I wrote a blog post last month in which I laid out all the various types of consulting and service activities I get involved in. I just received a comment on that post asking how I got into this business and what made me want to change from my former career. Although I try very hard to keep this blog from turning into a personal diary, I also want to respond to the interests of my readers. So with your permission, I'll talk about myself in this post as a departure from the usual tips and news items.
I started this business in 2004 to fill a niche that I didn’t see being served at the time. I had been using webinars as a product marketer in a succession of Silicon Valley tech companies (Actually, I never changed jobs… The companies just kept changing names and going through acquisitions, sell-offs, mergers, and IPO’s).
I had slowly developed an understanding of what worked and what didn’t when preparing and delivering webinars. I was getting positive ratings and feedback from audience members and good results on our marketing efforts. Yet I found that when I brought in guest speakers, they often had difficulties communicating clearly in their web presentations. Even industry analysts with formal training in audience presentation techniques would seem uncomfortable and ill-equipped to use the tools and remote nature of web conferencing.
I realized that web seminars were gaining traction in the business world and that I had to do less and less basic explanation of what the concept was when inviting people to register and attend. The technology vendors were doing a good job of spreading adoption of the tools, but there wasn’t a corresponding growth in training and support for people trying to use the technology.
Sure, there was public speaking training available, and I had taken a number of such courses myself. But these tended to concentrate on one of two areas… Either how to appear on camera for interviews and TV appearances, or how to “work a room” when appearing on stage in front of a live audience. Web conferencing had its own strange set of requirements that didn’t match either of those scenarios.
I sat down and created a business concept that concentrated on providing speaker training for webinar presenters. As a side note, I figured I could also provide a few tips and guidelines for people who wanted some help in setting up their web events. Much to my surprise, I found that my “sideline” business offering was the one that caught fire first. I’m coming up on five years with my business, and the two offerings are only now starting to balance out. I have lots of presenter training clients and lots of event support clients, which makes me quite happy.
In terms of my business goals, I made a decision that I was not out to create a big company that would some day be sold off or go public or would rely on ever-expanding volume as a measurement of success. Instead, I wanted to be in personal control of all aspects of the business and services rendered. If I never again had to sit through another corporate departmental meeting, that would be fine with me. So I have no employees, no big marketing and advertising campaigns, and no commission-hungry salespeople. I take on as much business as I can personally handle while delivering quality personalized attention to each client. It keeps me busy, but it also keeps me happy. Not a bad thing to accomplish in a career.
There are a lot of strange and seemingly unrelated influences and experiences in my background that contribute to my understanding of and comfort with the tasks needed for good web conferencing. Some of the things I call upon come from this grab bag of experiences:
- My father has been an advertising and PR professional all his life. I learned a lot about public presentation of concepts from him. I also worked in an advertising agency and got a chance to see how copy and graphics work together to influence an audience.
- I have had training in public speaking (on and off camera) and radio broadcasting (which is surprisingly applicable to web presentations). I have a great deal of experience in stage acting as well. But one of the best training grounds for this type of public presentation may have been the five years I spent as an international tour guide and tour director. There’s something about having to engage an audience over a microphone, even when you’re sitting down in the jump seat of a tour bus and can’t see your audience while knowing they can’t see you. Vocal skills and an ability to combine education and entertainment become crucial.
- My early career path concentrated on computer programming and corporate training/support for computer users. So I had to learn how to use various types of software technology and make it understandable for new users. Later I switched to product marketing, which gave me an appreciation of various promotional techniques and lead generation requirements.
As the Grateful Dead sang, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” I hope these ramblings have given you a better idea of my path to Webinar Success. I appreciate your comments and questions, and I hope this blog continues to satisfy your interests.