choice, because the ultimate goal here is to put on a good presentation, and keep people coming back for more.*

* Several years ago, we ran a seminar – not webinar, but in-person – on HR, accounting and insurance. We billed it as the topics no one wants to talk about but has to, and we recruited the guy who teaches the improv classes at a local comedy club moderate. BEST webinar on HR, accounting and insurance… Ever.

Breaking Down the ROI of a Webinar

I think it’s important to look at what it takes to build a webinar, to fully understand the value it ends up providing to both you and your chamber.

Let’s separate the series into each of its parts:

Select a Topic (10 minutes) – If you know what makes your small business members tick, this should take about 10 minutes.

Draft the Promo Copy (10 minutes) – Shhh… ChatGPT can do this for you in 30 seconds (want to learn how?), but we’ll say a human’s on top of it.

Identify and Invite Speakers (25 minutes) – Give you and your sales team 15 minutes to think about possible speakers, and then how long does it take you to write three e-mails?

Include in Newsletters and on Social Media (15 minutes) – Once you’ve written the promo copy, it’s cut-and-paste from there.

Pregame Meeting (30 minutes) – This is important… Set up a call with your moderator and panelists to talk about the flow of the conversation, and create some questions to ask them. We always ask the panelists to help us write questions that ensure they’ll get their most important points made during the discussion.

Webinar (1 hour) – Make it happen. Intros. Program. Discussion. Q&A. Easy.

Recording, Editing and Posting (15 minutes) – Yes, you can really get into editing, but it’s not necessary. Obviously lop off the beginning and end where people are chit-chatting, but unless you have a designated video person on staff to do graphics and what-not, no one really cares. They’re there for the meat of the program.

So, for about 2 ½ hours of time (where you didn’t leave your desk), you’ve:

  • Presented a topic that is relevant, timely and impactful to small business members you might not otherwise have contact with
  • Created sponsorable content that can be used again and again and again
  • Thrown a bone to at least three members to provide them extra value – and who will return that value by sharing the webinar with their networks
  • Promoted your next webinar and any other upcoming events you have to a captive audience

And, unlike in-person events, if the live showing is light, no reason to sweat… More people will probably watch it afterwards, anyway.

Sounds like a pretty worthwhile use of your time.

The Power of Takeaways

Here’s where the staying power is – and this part can be tricky because once you hit record and the panelists start talking, they’re going to say what they’re going to say.

Encourage them beforehand to work takeaways for participants into their discussion.

Have them leave attendees with a short list of things they can do that afternoon to take advantage of the information they’ve just heard.

In truth, if a speaker hopes to get business out of the opportunity, this is something they should do anyway – but not everyone thinks that way.

In the end, they’re YOUR members, and on their behalf, you want takeaways.

Wrapping Up

Why did I write this?

It’s not like chambers of commerce don’t know how to put on webinars.

Yet, I see many, many chambers with nothing on their calendars but their golf tournament and annual dinner.

If a small business is considering membership, your calendar is the first place they’re going to go to see if it’s for them.

If there’s nothing on it, they’re going to see there is nothing for them.

In addition to everything else we listed above, a webinar series provides a steady flow of easy-to-access programming and content for a small business to engage with.

While you’re fulfilling the 80/20 rule, and making sure your biggest, most generous members are happy, with minimal but impactful effort, your webinar series is working to keep the 20 percent feeling as though you’re paying attention to them, as well.

Want to talk about how the 20/80 rule can help you strengthen your chamber’s relationship
with your smallest members? Schedule a Zoom with us!