Are you a public speaker or trainer? Right now, you might speak or train in front of a live audience. While that scenario isn’t going away, other options have been available for a while and are changing rapidly. You should know about the latest trends.
In this post, I’ll explain
- What a webinar is
- How webinars work
- How webinars are different from live speaking & training
- Why you might want to use them
- How they’re changing now
What is a webinar?
A webinar is a way to speak to people via your Internet connection. Your audience watches on their computer. They can be anywhere in the world. Sometimes, teams gather together to watch a webinar in a conference room, but most people are sitting at their own computer.
Usually, people listen on their computer, too (this is sometimes called VOIP), but some webinar services let them make a phone call to listen. Usually, the phone call is not free, although you may be able to pay to provide a toll-free number.
In the past, webinars consisted of the speaker’s voice and slides from PowerPoint or another slideware product. That’s changing, though.
How do webinar services work?
Traditionally, webinar services work in 2 ways:
- You upload slides in advance. When you deliver the webinar, you use the webinar’s screen to advance slides and you speak as you go. InstantTeleseminar is an example.
- You share your desktop. You advance slides as you would if you were presenting with a live audience and speak as you go. GoToWebinar and WebEx are two examples.
A few years ago, Adobe Connect and InstantPresenter started offering the option of live video along with slides. This meant that viewers could see the speaker live in one window and the slides in another. WebEx and GoToWebinar followed.
I should mention two services that went in a different direction, Ustream and livestream. These are free video-streaming services – but you can get more featuers if you pay. They are often used to stream live events and make them available to people who can’t attend the live event.
As with any service, there are high-end and low-end options. You can choose what service you want to use based on the features and the price you want to pay. In most cases, the larger your audience, the more you have to pay.
Some of the features offered by one or more of these services are:
- Registration services
- Attendee reports
- Phone support
- Sharing control (an attendee can let the speaker control his/her computer)
- Chat/Q&A screen
- Switching presenters
An important issue is the technology that webinar services use. Some use Java, some use Flash, and others use a proprietary method. Some require an attendee to download software; others don’t.
How webinars are different from live speaking & training
With webinars, you can reach people all over the world. I organized a series of webinars a couple of years ago that had people from 98 countries! Of course, not everyone will attend live, but you can record the live event and post the recording.
You don’t see your audience when you give a webinar. The first time you give one, this is very disconcerting! Are they there? Are they listening? You make up for that disconnect with interactive features, such as chat and polls. For example, you can ask a question and people can type their answers. Then you can read out those answers. (For some services, everyone can read the answers.)
In many services, you can unmute a member of the audience to let him or her speak. This works best with a small audience.
Until recently, most webinars did not include video. Even now, some of the services only allow video for an audience of less than 100 people. Bandwidth issues also made using video uncertain – and that can still be true.
Why you might want to give webinars
For so many reasons!
- Reach people who can’t travel to your location
- Save money on travel expenses
- Record the event and make it available to people who missed it or post it online permanently
- Create short elearning modules
- Record a marketing video that you want to post online
- Deliver a course
- Create a series of webinars, each with a different speaker
Can you think of more? Leave a comment!
How webinars are changing now
The big story now is live video. As bandwidth increases, the possibility for including video has increased.
Why is video such a game changer? Because the experience for the audience is so much more real, so much more like an in-person event. They will connect to you more personally when they can see you speak and move.
I believe that a game changer now is Google+ Hangouts On Air. This service offers a combination of features that can compete against traditional webinar services. And it’s free!
Note the difference between Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts On Air:
- Hangouts: These are video conferences with up to 10 people
- Hangouts On Air: These are public broadcasts with up to 10 speakers and unlimited viewers
I don’t believe I’ll give up my GoToWebinar account, but I am experimenting with Hangouts On Air.
Here are some of the features:
- Live video
- Automatic recording to YouTube (you need a YouTube channel)
- Ability to embed the webinar on your own website
And did I mention that it’s free?
The prerequisites for a Google+ Hangout On Air are a Gmail account, a Google+ account, and a YouTube account. (Google owns YouTube.) They should all be connected to the same Gmail account.
Have you tried Google+ Hangouts On Air? What do you think about it?
If you aren’t giving or considering webinars, why not?