Do you know what webinars can do?

2012

Would you send someone skiing down a mountain if all you did first was show them a video on how to bend their knees to cushion impact? Probably not. Yet that's how many of us learn to use web presentation tools. If we're lucky, we get some kind of walkthrough training, maybe an "online tutorial" and then are told to make it work. And we're shocked that people don't rush right out and use it.

Okay, there's a difference in risk between strapping boards to your feet and daring gravity to do its worst, and trying to use WebEx. No one to my knowledge has ever sustained physical injury from a bad webinar. I've been on some, though, that make me think plowing into a pine tree seem like a viable alternative. The simple fact is, how most of us get exposed to these tools doesn't work well.

After years of teaching people to present effectively using these tools, I'm still surprised that the number one response from people is: "I didn't know you could do that". The reason is simple: they've never seen them used well in context, and never had the chance to try them without the pressure of an audience full of innocent victims.

To really appreciate what something can do people need three things:

  1. They need to understand why the tool is useful (information and context help us open up to why we should use something and how it can be used to make our lives easier)
  2. They need to see it modeled or demonstrated in a way they can relate to (telling people that a white board feature is available isn't the same as actually seeing someone use it well to facilitate a brainstorm or teach a crucial point)
  3. They need to try it themselves and be free to make mistakes (kinesthetic learners - which is most of us - learn by experience and trial and error)

This last part is critical and maybe the most frequently ignored fact about getting people to use technology. To use the skiing analogy again: if everyone on the hill stopped to see your first run down the hill,you would probably do one of two things: Do the minimum possible to avoid embarrassment or injury or you'd fake an injury and take the lift to the bottom and hit the lodge for a frosty beverage.

Some brave souls will soldier on and learn to ski, most won't. They'll chalk it up to something that wasn't nearly as much fun as it was advertised to be.

The same thing happens when people aren't properly introduced to tools like webinars and webmeetings. Most don't see how the features are useful or understand the possibilities, so they don't bother. Of those who do, many will do the bare minimum to accomplish what they need without humiliating themselves or seeming less than professional. A brave few will push through and learn to communicate effectively with the tools at their disposal.

So have you and your team seen your web platform properly modeled using real-world situations? Have you had a chance to poke around and practice before being put on display? Or have you been put at the top of the mountain and told to miss the trees?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.