"It's time to face the facts: The webinar is a tool that's just not effective. Let's put it out of its misery."
That is the provocative subhead of an article on www.inc.com written by Justin Bariso: "Why It Is Time to Kill the Webinar"
I happen to disagree with Mr. Bariso (no surprise, given the way I make a living!). But let's take a look at his arguments and see what has led him to such an extreme conclusion. I encourage you to read his entire article. I'm not going to lift much direct text, as I don't want to waste time or space, but I'll try to paraphrase his key evidentiary points succinctly.
1) Many presenters do not have good speaking technique, and instead just read their slides out loud. "In other words, a webinar."
>> Right problem analysis, wrong conclusion. Bad presentation is bad presentation, whether in a conference room, on a stage, or on the web. Reading slides aloud to your audience is NOT a webinar. It's just bad presentation technique.
2) Most webinars try to convey too much information. Attendees forget 90 percent of what you present within two days. So when they go back to try to find your main points again, they have to spend too much time searching through the recording for the few things they care about.
>> Right problem analysis, wrong conclusion. ALL informational presentations suffer from memory impermanence. If you were presenting a keynote on stage in an auditorium, the audience would remember the same limited number of facts. Maybe if there was an audio recording of the speech, they could scan through it linearly, trying to find the things they wanted to review. Same as a webinar.
The web-based medium is not the problem. The problem is supplying the right supporting materials for different uses. If you want your audience to have convenient and effective review materials, create them. They are separate from the presentation materials and serve a different need. Your supporting materials may be in the form of an e-book, a white paper, a quick review "cheat sheet", a data sheet, or a dedicated web page with FAQs and helpful links. Webinars are not the problem, poor support of your audience is the problem.
3) Filler words are distracting and there is nothing else to focus on during a webinar. Attendees can't see the presenter and sit and stare at the same slide for 10 minutes at a time.
>> Right analysis, wrong conclusion. Poor speaking habits, filler words, and static visual supports are as much a problem in local presentations as they are on the web. Almost every webinar technology available today has the ability to show an image of the presenter if desired. Certainly every one of them can display slides as fast as the presenter wants. The webinar medium is not the problem… The problem is presenters who don't care enough to work on speaking technique, effective materials, and proper use of video technology (if desired).
4) Webinars present distractions created by audience interruptions. Mr. Bariso cites a webinar where his line was open and his 2-week-old daughter interrupted the speaker. And the presenter didn't handle it as quickly and as smoothly as Mr. Bariso would have liked.
>> There would have been just as much distraction and far less ease of solving it if Mr. Bariso had brought his 2-week-old into a seminar hall to listen along with him. Webinars solve this situation much more easily than any other medium. The host or the presenter should have muted attendee lines while the main speaker was presenting. This is easily accomplished in most technologies. The same scenario applies to good old fashioned telephone conference calls. I don't know why Mr. Bariso chooses to give webinars the blame.
5) Slideshare recordings or in-person presentations like TED are the preferred way to reach mass audiences. "What about questions from the audience? That's what the comments section is for."
>> Really? Interactive questions where you get an immediate answer from a subject matter expert are less useful than going back and forth on website comments? Come on… This is provocation for the sake of it.
As for Slideshares... Text on slides is about the LEAST effective way of communicating written information. I notice that Mr. Bariso wrote a full article to make his points… Not a series of pithy slides with one sentence each.
Recording a presentation made in person (such as a TED talk) does not eliminate the problems of poor speaking habits, difficulty in reviewing specific points, or having poor visual materials. TED talks are effective because they are taken seriously, by professionals who treat their presentation as an important task worthy of serious construction, refinement, and practice - with consideration of how it comes across to the audience. A good webinar presenter does exactly the same thing. All that changes is the delivery mechanism.
The final point doesn't get a number, because Mr. Bariso never addresses it himself. The subhead of his article says the webinar is a tool that is not effective. How does Mr. Bariso define "effective?" He certainly addresses his own impressions and preferences as an attendee. But effectiveness also applies to the hosting company. Are they using webinars to be effective at lead generation? Customer education? Product/company awareness? Corporate communications? Delivering consulting, services, or knowledge transfer to a wider audience than they could reach in person, while charging for the content? Starting an engagement process and dialog that can be extended and expanded into further communication? Large numbers of businesses find webinars extremely effective for these needs and more.
I applaud Mr. Bariso for calling out bad presentations and trying to raise awareness of the negative effects caused by poor communication techniques and materials. He is spot on, and those are issues I have been battling for many years on this blog and through consulting and training services for companies. But trying to pin the blame on the medium of web communications is shortsighted and unjustified. The only thing a webinar does is make it easier to put your bad presentation in front of more people, more conveniently!