How to Conduct a Successful Webinar: A Presenter's View
One of the hottest new ideas made possible by the internet is the webinar. A webinar is a seminar presentation delivered and attended entirely over the web. The webinar makes a lot of sense for both presenter and attendee, particularly as traveling becomes more expensive and more difficult. The presenter can interact with people without leaving the office; attendees can attend from all over the world, giving access to presenters that would not normally come to their area. The presentation can also be played later for those who could not attend the live webinar.
It seems a webinar is the perfect venue for most formal presentations. Yet, something's missing. For all its high-tech convenience, a webinar lacks a human touch. I guess sometimes you just have to look someone in the eye, to see and hear responses, to make a human connection.
For the presenter and attendee, the technology is very straightforward. Client software manages the slides and voice. All the server pieces are hidden from the participants so they can concentrate on the presentation. To have a successful webinar, have everything loaded early. The presenter should have a walk-through a few days in advance to make sure the equipment and software are operating correctly together. The attendees should arrive a few minutes early to download and install the enabling client software.
I used a wireless LAN from my computer to a cable modem. Imagine my shock and disbelief when the LAN connection disappeared during the presentation! Luckily it reappeared quickly. My moderator had noticed my absence and filled the void until I got back to the presentation. So I guess I'll avoid using wireless connections in the future.
It's truly amazing to watch a webinar with someone who is extremely conversant in the client software. While talking, a good webinar presenter also points to areas of the screen, underlines key phrases, draws a graphic to illustrate the point.
I'm not much of a webinar presenter. Instead of focusing on speaking, I was overwhelmed with widgets. There are query tools and attendee notes, and drawing tools, and a list of your slides, and more. I've learned that I don't multi-task. While trying to find a certain graphical tool, I would notice silence, and realize that the silence was from me--I was no longer speaking! Apparently, my brain shut down my verbal center while activating my motor skills. I suggest you have someone else run the client so you can focus on delivering the content.
Have a Live Audience Anyway
Although webinar technology allows you to give a presentation to people all around the world from the privacy of your home, I suggest that you have a live audience anyway. What was missing for me was audience participation--feedback that my ideas were coming across. Was the presentation moving too slowly? Was I talking too quickly? Did my idea even make sense? With a live audience, you can sense body language-- leaning forward or back, smiles and frowns, crossed arms-- to adjust your presentation. The webinar client has tools to simulate this but it was yet another area of the distraction that took my mind away from my message.
Having a few friends in the room gives you a 'live' audience. Smiles show the joke worked. Nodding indicates that your topic makes sense. Frowns mean you should explain again.
Because I was running the client software, I sat in front of the computer during the webinar but ultimately felt uncomfortable and constrained. Since I normally present while standing anyway, in the future I will use a headset with a long cord and stand up. Just like a 'real' presentation.
Webinars Are Great
Despite being a few years old, webinars are still in their infancy. Wide adoption of broadband and live video should help. I initially used a dial-up connection when preparing for the webinar; I was amazed at how good voice over IP (VoIP) works even on a modem. Of course, video fails over a dial-up. Now that I have broadband, I'm experimenting with voice and video over the web. All I can say so far is, 'It certainly isn't like in the movies!'
I had a great experience in my webinar. The Interwise solution seems excellent with no glitches and a robust presenter's client.
Webinars are great: they connect you with people you couldn't normally see. And since it's recorded, people can replay the webinar at a time more convenient for their schedules. However, a webinar cannot completely replace face-to-face interaction. In the end, most customer interaction means that you have to go visit somebody.
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