The (Not So) Wonderful World of Webinars

I’m not a big fan of webinars. Sure, they can be useful for technical types of training. However, I’ve never found them useful for my purposes in aiding clients in need of a magnetic message and the communications skills to deliver it.


With that bias acknowledged, I admit that I do try them out every now and then, and want to share with you a webinar I recently attended. The topic centered on an aspect of public speaking, one of my main business offerings and an area in which I’m always trying to learn more. What a disappointment. Let me tell you why to help you avoid similar pitfalls:

  • The presenter’s audio was distorted and difficult to listen to. The organizers used one of the popular webcasting services, so I’m guessing someone somewhere had the technical capability to solve the problem. Learning moment: Ensure that your moderator or someone in the background has the capability to run the show from a technical standpoint.
  • The presenter spent five minutes on how wonderful she is and all the high profile companies she has worked for (get a clue; most of us consultants have similar clients). Nobody cares about you. They care about what knowledge you can pass along to them. Get a feel for your audience and deliver the most value possible. Learning moment: Have someone else introduce you. They can say how wonderful you are. Modesty dictates that you should not.
  • There was the omnipresent slide deck. As these things go, this one wasn’t half-bad. It included plenty of photos (although there were the obligatory bullet point slides, too). The problem? Most of the photos were of our speaker/hero in action (well, sort of in action, if behind a lectern counts). I sometimes use this type of photo, too. But not on nearly every slide. Again, a sense of modesty should prevail. Learning moment: Yes, use visuals when you decide to use slides; they are, after all, a visual media. Make them interesting, not just beauty shots trying to demonstrate how wonderful you are.
  • She dawdled in getting to the point. The session title promised three things about this aspect of public speaking. Fifteen minutes into the presentation I bailed since she had just begun to cover point number one. Learning moment: Set the groundwork early in your talk, then build upon it. Don’t hide your material in the false belief that your audience will be on the edge of their seats. Give them a reason to care and to invest their time and energy with you.

What would you have done in this situation? Would you have logged off early? Or would you have stayed in hopes things would get better? And what experiences have you had with webinars — good, bad, or indifferent?



  1. I’ve got roots in talk radio, John, and love the medium. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. John longenecker · · Reply

    All keen observations, Ed.

    Talkradio guest experts is my beat. I have coached experts to sound like the expert they are once they later get on the air as a guest. This is because their professorial or professional expertise does not translate into being clear and on the air is no place to learn it. One of the very first things I ask is what their core purpose is, and if they cannot articulate that to me clearly and succinctly, I know they will have difficulty in getting to the point on the air.

    Not getting to the point in a timely fashion – or too much self-congratulation or fumbling with clutter – is accentuated when you are in the confinements of the clock on talkradio, callers’ questions and hosts’ follow-up. If you can’t say it to me in two sentences, you won’t say be able to say on the air at all under pressure. In a webinar, you not only hear it, you see it!

    All of your observations – and their learning moments for a webinar – were vital ones, Ed; blunt and necessary.

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