Six webinar myths you’re too smart to perpetuate

Today you’re somebody’s trusted adviser.  A friend or co-worker pings you and asks you one of the following questions… how would YOU answer?

Don’t webinars suck just like PowerPoint sucks?

Reality:  PowerPoint doesn’t suck, but it often gets used poorly.  Webinars are the same.  Blame for lousy presentations and presentation skills belongs to the presenter, not the tools.

Webinars are easy, right?

Reality:  Web conferencing/casting software service vendors (e.g., Webex, Citrix, Adobe, et al) have done a wonderful job making their software easier to use than ever.  However, managing a project (coordinating people, process, content, marketing, rehearsals), developing killer content, recruiting an audience, adapting learning exercises or creating new ones, and delivering/facilitating in an engaging way are challenging in webinars.  Hey, they’re a challenge in any medium.

Aren’t webinars just a broadcast medium?

Reality:  Start in analog.  Would you go to a seminar and expect never to raise your hand, ask a question, do an exercise?  You might not expect it from a keynote speech or something you know is a lecture, but that’s not most of what we do.  We expect real people connecting with real people.

“Webcasting” started as a broadcast medium and then as markets demanded it, moved toward enabling interaction.  Web conferencing started as a conversational medium (web conferencing added to audio conferencing).  We won’t go into details here, but they still have distinctions that make a difference when choosing a vendor.

Just because many people talk at you in webinars (a web seminar) doesn’t mean that’s a best practice.  Usually, talking at your audience instead of with them is an invitation to have them work on email or something else and give you partial attention…not an optimal way to deliver your message with impact.

All you have to do to engage an audience is push a poll at them, right?

Reality:  Not every person in an audience participates in the same way (in-person or in a webinar), but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not engaged.  The best way to engage people is to be engaging.  It’s your content, your visuals, your voice, your interactions…and the latter might include a poll, but then it might not.  Want to know your success rate?  Measure it by how many took the desired action after your webinar.

Do you think I should just create my slides like I’m going to use for Slideshare and use those?

Reality:  Slide design for on-demand consumption in a slide sharing site and slides for live, aural-visual communications are not the same.  PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi or…) can be used as a document designed to be read.  Even a very visual document.  Even a very visual document you post on your favorite social slide sharing site.  (And yes, I do know that Slideshare just launched they’re own conferencing service.)

In an aural-visual communication, sometimes a visual that’s just a picture without the words on it is more powerful.  Sometimes you want the audience to focus on what you’re saying verbally, your voice.  The aural and visual should work together in a complimentary way, and research shows that if someone’s trying to read something while you speak to them “cognitive load” increases and comprehension decreases (i.e., imagine reading a book and trying to have a conversation).

If you really want to make your slides the best they can be, ask yourself if these are to be read (it’s a document!) or heard and viewed (an aural-visual communication).  It’s not likely you can do both at the same time really, really well.  If you could, you’d see lots of bullet points and explanatory text in movies and television.  If you’d like to see how I tackle slide design specifically for webinars, join me here next week.

I’ve heard you can just put ’em on auto-pilot and get wildly wealthy.

Reality:  “Build it and he will come” might be a nice tagline in a movie, but it’s a terribly industrial-age way of thinking.  Effective content marketing, distributed through multiple channels, targeted to the right audience(s), with compelling calls to action to drive your business has never been an auto-pilot money machine.

True enough, a webinar recording might be a very nice asset in your strategy, and hey, it might even be content somebody would pay to see.  But if you’re not already wildly wealthy because you’ve 1) figured out how to reach an audience who 2) wants something you’ve got with 3) a message compelling enough to 4) inspire action and pay you for it, then changing the medium of delivery probably isn’t going to get you from zero to hero.

What do you think?  Did I miss any?

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