I generally aim to attend at least one webinar a month (useully free ones, but sometimes paid for) – with the intention of increasing my knowledge on current subject matter or emerging topics, or as a knowledge refresh used in combination with recent experience and my own lessons learned. A recent frustrating experience revolved around the inability to have an in-depth discussion on a particular point, due primarily to the delivery via a webinar, got me thinking as to whether webinar’s are actually useful.
For me, the main benefits of attending a webinar are around the reduction in travel, cost and inconvenience – I can watch the webinar from the ‘comfort’ of my laptop (or other mobile device). This coupled with time saving from travel, and the increasing recording of webinars thus allowing me to view at any time is great – I can choose when I undertake self development of continuous professional development (CPD)… I can even collect CPD points.
Other benefits include the ability to spend just an hour to get an overview of a topic, or to spend quality time on one single sub-topic is very useful, and a good use of my time. All I generally need to do is download a browser plugin (no other special software required) and away I go – as an independent project manager with control over my IT this is straight forward, but may be more tricky for corporates or government departments where computers are more controlled or locked down. The effort required at the presenters end is also simplified – no need to find a venue, pay for it, organise catering, travel to the venue, and then hope people turn up – usually from a relatively small geographical area. A webinar just requires the ability to share PowerPoint slides and the ability to transmit your voice (or webcam as well if you are keen!), and can be attended by anyone, anywhere.
The primary downsides for me are the inability to network with other attendees – there may be the ability to have a ‘live chat’, but this is not quiet the same. Also, you can generally ask the presenter questions during or after the presentation, which is good and akin to a face-to-face event, but sometimes the questions end up being out of context, and you do not always have the ability to easily clarify – after all text can be read a number of ways… just like an email. The ability to have a follow up question is likewise not always easy, as the presenter usually likes to answer as many questions for different people as possible, which is fair enough.
For me, I think the benefits do outway any frustration with certain elements. The ability to dip in and out of a low or free of charge event to supplement other ways of learning is great, and essential in our time (and funding) limited lives. What are your views and experiences – are webinars worth their weight in gold, or are they not useful?
I have been in some pretty dire webinars in my time but my hope is that those where I have been involved in the planning and organisation have been that bit more interactive & engaging.
I recently wrote an article following my participation in a really good webinar organised by Donald H Taylor who is responsible for Learning Technologies conference … http://chanctonbury.org/webinars/
You mentioned the use of PowerPoint which I think can be super-charged with the inclusion of the http://sendsteps.com plug-in. This works well for a physical, virtual or hybrid event that uses simple PowerPoint & serves to maximise participation & ensure the audience voice is heard http://chanctonbury.org/winning_presentations/
Thanks Merv, will take a look at the links.
I am involved with the Association for Project Management (APM) and the Association for Geographic Information (AGI) to support the members through CPD – this is traditionally face to face events, but increasingly moving to include webinars and alternative engagement media.