What You Should Expect from a Webinar

Guest Post by Matt Bovell, President of Vell Group, LLC, webinar production services

Usually when I write about webinars, I’m talking to the folks who produce them. Today, however, I’m going to explicitly aim my comments about what you should expect from a quality webinar, to you, the webinar audience.

To Pay or Not to Pay

There is no easy answer to whether or not you should expect to pay to attend a webinar. There are two ways offree-sign looking at it. A mediocre free webinar will waste your time, not your money. If you do get something out of it, then you’re ahead of the game. On the other hand there are those who say the price of a webinar is the presenter’s estimation of the webinar’s worth.  In other words, by asking you to pay, the webinar presenter is telling you that he or she thinks the webinar is worth paying for. The only rule of thumb is your taste. Look at the webinar description and the presenter bio if you can find one. Then make a decision about whether or not the fee being requested is worth it.

While an increasing number of webinars are fee based, there are still many, many webinars that are free to attend. Don’t assume a free webinar is a loser. Again, consider the topic and what you hope to get out of it.

The Technology

The technology behind webinars can be intimidating to presenters but audience members have their share of horror stories also. As a discerning webinar consumer, you should expect the following:

  1. Flexible audio options. A good webinar producer will offer the webinar audio as a stream over the Internet, played on your PC speakers AND as audio pumped through a phone line. This gives you the flexibility to dial in if you don’t have headphones for your PC and you’re in a public place where playing PC audio would be disruptive. On the other hand, you might be traveling and want to attend from somewhere with an Internet “hotspot” where you don’t have a phone. Then the audio stream over your computer is a must.

  2. You may have to download software. Both Webex and GoToWebinar require you to download and execute a small piece of code before the webinar gets underway. It isn’t fair to disparage the webinar host for this inconvenience since he has probably made a decision that the features of the webinar package outweigh the bother of audience members downloading software.  In many if not most cases, you can tell from the webinar invitation that you receive in your e-mail, which technology is being used (e.g. WebEx) so you can plan ahead of time to login to the webinar early and do the download. In fact, many webinar software vendors invite you to test your computer before-hand so you’re ready for the webinar when the time comes.
  3. adobe_flash

  4. There are other webinar platforms that are Flash based, Adobe Connect and omNovia being two of them.  Since more than 90% of consumer PC’s have Flash players, these platforms tend to be the easiest to use from an audience perspective. You have nothing to download. There is only one downside to this. Some corporations have decided to disable Flash on their employee’s workstations. Particularly before you decide to pay for a webinar that might be Flash based, if you are behind a corporate firewall, make sure that Flash can be enabled.

  5. How is your bandwidth? If you are watching a webinar at work, odds are you have a lot of bandwidth, i.e. a very large “pipe” through which all the webinar data flows back and forth. If you are watching from home, then you probably don’t want to use a dial-up connection when you attend a webinar. You will want to have a broadband connection (either DSL, Cable, or fiber-optic). This is particularly true if the webinar presenter uses video or screen sharing which are both bandwidth intensive functions.

Content: How to Know When You’ve Been Robbed

The content discussion is somewhat similar to the pay/no-pay discussion in that only you can decide what is worth your time and possibly money. However, I feel it is my duty to warn you about one tactic that is used by far too many webinar presenters. Sadly, very often you won’t know this is happening to you until you have already entered the “webinar room”.

The tactic is the old bait and switch. Basically, the webinar presenter promises you valuable content but offers you bait-and-switchonly a small morsel of any real intellectual nourishment. Then, he tells you that you need to pay for a bigger package to get the whole enchilada. Marketers charitably call this an up-sell. The truth is a valid up-sell is when you pay for real value and then you’re offered something of greater value. The bait and switch up-sell offers you garbage and hopes your appetite will be so stimulated that you’ll fork over more money for more info. In a one hour up-sell webinar you will get between 30 and 45 minutes of content that you cannot put to good use, followed by 15 to 30 minutes of advertisement for the real product being sold. Many of these marketers will use the “you get $6000.00 of value for only $995.50” ploy where they pulled the $6,000.00 value out of the air and probably can’t justify the $995.50 they’re asking you to pay.

The only silver lining to this phenomenon is that only the craziest of presenters will expect you to pay to attend a glorified infomercial. So the very worst that can happen is you’ve wasted your time. I wish I could tell you how to avoid this scenario but it’s hard to know until you’re actually attending the webinar. One clue is a webinar description that promises too much. “In this webinar, we will unlock the secrets to making you a million dollar entrepreneur.” Really? You can do that for me in 60 minutes? If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

It is not a sin for a webinar presenter to have lead generation as a goal for his webinar. The only condition is that he must offer real value in exchange for getting that lead. If he doesn’t, then he’s playing fast and loose with you.

I don’t want to leave you feeling pessimistic about webinars. In this economy, more and more business people with integrity are turning to webinars to get their message out. You, as the consumer get unbeatable convenience. No travel. Perhaps not even getting out of your pajamas! Together, discerning audience members like you and quality webinar presenters and producers can help improve the webinar industry such that an increasing number of webinars meet or exceed your expectations.

(Photo credit: Free sign, Bait and switch, Flash)

What other factors do you think are important to consider in deciding to attend a webinar? Do you agree or disagree with the above?

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