Yesterday afternoon I hosted a free webinar. More than 400 people registered and more than 150 attended. I wanted to try out a new-to-me webinar platform called Webinar Ninja and I didn’t feel comfortable charging people for the webinar while I was learning the nuances of the new platform. In hindsight, I should have just asked a few friends to join a private webinar to test Webinar Ninja. But I didn’t do that and for the last 18 hours I’ve paid for it in aggravation and sweaty equity.
Hours before the webinar even started I had people emailing me to ask when the webinar would start. 3pm Eastern Time was plastered all over the registration page and was mentioned in the confirmation emails. At 2:45pm I signed into my presenter account and immediately was greeted by complaints that my message of “the webinar will start shortly” was too vague.
Once the webinar started, it went fairly well except for a few minutes in which I was testing out the screen sharing options. There were also a few people in the webinar who were clearly there to shill for a favorite product. (No, I’m not referring to Bill Zimmerman who was gracious and replied only when I mentioned his product specifically).
After the webinar is when the real aggravation started. Immediately, there were a dozen requests for certificates of attendance. Included in that bunch was one person claiming that she needed it for re-certification points. I never advertised a certificate or re-certification points, so I’m not sure why people were expecting certificates for attending a free webinar. Another couple of dozen emails had comments along the lines of, “why didn’t you show X or use X?” And finally, the straw that broke this camel’s back was an email this morning that didn’t say “thank you” or even address me by name, it just read “where are the slides?” In total I received exactly ZERO thank you notes and about 50 emails requesting something else from me in addition to the free webinar.
Offering a free webinar cost me $85 for hosting fees and about eight hours of labor. It did yield four new email subscribers and it might have drawn a couple of new blog and or Twitter followers, but there are much more efficient ways to do that. By contrast, when I host paid webinars I get far more “thank yous” and far fewer requests for things that weren’t promised.