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?


One thought on “Is ‘Webinar’ a Dirty Word?

  1. Pingback: The Webinar Manifesto | virtual learning space

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