Webinars — Is Anyone Out There?

A Trust 120 SpaceCam webcam
Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow I conduct my first webinar. I’ve attended them before but never starred in one.

Yesterday was the final dress rehearsal, and while we’ve managed to master the technology (this particular platform is new to the hosts, too, so we’ve been learning together), it’s still an odd and disconcerting experience.

I’m looking forward to advances in technology and bandwidth that will someday make it a completely smooth and seamless experience for everyone, with all of us looking each other in the eye and interacting as if we were in the same room together.

But right now it is not that. The first webinar I attended was a bit of a disaster. Participants unknowingly left their microphones on and the facilitators apparently were unable to mute them all as a group, so we heard people’s side conversations, catty commentary on the presentation, keyboard clicks, office pop-ins, and just about everything else.

As it is now, people can see me (as well as my presentation), but I can’t see them. They can hear me, but I can’t hear them. They can type comments and questions into the chat sidebar and ask questions at the end, but it’s not quite a dialogue.

I’ve been madly digesting articles on webinar best practices and tips, and one suggested that I make it a conversation by asking questions throughout. Not sure I can make that adjustment at this point. I think I’d prefer to keep moving than have silences where I’m reading peoples’ responses.

I will do my best to monitor and possibly address their questions during the presentation without getting thrown off stride, but it’s going to be tough.

Here is what I can do:

    • Keep it short. We’ve got a one-hour block and I’m trying to limit my prepared remarks to 35 minutes. (With extra material just in case.)
    • Keep it moving. Like the live presentation and the book, I’d rather go broad on several topics than super-deep into process on one or two. I’ve got 74 slides, so that’s about two per minute.
    • Keep it fun. Jokes are tough without hearing laughter, but I’ve managed them on video, so I should be able to do it here, too.
    • Make it pretty. Even more than the live presentation, giving the audience something interesting to look at is vital. Nearly 60 of the slides are big, beautiful, full-screen photos.
    • Give it energy. They actually suggested I dial it back a bit yesterday. When I’d get worked up I guess I looked a little insane, getting too close to the camera and gesturing wildly. So I need to boost the emotional energy without jumping through the webcam and grabbing people by the throat.

The final element is set dressing, so the background doesn’t make this look like a hostage video. I don’t have a proper studio here in the home office and I was seriously considering running out to Home Depot, getting some paint, and making a back wall blue. Instead I went to Kinko’s and ordered a big banner with the book’s cover art. What I could really use is a credenza and a big plant.

In any case, the experience should make fine material for the second edition of the book.

2 thoughts on “Webinars — Is Anyone Out There?

  1. It’s funny to see this right after seeing your webinar. I really liked the poster in the back. Nice choice!

    1. That is funny, Christine. Yeah, I was very pleased with the banner! Thank you for attending. The Q&A was a bit awkward to manage, but otherwise it seems things went fairly smoothly.

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