The thing about webinars is that they can be as boring as a race between a rock and a piece of asphalt. In my experience, online interactive features of the presentation help me to pay even less attention (although this may say more about my attention span than webinar tools…). One of the problems is that without the visual feedback from the participants (e.g. eye contact, yawning, head collapsed on keyboard), it becomes harder for presenters to adjust content and how they are presenting based on the mood. This means that the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off could be chatting away about “Something D-O-O economics” and think that everyone is intently following along waiting for each word to fall onto their ears. Along those lines, Norman Reiss of Nonprofit Bridge posted a great link to the thread about the costs of webinars.
Even though many webinars I’ve experienced were like watching molasses move down an upward slope, it doesn’t mean that yours has to be. Making sure your content and presentation are absorbing and meaningful goes an incredibly long way but making your participants do your work for you goes even further. Find ways in which their conversation is the value of the presentation rather than your slides. This frees the presenter from trying to guess how attentive the audience is, because the audience themselves become the presenters. Letting the participants drive the conversation rather than act as ears for someone’s voice to land on is absolutely imperative.
As you might imagine, making sure that you have a tool that meets your needs is important for an engaging webinar, but you also need to find one that you feel comfortable using. Idealware put together this great post last year discussing the advantages and disadvantages of a few tools for online conferencing with regard to what end users need. As a seasoned participant in webinars, I encourage you to find a tool that works for you, both price-wise and ease of use. However, put less emphasis on fancy features and more emphasis on content and participant engagement because, let’s face it, having a shared chat and buttons to Digg, Tweet or share on Facebook mean nothing if your audience is asleep.
So check out the toolbox, add your favorite tool and let us know what YOUR thoughts are on webinars.
Happy Webinar-ing! (Or is it “webinando”…?)