Q&A: What about slow internet connections & low technology delegates?

For many of us who live around technology it’s sometimes easy to forget that not everybody has “all the goodies.”  It wasn’t that long ago when a prospective customer mentioned to me that she still had people dialing in on rotary phones.

So this recent question from Mandy R. in Australia is yet another good reminder: 

“What do you recommend for slow internet connections & low technology delegates?”


Rule number one is always, “know your audience.”  Congratulations, you passed the test!

There are two key questions you should explore.  One, what technology/ies should you look for?  Two, what do you do once you’re “in the room”? (Or, if the technology has already been chosen for you, you’re going to focus on the second.)

Technology choices

I don’t recommend specific technologies in a broad, sweeping way.  That doesn’t mean I won’t help a client do an deep-dive needs analysis, develop and RFP, and shorten their search list, but there are too many factors that go into a relationship for me to say “this is best” or “this isn’t.”  For instance, to many, a great account relationship or billing terms or something else is a driver in making a choice that goes beyond technology.

Bandwidth is certainly still a challenge for many.  BIG recommendation:  I’d plan for the person in the audience with the worst connectivity.  It’s the safe shot.  Mary, you didn’t mention whether you have internal or external audiences (e.g., employee training or prospect/customer webinars), but I’d remember that “less, working” is much better than “more, but doesn’t always work.”  Remember, too, that how well the internet works itself is a variable – and one you have no way of predicting (I’ll spare you the gory details, but trust me).

Things to consider:  What is the bandwidth for a connection?  Does it adapt to the connection speed of the participant?  Does bandwidth/throughput change if the size of the audience changes?  How does use of audio (voice over IP) or video affect it?  Is there an option to have participants dial in on a telephone bridge if they’re experiencing difficulty?

Usability choices

“Low technology delegates” are common, and it’s easy to forget to look at things through their eyes.  Seriously, a poll is OBVIOUS to you, but is it to them?  I still present at webinars where, when a poll is presented to the audience, some attendees type their answer into the questions panel.

Things to consider:  This is a huge, huge subject.  My recommendation is to, as best you can, put yourself in the shoes of your invitee and literally walk through the experience click by click by click.  What do they see in an invitation?  On the registration page?  Is it obvious how to join? How to install a plug-in/add-on if necessary?  Where to find the volume control or “hand up” button?

One quick side note:  every week I see webinar producers using tools that are wrong for the job.  More specifically, they use a conferencing platform designed for meetings to deliver a broader webinar presentation or training session.  The problem is that the little differences in how those are configured make a big difference in usability.  Recommendation:  don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish.  Get the right tools for the job…especially if you need to help our your “low technology delegates.”

Mandy, it’s a long blog post, but it’s a short answer to an important subject.  Thanks for a good question.  Knowing how to ask the right question is half the battle, and I think you’re going to do well.

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