I was recently watching a TED video and the thing I found most interesting for once wasn’t the video itself…it was a comment below the video where a viewer rated the presenter as “long winded.”
And this was a 17 minute video.
My first response is to quote a line from Amadeus, the 1980s movie about Mozart. In one scene, after Mozart concludes a new piece, one of the royalty in the audience exclaims, “Too many notes!”
Wolfgang replies, “And which ones, sir, would you have me take out?”
But that’s just the smarty pants in me.
A frequently asked question is “how long should a webinar be?” I usually play on Einstein’s “make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler” with something like “as short as possible but no shorter.”
Two cultural challenges beset us: One, meetings somehow always have to be an hour long. Two, content and context have everything to do with it.
In short, there is no simple answer.
Given that I’m fond of saying you should talk WITH your audience and not AT them, here’s a guideline or two.
If you are going to talk at them, make it short. Then shorter. Remember the ‘long winded’ 17 minute TED presentation. State your point, make your recording, post it on the web. Especially if it’s about you, not them.
If you have interactivity, especially in a training context, you can go longer. I’d still keep it to two hours or less with a break in the middle.
We live in an information-on-demand culture. If your live webinar is the equivalent of on-demand information (meaning there’s nothing uniquely live about it), you’re competing with every other source of on-demand information available in those 23000 results that come up in a search on a search engine. You’d better get to and make your point quickly.
If, however, you treat an event as a shared experience, allowing adult learners to be active (vs passive), giving the audience the chance to get questions answered (a radically high form of personalization), you’ll command attention more effectively and at very least keep audiences around to experience more.
A final tip: plan to end early. Nobody complains about presentations that end early. This doesn’t mean you can’t take Q&A through the hour, but it’s one simple way to set yourself apart from the many who drag on and on.
Make your webinar as short as possible, but no shorter than necessary to make a focused point or deliver what you promised.