Is ‘Webinar’ a Dirty Word?

I love the potential of webinars to bring thought leaders to the masses and connect learners with common goals, but most webinars don’t live up to their potential. How much should we expect from a free webinar?

Attending a webinar for me is a bit like a chef eating at someone else’s restaurant. I have to remind myself to focus on the experience and try not to critique the design… too much. I get really frustrated when a webinar I’m attending turns out to be a lecture–or worse, a sales pitch. I’ve come to expect a certain amount of promotion at free sessions, but I don’t want to spend the whole hour hearing about a product unless I signed up for a demo.

So here it is: My list of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Webinars.


The Good – Webinars at Their Best

  • Promotions are limited to the beginning or end of the session and clearly differentiate between the pitch and the content that attracts the learners.
  • The presenter has mechanisms in place to get feedback from the audience in order to understand their interests, experience level, and what they want to get out of the session. The best presenters are flexible enough to go into deeper detail about the things participants are most interested in learning or comfortable with skipping content that isn’t relevant to the audience. They realize that every audience is different.
  • The design allows for the most possible contribution from the learners. Not just a stray poll or Q&A at the end… real opportunities to contribute to the session and learn from each other as well as from the presenter. For example, invite participants to use the annotation tools and chat function at any time during the session. Collect questions as you go and pause periodically to address them. Ask for feedback to see if the session is meeting the need.
  • Opportunities exist to connect with other participants such as the chat channel or a space to discuss the session in another forum. For example, encourage participants to Tweet about the session with a designated hashtag. This will help participants find each other after the session if they want to connect.
  • Recorded sessions turn me on. Sometimes a critical meeting comes up and I can’t attend a session I’m really excited about. I love it when the recording is sent out the next day. I can revisit something I learned, see what I missed, or share it with a colleague.


The Bad – Missed Opportunities

  • The presenter lectures, asks for all questions to be held until the end of the session or a designated Q&A pit stop. The audience is to be seen, but not heard.
  • The presenter turns off chat functionality and/or does not utilize annotation tools. No passing notes in class.
  • The presenter uses polls, but doesn’t really respond to or address the results. Polls should be used to pulse the audience, better understand needs, or generate conversation. They should be a meaningful activity, not just a periodic change of pace.


The Ugly – A Waste of Time

  • The entire presentation is a demo of the platform not-so-cleverly disguised with content. Honestly, I don’t mind demos. I like to see what the platforms out there can do. Just tell me that’s what it is. If I’ve already seen a demo of your platform I don’t want to be tricked into sitting through another one.

Is “webinar” a dirty word? What makes a webinar good, bad, or ugly to you?


QR Codes to the Rescue

I think a lot about performance support tools and how to integrate them into the environment so that they are available at the time of need. Lately I’ve been thinking about how strategically placed QR codes could serve as a vehicle for performance support.

I discovered the perfect opportunity to test this out.

My favorite pizzeria stocks games for patrons to play. My son was attracted to the Candy Land game so we got all the pieces out to get started, but there were no instructions. This is the case with many of the games there. The instructions get lost. After searching for a while on my phone I was able to locate official rules for Candy Land so we could set up.

It occurred to me then that QR codes could be a handy performance support tool. Patrons could use their phones to scan the code and be directed to the official rules. I went home to test out my idea. I used the Kaywa QR Code generator to create this QR code:

Scan the code for official Candy Land Rules

This was the first right answer. Next I needed to challenge my idea to make sure I wasn’t just finding a use for my new toy. What were some of the other possibilities?

  1. Could we just print the instructions and tape them to the inside of the box? This could work for a while, but eventually they would tear or come out and get lost again. Printing and reprinting costs could be an issue because they have about 50 games in stock  and most instruction sheets are at least 2 pages.
  2. Could we “ruggedize” the instructions? What if we printed and laminated the instructions so they wouldn’t be accidentally thrown away or damaged? They could still get separated and would require maintenance to reunite lost instructions with the game. Lamination costs would be an issue.
Advantages of the QR Code:
  • It is relatively small and can be securely fixed to the game box with packing tape, making it low maintenance and sustainable.
  • You can fit about 6-8 QR codes to each printed page, reducing printing costs by about 93%.
  • The code can take the user to a page with rules in English and Spanish.
  • The pizzeria uses a QR code-based loyalty program called Punchd, so most patrons will already have experience scanning QR codes.
Disadvantages of the QR Code:
  • The urls for the web-based instructions could change unexpectedly.
  • Not everyone has a smart phone.
  • Some patrons might not have experience scanning QR codes.

My feeling at this point was that the QR codes were the way to go. The next step was to approach the owner of the shop and volunteer to code a few of the most popular games as a pilot to see if patrons used them and appreciated them.

The owners loved the idea! We now have codes in place for Candy Land, Monopoly, and Connect Four. We’ll be adding a few at a time until all of the games are coded. I’ll post updates as the feedback comes in.

Has anyone else found a way to use QR codes to support performance? I’d love to hear how you used them.