I was speaking to my nephew the other day. He is in his early twenties. I brought up something about webinars and he exclaimed, “Pssshh… Nobody my age watches webinars. They’re just bad advertising and a waste of time.”
Then I had a briefing from a major vendor about upcoming developments. Their briefing slide deck started with a big, bold slide in large font text proclaiming: “We Are Reinventing The Webinar!” After the briefing it became clear that their developments were mostly minor cosmetic and administrative productivity improvements, with no change to functionality or flexibility for presenters and no changes in the attendee experience.
I just now started to write: “This isn’t good enough.” Then I stopped and thought about that sentence for a bit. “Good enough” is exactly what it is. Just enough quality to be acceptable, but not enough to be exceptional. It is the very definition of the word “mediocre” – Ordinary; not special, exceptional, or great; of medium quality.
Webinar software and webinar presentations are mature enough to have settled into a comfortable, stable existence. Most of the time you know exactly what you are going to get from a webinar presentation product and from a webinar presentation. It is certainly possible to stand out, but that is the nature of exceptionalism… Such breaks from the norm are by definition rare and unexpected.
Because it’s my career field, I peruse many blogs, books, speeches, and webinars about presentation design and technique. There really hasn’t been much new to say about it in many years. Everybody ends up repeating the same basic concepts… Spend more time rehearsing. Tell more of a story that connects with your audience. Highlight a few key points that can be grasped and assimilated easily. Use compelling visuals. Communicate energy and enthusiasm for your subject. And so on.
Yet the majority of presentations are (again, by definition) “mediocre.” They use the same old bullet point slides, read in a monotone by an under-prepared speaker. They oversell and under-deliver on utility and value for the listener. “Nobody has the time” to spend on lifting the basic content and presentation technique to a higher level, and they don’t want to spend the money to engage a professional to do it for them.
The majority of webinar products are similarly “mediocre.” They allow presenters to talk over PowerPoint slides to an audience and probably to communicate through typed chat. Yet once they achieve their basic design, continued development tends to be trivial and superficial rather than addressing serious functional improvements. There is still far too little investment in making customization easier and more extensive for registration pages, landing pages, and emails. There is too little work done on improving both the user and presenter/administrator experience for two-way communications such as typed questions and chat messages. Interactive polls are still mostly limited to simple lists of 5-7 multiple choice options. Reporting is rudimentary, leaving useful summarization and analysis as a manual exercise for administrators.
I realize I am painting with a broad brush here. As I said earlier, there are standouts and examples of exceptionalism on the presentation side and on the technology side. Maybe it’s time to step back and do some serious introspection… Whether you are a webinar vendor or a user, are you part of the “just good enough” majority, or are you one of the exceptional outliers? Isn’t it worth differentiating yourself from the pack and creating something that truly stands out? It takes extra time, dedication, and effort. Maybe extra money as well. But isn’t your business success worth that extra investment?