I gave a web seminar today with Adobe covering guidelines for webinar production and management. We had several hundred attendees, ranging from beginners to experienced webinar administrators. It’s very hard to structure content that appeals to that wide a range of backgrounds and expectations. I received some great comments in the audience feedback forms with suggestions for future web seminars, and I’ll be using those to help me structure topic ideas.
There was no way to answer all the questions typed in during the session, so I’ll try here to address some of the ones we missed.
Tom asked: What are ways to get through technical difficulties during the presentation? Reschedule if severe? How do you recover?
Answer: Of course you never want to have to cancel a session in mid-stream. The way to avoid that is to do as much contingency planning and setup as possible. As a moderator and as a presenter I use two computers and two phone lines. I also keep a hardcopy of my slides handy and make sure that I have a confederate who is ready to take over and advance my slides for me if I lose connection. But if you do enough webinars, someday you’ll hit a situation you can’t work around. A fire alarm in your building that forces evacuation… A city-wide blackout… Or the web conferencing vendor’s servers going down in the middle of your event. Then you are going to have to reschedule. That’s not a pleasant situation. When you communicate with your attendees, remember to take their side and their viewpoint. Don’t waste time trying to shift blame away from yourself or give a long and involved technical explanation of why you couldn’t continue. Instead acknowledge that you respect their time and their willingness to take time out of their schedules. Let them know you realize that attending another session is an inconvenience and one you would rather have avoided. But the technical problems were insurmountable and unforeseeable, and you beg their understanding. Then when you get back to the group makeup session, briefly acknowledge the past problem, thank them for attending again, and get into your content. Never mention the problem again. It’s important to leave them with the positive impressions of your great content and knowledge rather than your repeated apologies for things not running correctly.
Audrey and Sarah both asked: How do you pick a meeting time that works for the maximum number of time zones?
Answer: There are practical limitations here, and you simply may not be able to cover all your target time zones with a single session. You can’t beat the laws of geo-spatial demarcation! You’ll either have to schedule multiple live sessions, or figure out how to accommodate the maximum number of geographies and attendees in one live session while letting the other areas watch a recording. My favorite tool for picking multi-region times is http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html. This site lets you enter a date and up to four geographical locations. It shows you a cross-reference table of corresponding times and even color codes typical work hours. You can very quickly and easily scan across the rows to find the best compromise for all regions. The software even figures out which geographies are observing daylight savings time on the given date.
Nadine asked: Any suggestions to kill bouncy sound in a tiled room with no carpet (and the company budget doesn't extend to carpeting another room)?
Answer: There are a few tricks you can try, but acoustical engineering is notoriously difficult to predict. You’ll have to rely on some trial and error. First, try wheeling in as many fabric-covered office chairs as you can. Line them against the walls. This will help absorb some reflections. If you have a big conference table, try covering it with paperback books to reduce its hard reflections. Finally, if you have cubicles with detachable panels, try dragging in a cubicle wall and putting it up directly in front of you so your sound hits it and gets partially absorbed. Good luck!
I'll continue with more Q&A in another post. Keep reading!