Question from Bakes: “I’d like to know your thoughts on the benefits of holding a live webinar vs. a pre-recorded webinar that people can access on a site at any time. Also, do you have suggestions as to the best day of the week to hold a webinar, and the best time in the day?”
I’m going to answer this in reverse order. For a discussion of day and time preferences, please see my Webinar Wire post based on a survey I ran earlier this year. Lots of information on scheduling recommendations there!
Live and prerecorded webinars each have benefits and drawbacks. I use both, and typically you’ll get best results from a combination of the two. Live webinars have a psychological importance that says “This is a special event at a set time. We all agree to be there together and share the experience.” Attendees are generally more forgiving of little errors and imperfections in a live performance. They are also willing to spend more time and concentrate on a presentation for longer when it is live. You can help this along by including more interaction and acknowledgement of your audience, making small adjustments to your content and presentation style in response to their feedback. You also get the chance to respond immediately to questions, confusion, and concerns from your audience.
The biggest drawback of live events is that people register and then don’t attend. They forget, conflicts arise, or they simply decide it isn’t worth their time. A secondary drawback is the always present risk of something going wrong in a live setting.
Recorded events give you the opportunity to make sure that everything on the recording is up to the standards you want to present to the world. And obviously people can watch at their own convenience, no matter their schedule or time zone.
Drawbacks of recordings are a more critical judgment factor from your audience. We expect recorded broadcasts to be professional and perfect. People also have much shorter attention spans when watching a recording. They are more easily distracted and unwilling to put up with “filler material.” Whereas one-hour live webinars are common, most experts say that a 15-minute recording is about your maximum for large audience retention and comprehension.
Unfortunately, most companies and speakers are unwilling to invest the time and effort necessary to treat the two types of presentations differently. They simply record the hour-long live event and make it available as an archive. I have given lots of live events with lots of vendors, and I have never heard one that I was satisfied with as a permanent offering. My presentation style is much more formal, polished, and professional on a pre-planned recording. The content is much more directed and to-the-point. My live interactive style is looser, conversational, and includes plenty of live audience interaction. Much of that comes across as frustrating when someone is trying to quickly get the topic points on a recording.
If you must archive a live event, take the time to clean it up before making it public. Balance audio levels, remove introductory comments on how to use the live console, edit out pauses for poll responses, etc. I do this work for clients and it is tedious, exacting manual work. But it results in something that reflects better on them as speakers and their company as professionals.
I made a short recording on this subject using Brainshark. It’s less than three and a half minutes long, which means that anyone who starts it is likely to listen to all the content information. I used a real script, rather than searching for the right words as I talk. I also used a better microphone and digital editing to add good quality audio. Give it a listen. Oh, I warn you that this was done as a marketing promotional tool, so it has a pitch for Webinar Success at the end. Sorry about that, but the main points are still valid for our topic.