I recently chaired my third webinar. I kind of like them. I don’t think they will totally replace live meetings because humans are social animals and we like to see each other in person. But webinars are certainly a viable alternative to live meetings.
Chairing a webinar is like chairing a session on a hot topic at a live meeting. The big difference is you are sitting somewhere alone in a room with the controls all in front of you. Whether you act like a master of ceremonies or a mad scientist is up to you!
Our most recent webinar was on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau examinations, a topic all lenders are fretting about or actually going through now. I like to learn things at the meetings I chair as well as being the emcee and the fact that lodged itself in my brain most forcefully is that one page of law translates itself into 10 pages of rules. So we can expect 23,000 pages of rules from the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank legislation. Why is that not comforting?
The advantages of webinars are obvious—no travel, no hotel, no time away from our beloved work computers and email. But that’s a disadvantage as well. Since you are at work while tuning into a webinar, you can be easily distracted by the phone, the boss, the press of business. At a remote event, while we remain tethered to the home office by myriads of devices, there’s more of a chance of being undisturbed. I find that the creativity of business thinking is enhanced by giving the brain a little room to breathe.
Putting together a good webinar still takes all the skills of putting together a good session at a live event. You need great topics, knowledgeable speakers and, hopefully, engaging speaking styles.
You should always leave a good bit of time for questions. Attendees cannot interrupt speakers while they are talking, but it’s part of the value-add to have your speakers available for their individual questions. Figure 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve always gotten more questions than time permitted for answers!