Q&A: Is ‘synchronous’ always more effective?

I just wrapped up a session for a large group of trainers about interactivity in online training sessions.  One of the many questions that we didn’t get to due to the size of audience came in from Sian M.:

“Do you feel synchronous sessions are always more effective?”

Sian, it depends on how you define effective.  This isn’t to be obtuse, let me explain.

No one would argue that the MOST effective thing we could do as trainers for our trainees would be to have in-person one-on-one sessions with each trainee, right?  So why don’t we?  Money, money, time, distance, and money.

Inevitably we make some type of trade-off.  If it was ONLY about money, we’d write papers and create recordings and share them 24X7 on a web site somewhere.  While radically scalable (reach), our ability to personalize, dialogue, intuit the question-behind-the-question, use object lessons, etc., all go away.

I look at webinars as a unique and irreplaceable third option.  Their live, but we also have reach. And unlike having a conference call with an emailed handout our deck, at least two BIG advantages happen in a webinar where you have synchronous control over the visual experience.  One is a issue of timing… you don’t expose content to trainees until you’re ready (and they’re not reading ahead), and the second is an issue of flexibility.  There’s a lot of value in being flexible with a class – to dive more deeply somewhere, to go backward somewhere, to grab a website or resource that you hadn’t originally planned to show because a question came up, or whatever.

So, generally I do think that synchronous is more effective because you can respond on the fly.  For example, I often use a poll to gauge the experience level of my audience (and in the last six months I’ve had “people attending their first webinar” be as low as 2% and has high as 55%).  I don’t rewrite my presentation, but I might explain things differently based on where the audience is at.

Best of luck, and do give me a holler if you’ve got another question!

2 thoughts on “Q&A: Is ‘synchronous’ always more effective?

  1. Mollybob

    I think Sian’s question was also a good one because sometimes it’s hard to place webinars in with all our other training tools available. Something I wanted to add is that webinars also have an advantage of being potentially more interactive than a teleconference or a whiteboard as you can have people respond all at once, so they don’t look around at what everyone else is saying. For example, asking for a response to a question in the chat box can be better than runing around the room because you can reduce the “mee-tooism” by having many people answer at once.
    Anyway, thanks for a great blog, I love webinars, and look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  2. TheVP

    Sian and Mollybob, check out the graphic in this blog post… http://www.thevirtualpresenter.com/category/web-seminars/

    I think everything everything has its place, and when you think about behavior divided up this way, each way of connecting becomes indispensible (BTW, the ‘webinar recordings’ quadrant could be any on-demand content).


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