There is an interesting discussion going on in the LinkedIn Group titled “Webcasting & Webinars Best Practices.” I tried putting in a link there, but it may not work from outside the LinkedIn environment. You may need to log in to your LinkedIn account and search for the group on the Groups Directory page. The group has 952 members and the discussions seem to be much less about self-promotion than I see in other webinar groups.
Anyway, the discussion is entitled “The Current State of Webinars: What have we learned and where are we going?” There are quite thoughtful and insightful responses from people really working with the technology. I had to add my two cents of course, and in the spirit of being inclusive, I wanted to share my thoughts with you in case you don’t participate in the LinkedIn discussion.
So full speed to the self-plagiarizing engines… Here’s what I wrote:
1) Terminology only seems to be of interest to those of us in the industry. The average end user will swap terms randomly, with no distinction made between a webinar, webcast, web conference, or "webex" (used generically). I like to think there's a difference, but I always have to ask them what they really mean when they start talking about needing a webinar.
2) Same applies to non-virtual or hybrid events. I've taken to calling them "in-room" or "local" as opposed to "remote" audiences. But concentrating too much on terminology is a recipe for frustration. Our clients don't care and aren't standardizing.
3) Video is the number one priority feature hype for the various technology vendors right now and probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Increased availability has meant much lower quality (both broadcast and on-camera) in a majority of use cases. That's fine for collaborative peer meetings and some educational uses. But I think it is sabotaging public address webinars such as for lead generation, investor relations, and external training. Many clients are creating an unprofessional first impression, and they need serious help in setup, support, and presentation techniques on camera if they are to be seen as trustworthy and quality-oriented.
4) We will see more attention being given to the "virtual environment" vendors by the press, because the avatars and background settings are cool and fun to write about. But they won't supplant normal end-user webinars because of the extra cost and complexity in setup. Eventually (5 years), some of that technology will trickle into end-user webinars in a more simplistic fashion.
5) I still don't get why there isn't more emphasis from the vendors on integrating payment processing for revenue-generating webinars. There is pent up demand and this is a huge growth area as a single feature.
6) I hope we will see an improvement in recognition and integration of peripherals such as headsets and webcams. These still cause users lots of trouble, with order-based dependencies, confirmation boxes, conflicting control panels, etc. This needs serious attention (and it's complex because it is tied in with the underlying operating system, hardware setup, and runtime platform such as Flash, AIR, or Java).
7) I hope for (but do not expect) better exception fallback from vendors who rely on a particular platform to let users connect. For instance, letting in non-Flash users when your platform is Flash-based. Or having alternate connection schemes for firewall/port/RTMP problems at a user's site. There should be an alternate connection method with perhaps lessened functionality that would at least let a user watch/listen.