Webinars: Weird Word, but Worthwhile?

Ok, before we get into a recap of last week’s class, I have to get something out of the way:

I really, really dislike the word webinar. To be fair, I don’t hate it as much as my friend Amy  hates the word moist. It just seems like one of those terms that is destined to become outdated, like “information superhighway.” Or maybe it’s that it seems close to those overly corporate words like “leverage” and “synergy.” Certain academic programs definitely have these sorts of words too — if you’re in SI, take a drink of water the next time someone talks about “stakeholders” or “deliverables.”

To be a clear though, I don’t actually hate Webinars themselves — I just think that the word (some odd attempt to tack “web” on to “seminar.” doesn’t quite get at what they are. And although sometimes Webinars are a little too sales-pitch-y for my tastes, there are plenty that aren’t overtly trying to sell you something. Many of them relay useful information in a format that allows for presentation with some ability to ask questions or respond to the speaker (from afar).

I like the idea of watching something, being able to ask questions in the moment, but then also being able to watch recordings later. I have to admit that in learning some useful tricks about ZenDesk, MailChimp and Batchbook, I’ve been really grateful that previous webinars are archived. It really helped me get a review on necessary features without having to schedule some specific time to join a live session.

But, as we discussed in class, there are downsides to webinars, too. It’s sometimes difficult to give the webinar your undivided attention. You’re on your computer, the speaker is covering something you sort of know, and so you drift off. Next thing you know, you have 5 windows open, you’ve finished a homework assignment, you’ve bought a birthday gift for your brother on Amazon, and you’ve made a veterinary appointment… but you’ve totally lost what the presenter was saying. Not that I have ever had this happen to me personally or anything — this is just a hypothetical situation. But yes, distraction can creep in easily.

We also discussed (and saw) how allowing a chat backchannel can be distracting. I think that most of the time, that chat/question feed can be really useful, but I’m fairly convinced that while the main presenter is talking, there needs to be a deputy on chat duty, monitoring, tossing important questions over to the presenter, etc. Otherwise, the backchannel conversation can diverge so seriously from the presenter’s agenda that it’s almost like there are two (or more) simultaneous seminars happening. As a user, that can be distracting and sometimes frustrating.

I’m curious to be a part of actually leading/presenting a webinar, and also enthused to see what my classmates will chose to present. I have a good team and I’m excited about the topic that we’ve selected — focusing on patrons who are post-college but pre-kiddos (sometimes falling under the Young Professional category) as a population that may be underserved by/under-connected to their local library. We’re still gathering our research, and although we have some great stuff, we’re open to more case studies and information, so if you have specific resources or stories to share, please do!

What about you? Have you ever led a webinar? What was the best webinar that you’ve attended? The worst?
Like me, do you really dislike the word webinar? Or am I alone on that one?
(It’s OK.)

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4 thoughts on “Webinars: Weird Word, but Worthwhile?

  1. I hate the word webinar, maybe MORE than Amy hates the word moist. I do also like webinars for the most part. Some of them can get bad (the one I watched for this class was awful) but I think they can be really instructional. Your webinar sounds interesting, I might just have to attend 🙂

    1. I don’t know… Amy hates the word moist A LOT. Maybe we should have some 826 fundraiser that involves people’s most hated words? I don’t know how we’d do that though. I hope our webinar will be interesting! Still working out what we want to highlight, but I think it’s so far been an intriguing topic to dig into!

  2. I have mixed feelings about webinars. I want them to be like TED talks with the whiz-bang ideas and the professional presenters, but I find that I am so easily distracted by all the things happening on my screen, I am constantly dividing my attention. That being said, I’ve loved all our classmates’ webinars this week, partly just because the platform allowed us to step into the role of professional by claiming some authority, and that’s always a confidence-booster!

  3. I agree with the necessity of having someone on chat-duty. When presenting my group’s webinar, I was in no shape to monitor the chat with any seriousness while also changing my slides, speaking in a microphone voice, and monitoring the interactive portions of my section. One idea I just had while reading your blog, though, was that there should be an option for the chat moderator to actually “feed” questions to the presenter. In other words, appropriate questions could be made to pop up more prominently on the presenter’s screen – sort of like a call screener on a radio show. I wonder if any of the current webinar software options have such functionality.

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