Video Webinars – Maybe Not

Today was a first for me. I tuned in to my first “video” webinar, a webinar where you could actually see the presenter as they talked, and follow along with the slides in a separate area. It was ILTA and Orange Technology’s Amazing Discoveries, Amazing Results webinar with Tom O’Connor and Brett Burney. (Hit the On Demand button in the player to find it.)

My gut reaction to it being a video webinar was, why bother? Look, before I get into criticizing the idea, I want to say that this has nothing at all to do with the content. Tom and Brett were great, and the information provided was excellent. But the addition of video brought no value whatsoever. In fact, due to the greater bandwidth demands brought about not only through the use of video, but the presentation being done as a scheduled webinar, with a large one-time audience, Orange introduced a number of hurdles to the viewer, with no value added to make the obstacles worth it.

For example, since this was a mid-day webinar (12 Noon EST), I assume many viewers were tuned in from their workplace network. Most workplaces struggle with having enough bandwidth available for everyone to use, and here I am trying to stream video on the internet. The added benefit to me for the use of all that bandwidth above and beyond a normal webinar? The chance to see Tom and Brett do their best Max Headroom impressions; jerky, delayed video of them sitting at a PC, and the joy of advancing the presentation slides myself. It’s not like Tom or Brett were doing something hands-on where being able to watch them would add some real value, they were just there, in video format for the sake of being in video format. The content would have been just as good with just the typical audio/shared presentation screen format.

For that matter, the content would have been just as good whether you watched it live at noon today, or watch it later. In a classic example of another pet peeve of mine, there was no Q&A, no interaction with the speakers at all. Why bother with the scheduled webinar if you’re not going to provide any way for the participants to ask questions or interact in any way? Tom and Brett could have just as easily recorded this as an audio podcast and had it available for download later. The content still would have been just as good, and the folks who wanted to hear what they had to say would be able to do so in their own time, and without battling the lag/buffering issues that are brought about trying to watch a live video feed. As it was, there were a couple of spots where bandwidth issues were so bad at my office, that I have no idea what they said! I’m going to have to go back to the on-demand version and watch it again to find out. I sort of wish I had just planned to do that from the beginning.

So here is my advice to folks who want to do video webinars. Use only the technology that adds value. If there’s nothing hands-on to show, don’t bother me with video. You’re sucking up a lot of bandwidth, show me something worth that! Also, if there’s no interaction or added benefit to attending live, don’t make it a live event. There’s nothing wrong with putting up audio/video material for me to consume on my own schedule, in fact I might just be more likely to do that, since I don’t have to worry about schedule conflicts. It does neither of us any good to build a live audience and then do nothing with that audience.

Of course, who am I to argue against the use of bright shiny things? 😉

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  1. Great feedback Mike – and duly noted. We tried to see if this format worked. We actually discussed doing a recorded version or a live version – the recorded version would have provided some benefit based on the serving up of the content – but we wanted to try the live portion to see how it might work. Obviously, from your perspective, it still may be a little early for primetime live with the Livestream service.

    Appreciate your comments – and best/Rob Robinson

  2. Rob,

    Yes, I definitely got the impression from the presentation that this was a "let's see if this works and whether we can do it" experiment, and I understand the need to do that. Don't really have a problem with it actually, but I think once folks have sort of proven that they can, indeed, do a video webinar, they should make sure they're doing something that makes the video worthwhile.

    Other than that, though, the content was excellent, so thanks for putting it together!

  3. Interesting you say that – I'm hoping to get on a Microsoft Exchange 2010 training course that Microsoft are putting out – it's a 3 day event (I'll work from home those days) done completely online. I imagine they'll use livemeeting which does work well for conferences (including automatic advance of powerpoint decks). The advantage for this is that the price is significantly cheaper than a normal 3 day event.
    Having said that, they're also doing the event in Columbus – but I'd have to wait until Feb for this (although the first workshop starts in November online)

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