I’m not much for predictions, but I do a lot of trend watching. A couple thoughts on where I think the world of web seminars and online presentations are developing…
Additional consolidation in the conferencing industry
As our industry matures, cheap and free are nearly non-existent as differentiators (e.g., cool free tool ShareItNow from Eventbuilder.com – formerly Encounter Collaborative – shut down in ’08). Theoretically, that usually means evolving toward a few primary vendors while others must niche or die. It won’t happen overnight, but this stuff isn’t free to host and support, so small vendors relying on adoption before having a real revenue model will continue to be challenged.
Increased focus on soft skills
I’ll admit a bit of bias here, but here’s the Roger-mantra: Microsoft Word doesn’t make you a writer, and a web conferencing tool doesn’t make you a promoter, presenter, or producer.
Remember what happened in digital recording of 20 years ago? It became affordable for everyone, and two things happened. One, anybody with a PC could produce a CD – no need for a record company to front you a contract – so the volume of crap increased exponentially. Two, many real artists evolved because they didn’t need a contract.
Web seminars are in crap mode right now, but progressive practitioners are figuring out that a unique medium requires a unique application (of the fundamental skills of storytelling, persuasion, et al). And where is everyone else going to learn this stuff? Right now it’s mostly trial and error.
Increase in punditry
“Hey, I did six webinars when I was the marketing/training/sales manager at Company, LLC, I know more than everyone else!”
Ironically is pretty true, and as overall adoption of webinars continues on a solid growth rate, so will the supply of self-proclaimed experts.
One side note: the vendors themselves do a good job of explaining the value of reminder email and making it easy to execute, so this isn’t where the value is going to be added by the indies… back to the argument for the need for true talent in soft skills development (e.g., promotion, copywriting, presentation design and delivery skills, project and people management skills, etc.).
Increased adoption of collaborative VoIP
Audio over the web is old. Quality, usable VoIP is maturing. Quality, usable VoIP in a multi-point conferencing setting, reliable enough for use in business-critical communications, easy enough to encourage behavioral change? It hasn’t been there.
But a number of years ago when I was at Microsoft I was on a conference call with the CIO of the big three consulting firms (at that time 130K employees worldwide), and he emphasized, “I spend more on global audio conferencing alone than all my Microsoft apps combined).
That’s a business problem that vendors have been racing to solve technologically, and I think we’re poised for a shift behaviorally.
Ad-supported free or cheap services
I don’t know if it’ll work, but we’re seeing the beginnings of conferencing being ad supported. I’d imagine at least one big company will take a stab at it for web conferencing like we’re seeing in other apps (online free apps like Google provides, in-product ads such as what Adobe puts in a .pdf now, etc.).
Mobile webinar noise
Until the iPhone got everyone off their duff, the web on a mobile device has still largely been a less-than-satisfactory experience. But now that real web surfing and audio connections are effectively happening on mobile devices, somebody’s going to try to make some real noise about their own ability to deliver a web seminar in that way (and I don’t mean webcast/streaming, I mean interactive/collaborative).
BTW, the penetration of mobile devices worldwide now exceeds PCs… a stunning market opportunity.
So, there’re some top-of-mind thoughts on trends that I think we’ll see in ’09.