Six cases for using pre-recorded presentations in webinars/webcasts

To paraphrase a question from Dave following a recent webinar, “What about pre-recording the presentation, playing that in the live event, and then having live Q&A?”

While 1080 Group is now exclusively in the teaching business, our legacy hearkens back to the first virtual event production company on the planet,  With that much time in the biz we’ve seen our share of successful and not-so-successful pre-recorded webinar/webcast presentations.

In this, the first part of a two part series we’ll look at different scenarios for doing pre-recorded webinars/webcasts. Then next week I’ll offer analysis and tips for doing so effectively.

Case #1: Executive needs to make multiple appearances

Years ago we did a 76 webinar series for Novell. Then-CEO Eric Schmidt spoke live, then a product manager came on and did a product presentation, followed by Q&A with just the product manager. We recorded Eric on the first event, and his bit was generic (state of the industry stuff) such that the recording could be re-used in the subsequent 75 events, and the PM’s part for each subsequent event was live.

Note that a variation of this might also be used to cover widely disparate timezones over the course of a day or two.

Case #2: Backup plan

Challenge: A notable surgeon was planning to present live, but as the event date closed in found out he was going to be on call. Since promotion had already begun, moving the event date would have been costly, so we created a recording of the surgeon (in case of emergency, literally!). It turns out we didn’t have to use it.

Case #3: Professional voice talent

More than one client has been concerned with having a perfectly scripted and executed talk track. In some cases this was simply a desire for perfection, in others it was driven by concern for a regulatory environment and being sensitive to the exact words that were to be shared. Each time professional voice talent was called upon to create the audio track, and the slides were pushed live (by the event producer) while the recording played. In some cases, only text-based Q&A was allowed so another member of the client’s team could respond.

Case #4: The presenter is a talker, but not a PowerPoint designer

I know my friend Shelley Ryan of Killer Webinars likes this technique. In advance of the live event, the client presenter does their “talk” which is recorded. Then slides are created to use during the live event, and these now match the talk track perfectly. These are either pushed live by the producer/moderator or combined with the audio track in pre-production into a complete audio/visual recording to be played in the live event.

Case #5: Worry 

As the saying goes, “Most people would rather die than give the eulogy.” Nobody wants to look silly in front of others. I recall one VP of Marketing who, though she was an otherwise smart and adept communicator one-on-one, was absolutely wretched when presenting. To the chagrin of the team, she insisted on doing the presentation herself. She did accede to letting them pre-record it. It wasn’t great, but improved the result.

Case #6: Perfection(ism) or leaning toward on-demand being the more important use case

Another music analogy here. Most live concert recordings are poor aural experiences relative to the studio-production (delivered via iTunes or…). For most of us, however, if we went to a concert and the experience was exactly like the recording, we’d be disappointed that the band didn’t talk to the audience, extend that one cool guitar solo, or deliver a stunning lightshow that the MP3 didn’t include.

If you want to produce a webinar/webcast recording that’s perfect and visionary, it’s not wrong, per se. But live communication isn’t like that, and there’s even research to suggest that imperfection is a definitive part of natural communication (evidence suggests that it’s even useful – but don’t go saying “Roger said you should use ums and ahs when you speak” :)).

In other words, effective communication and perfect communication are not 100% synonymous.

The bottom line

In the purest sense, “live” and “recorded” have opposite ideas of perfection. Unfortunately, the message you get from many web conferencing, webinar, or webcasting companies is that all you have to do is push the “record” button and you’re golden.

The discerning observer should recognize that they are two are different beasts. Neither is right or wrong; neither is superior. The discerning observer should understand that there are tradeoffs, figure out what they are and, in the end, make an enlightened decision about what to get versus what to give up.

Stay tuned for part two to look at the pros, cons, and some tips for doing this right.

8 thoughts on “Six cases for using pre-recorded presentations in webinars/webcasts

  1. Dave

    Not only a post for a reply but a two part one, I’m floored.

    Case #7: Getting the most value from a recording where the listener feels as if the disembodied voice behind the presentation is talking directly to him.

    A good audio performance (live or contrived) soon draws the listener into it. It’s even more intimate then you feel while watching a live performance or even a well made video/movie. The key factor is that you’re NOT watching a person. Your mind fills in the details. It’s a bit of magic.

