Does anybody still use the old aphorism about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions? That’s how I feel about many tips and best practices that are shared in the web conferencing industry.
I constantly hear people making blanket recommendations for things that webinar admins and presenters should do to improve their webinars or webcasts. The problem is that our 280-character, sound-bite society has lost interest in attaching context to these recommendations. TL;DR has become the catchphrase and guiding principle of an impatient society.
Let’s make a resolution for the new year to stop placing so much emphasis on HOW to implement best practices and start thinking more about WHY we want to incorporate them.
For instance… My last post suggested ways to make your post-webinar surveys more effective and useful. I gave examples of specific question types you might want to include. But such questions are only worth including if they will provide data useful to achieving a webinar improvement strategy that you have made a commitment to pursue. Otherwise you are wasting your attendees’ time. That’s a surefire strategy for reducing goodwill and the desire to interact with your company.
Webinar polls are another area where strategy is often discarded in favor of generic best practice recommendations. I constantly get asked “How many polls should I include in my webinar?” Do you really think there is a single magic number that applies to every audience, every topic, and every webinar length? I’m sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t. Are you asking about how many polls when you should really be asking about the purpose of polls? Why are you asking your attendees to do extra work for you? Will they get anything out of the exercise? Saying “polls build engagement and a sense of participation” is only true if you actually have a reason to use them and if you can clearly communicate a benefit for attendees who take part.
One of the classic old tips that still comes up every now and again is Guy Kawasaki’s famous “10-20-30 Rule.” There are people who will tell you that you should create 10 slides to be delivered in 20 minutes using a 30-point font. They have completely lost the original context of placing this recommendation in the service of delivering a business pitch to a busy venture capitalist firm! Stop worrying so much about the specific numbers and think more about the underlying strategy of how and what you want to communicate.
Appearing on camera is another area where you need to carefully consider the WHY rather than the HOW. “Audiences like seeing the presenter.” That’s often true in a general sense. But they don’t particularly enjoy seeing a motionless, uncomfortable presenter trapped in a webcam closeup for 60 minutes – undermined by poor lighting, a bad camera angle, and a distracting background. What are you trying to ACHIEVE by using live video? Presenting a more engaging, positive image of your speaker and your company? Are your tactics supporting or frustrating that goal?
Using good tactics and learning from discussions of best practices are laudable. Don’t ignore the advice of experts. Just make sure to step back and ask yourself how to best apply (or alter) those recommendations to match your unique goals, strategies, and business context.