Webinars – Are we Due for a Redesign of Webinars?


We all have sat in or run a webinar. It might be WebEx, GoTo Meeting, LiveMeeting, or some other web conference tool. I bet you can describe the experience off the top of your head.

The event will last between 45 minutes and one hour. Half the registered attendees will show. Of those that participate, a large percentage of them will split their attention between what is being said, checking e-mail, working on a document, or surfing the internet. Much of the content will be a dry PowerPoint presentation. You might get lucky and have a poll or whiteboard involved.

  • Your organization probably uses webinars in one of these areas:
  • Compliance training – The goal is exposure to content
  • Blended Learning – This is usually a follow-up to a live or eLearning event
  • Corporate Communications – This usually allows opportunities for executives to interact with the workforce. This typically takes the form of a strategy change or a way to share more of the corporate culture.

As the economy has become worse, corporations looked for ways to cut travel costs. Today, in a distributed workforce, hosting and attending webinars is just a part of “how we do business”.

Here’s a novel idea…maybe we should consider redesigning how webinars work.

Let’s talk about a few ideas.


Rather than doing a class with a webinar, what if it was a knowledge sharing session. Rather than lecturing to your audience, perform a roundtable-like event. If the number of attendees is small enough, you can share desktops as needed. Rather than speaking in an instructor-like mode, you can move into a mode of mentor or coach and drill into topics in a form that benefits the attendees.

Does a webinar always need to be an hour? We all know that an hour is an easy choice for administrative reasons. But, from a content standpoint, is it the best choice? How much of the content is really necessary. What if the webinar was between 15-20 minutes, but occurred more regularly?

Are you familiar with a “back channel”? It is kind of like the chat within the webinar, but outside the standard forum. It can be something like a Twitter feed or a web site/blog where people can communicate, share notes, comment on the content, and access related content and materials. The eLearning-driven conference, Learning Solutions, held here in Orlando had a backchannel. You can access that here to see what one is like. Just modify the concept to your needs.

What if the content of the webinar was more like a round-table discussion? Rather than taking the hour to present content, which is typically in a document or a PowerPoint, you could discuss the meaning of the content. For example, you could provide the PowerPoint presentation with your comments in the notes area or you could offer a PDF of the document prior to the event. You could use the annotation feature in Adobe Acrobat to add your personal comments to the material, so others can have that going into the meeting. This requires an assumption that everyone reviews the content prior to the discussion.

When your organization uses webinars, do they take advantage of the tools provided? For example, I am a huge fan of dry erase boards. It takes about 3 minutes for me to present before I am writing on a board. So, for me, the whiteboard feature in the web tool offers a great collaboration option. Do you take advantage of polling? Sharing desktops? Sharing documents? What about the features that allow for chat or raising your hand? Any of these features are typically built in and available to most of your presenters. I am pretty sure you know how to record your webinars for future viewing. If you plan to offer a presentation in which you are presenting and your phone lines are muted, and therefore offering little interaction for your attendees, consider just recording the webinar with no attendees and allow them to watch a recording of the session. It is basically the same thing, and it is something they can view on their own schedule, rather than yours.


Essentially, the bottom line to all of this is that webinars are not going anywhere. We don’t’ have a clear behavioral model for how to best use this technology in sharing information and incorporating collaboration between attendees. Our workplaces are changing and we need to be taking advantage of this moment in time to experiment and try some new things.


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2 Responses to “Webinars – Are we Due for a Redesign of Webinars?”

  1. JD Dillon (@JD_Dillon) Says:

    Completely agreed! Another item on my webinar wish list is the extension of the conversation. Some presenters provide resources at the conclusion of the hour but no asynchronous method to allow participants to add to the sharing. The information should be open for discussion before, during, and after the event alongside resources that make participants less reliant on the presenter. Great post! JD

  2. Webinars…hmmm? « khrystleraineduste Says:

    […] Webinars – Are we Due for a Redesign of Webinars? (cfcastd.wordpress.com) […]

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