    Add a presentation with visuals, maybe even a bit of music or audio effect, or maybe not, that expands on the voice, that help lead the listener’s thoughts down the desired path it becomes even more magical. More personal. More of a feeling that you are talking to me, now, live.

    Your recording of the “Blended Learning: How to Add Live, Online Training to the Mix” presentation you made for GoToMeeting is a perfect example of the effect. When I listen to such a presentation I get drawn in – headphones help ;o) and I soon forget I’m listening to a recording. As I listen questions come to mind. I might want to make a comment or observation. I then start looking for the GoToMeeting raise my hand. I look for the chat box. I want to do something now. But then it’s a recording. There is no raise a hand. There is no chat. There’s a lost opportunity.

    Why not make the recording available at a scheduled time. Why not supplement the recording by having a live person available on chat so that the listeners can ask their questions, make their comments. It would enhance the learning of the listener. It’s advantageous to you because you don’t even have to be there.

    I can’t believe I’m the only person that is affected this way by a well made audio, supplemented by well made visuals, recording. I’d bet if you asked your listeners you’d find quite a few that also fall into the “Where’s the chat box?” syndrome.

    An opportunity, or a delusion of one?

    1. TheVP

      Thanks for the thoughts, Dave!

      I think I’d argue that the listener ‘feeling like the voice is talking directly to him’ is a goal of any presentation, live or pre-recorded.

      As a musician and ex-audio engineer I wholeheartedly agree that a killer voice is a powerful part of engagement (and while none of us can change which voice we were born with, I do argue that anybody can better use the voice they have).

      Virtually every example above represents the pre-recorded presentation being played at a specific time…with ‘live’ elements before and after. As I go into more deeply in part two, there’s a higher ‘cost’ to getting an audience to show up at a particular time (versus watching a recording at their convenience). I think there are legitimate business reasons for using a pre-recorded presentation in an otherwise live presentation, but in many cases I think it defeats the purpose…and it’s worth thinking through the tradeoffs.


      1. Gracie

        Hi Roger-
        “What about pre-recording the presentation, playing that in the live event, and then having live Q&A?” This is exactly what we are trying to implement in our practice. How would you actually combine the pre-recorded audio with the webinar technology?
        Thank you,


  2. Gracie

    Hi Roger-
    “What about pre-recording the presentation, playing that in the live event, and then having live Q&A?” This is exactly what we are trying to implement in our practice. How would you actually combine the pre-recorded audio with the webinar technology?
    Thank you,


    1. TheVP

      Thanks for the question, Gracie.

      I didn’t spell it out in this post, but actually several of those examples did, in fact, have live Q&A at the end.

      I’m guessing your asking because your webinar technology doesn’t let you play an audio file. Some do, so the most elegant solution is to use a webinar vendor that provides the solution you need.

      To answer your question specifically I’d need to know what technology you were using (and even then it might make for a long response), but the short answer is that you have to figure out how to have your audio technology (the recording) connect to the webinar tech. This has been done by
      – playing a CD/iPod/MP3 player with the audio-out connected to a telephone conference call (you’d need to buy an adapter)
      – changing a setting in your webinar tech to use a different audio source (playing an MP3 on the computer instead of using a voip headset, for example)
      – putting the microphone of a voip headset in front of a boombox that’s playing the audio file (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it done…not elegant, but it works).

      Feel free to give me a shout if you need more hands-on help!


  3. Ashish Gupta

    Great list. It justifies many of those on-demand webinars that are pre-recorded!

    I have created a list of these use cases at
    Anyone should now be able to contribute to the list and curate it.

  4. Derrick

    Some great points!

    Could someone recommend a good online tool for sharing pre-recorded webinars? We use GoToWebinar, but I’m not sure that it has the capability to schedule and play a pre-recorded video in place of a live recording. If I’m wrong, please let me know. Thanks!

    1. TheVP

      Hey Derek, thanks for asking. Many of the enterprise/pro platforms (like G2W) are optimized for live, interactive sessions and you’re right — aren’t designed to simulate live events. A couple notable exceptions are TalkPoint and Webinato, though you can accomplish a similar thing with most platforms that allow playing video files (e.g., Webex, Adobe Connect). G2W could, too, but last I knew the ‘play a video file’ thing was available in beta only on the PC (not Mac) version. Plenty of consumer/DIY platforms do this. Give me a ring (no invoice involved for a short conversation), and/or join my FB group and ask the 1000+ people there: Best! -Roger

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