A recent survey by industry leader CarlsonLit Travel on the state of the meetings and event industry showed something interesting- 96% of companies surveyed use webmeetings, webinars or video conferencing at least once in a while. Yet when you ask participants if the meetings are done well or worth the time, most respond with a resounding "Not even close". What gives?
The three reasons most people hate webmeetings and webinars are not terribly surprising:
- The technology gets in the way (they can't connect/hear/figure out how to get past their IT security systems)
- The webinar or meeting takes too long
- The presenters are boring or hard to listen to
The first reason is valid, although as the platforms become more stable and people become more familiar with the technology, complaints are dropping. That's not true for the other two reasons- they're as unpopular and awful as ever. There's less excuse for that. Both are in the direct control of the presenter.
We believe there are two reasons people don't do good webmeetings or web presentations, and both stem from a common problem: presenting online is like presenting anywhere else, except you're trying to do it while running unfamiliar technology. It's like trying to give a speech while programming your DVR.
The two reasons are:
- They haven't seen a good meeting or webinar in action. They don't know the possibilities (most people use fewer than 25% of the features available on their presentation platform) and have no role models. If all you've seen are badly run, boring glitch-fests, why would you want to inflict that on other people?
- They don't learn the technology before they have to be in front of an audience. It's stunning to hear from so many people who have been told to use webmeetings or webinars, and the first real experience they have is when there is an audience on the other end of the line. It is difficult to relax and become competent at something if you don't get real hands-on experience or practice before the stakes are high. It would be like learning to drive the first time by taking your parents to the airport. Would you want to be in that vehicle? Why would you want to take part in that webmeeting?
Our own research shows that fewer than 20% of companies offer true training when rolling out a web platform to their employees. In fact the numbers are somewhat surprising:
- 60% of respondents say they got offered no online presentation skills at all. They're basically told "here's a WebEx license, try not to hurt someone".
- 23% were offered asynchronous (recorded) webinars online only, usually by the platform provider. The vendors have tons of recorded tutorials if you want to wade through them and then practice by yourself
- 10% were offered training by their companies. These were either delivered internally or by outside providers such as our own company and others.
- 7% were told to find training on their own and the company would pay for it. This includes free webinars held by vendors as well as training individuals can enroll for, like we offer at Greatwebmeetings.com.
While everyone has their own definition of what exactly training entails, we believe that the definition includes knowledge acquisition, assessment as well as practice and feedback to demonstrate that you actually learned something.
People won't use a tool- at least not well- if they aren't given a chance to see it inaction, get their hands on it, and practice when the stakes aren't high.
What's your organization doing to help people develop good online presentation, meeting and sales skills?
Wayne Turmel is the author of "6 Weeks to a Great Webinar", the upcoming "10 Steps to a Great Virtual Presentation" (January 2011 ASTD Press), and the president of Greatwebmeetings.com.