Since retiring from full-time employment, I have found more time to watch and reflect on practices that previously formed much of my own working life. It is all too easy to slip into hypercritical mode when you observe the work of others. Even so the onlooker sees most of the game (ask any England football striker and you will know that is true.)
Recently I’ve attended a number of webinars. In part they were a diversion, to fill some idle time in my retirement schedule. In the main they provided an opportunity for me to check on the current state of an art to which the very gifted Don Taylor introduced me many years ago, and about which I have written and spoken at some length since.
WebEx arrived in 1995. A decade later, in 2006 when Saba acquired Centra the notion of a “virtual” classroom passed into corporate consciousness. After so many years one might expect this technology to have reached a level of maturity, but I am sad to report that this seems not to be the case. All too often the presenter, host or facilitator behaves in a disingenuous manner, as if dealing with a fascinating but arcane tool that they’ve never seen before.
How long do you imagine your patience would last if people used the phone as a novice, speaking into the wrong end, pressing buttons indiscriminately, proclaiming, “Wow! I can hear your voice!” or cutting you off mid-sentence? I lose my patience and feel disappointed when I come across the same innocence and insouciance when people use webinar tools. Sadly it happens all too often that users display profound ignorance of how to make this useful and powerful medium work.
Of course some examples have some merit; some have lots of merit, but I am moved to report on some common failings. If you recognise your own event, then I make no apology for speaking as I find. I do so with the aim of helping you to preserve your personal credibility and avoid reputational damage to your sponsors or employers in the future. Web-conferencing is not new; webinars are ubiquitous and the tools are fairly easy to master. There really is no excuse now for professionals to treat them as alien and unfamiliar platforms.
So to conclude, here is my Dirty Dozen – 12 top tips to guarantee your webinar will fail. I’ve not plucked them from thin air; they arise from actual examples I’ve endured during the past 5 weeks. They are the antithesis of a well-prepared, well-run webinar. It’s your call.
1) Forget to send invitations to all who want or need them
2) Follow up with an Eleventh Hour reminder to attend!
3) Fail to send joining instructions to show the agenda, to explain how and when people should join and what to expect
4) Start late
5) Neglect to mute your microphone so people hear furious typing, muttering, teaspoon stirring or even nose-blowing (yes, it really did happen in one session) as you prepare yourself and your session
6) Suppress the chat channel so participants cannot send messages to you or to one another
7) Promise fun and interaction but deliver dull page-turning using slides
8) Spend the first 15 minutes presenting your personal and corporate credentials
9) Have the session host control the slides by saying aloud to them “next slide please”
10) Talk too fast in a monotone and without a pause
11) Speak in a surprised tone to convey the idea that you really didn’t think this was going to work
12) Open one or more back channels using media such as Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp or LinkedIn, but neglect to monitor them
I could go on and on (I probably have), but I think that gets the main irritants off my chest. It probably ensures that the number of invitations I get in my mailbox will decrease too, but I hope not. I’m always willing to offer feedback and help people to improve their performance. Finally if you are interested in the history of video-conferencing then I recommend this well-informed summary and timeline from Nefsis. See you online!