EventBuilder webinar strategies blog

What is a webinar? Why we're not fans of the word, and why we use it anyway.

December 1 2016 / by Roger Courville

Webinar is a portmanteau for “web seminar.” You probably knew that, but consider this:

Most webinars are not what most of us think of as seminars.

If you went to an in-person seminar, you’d understand that it’s a learning experience. Most seminars, however, aren’t keynotes or lectures (or at least they shouldn’t be).

And if you sat in the front row of a seminar, raised your hand and the instructor ignored you, what would you think? Isn’t that what we do to people in webinars day in and day out?

The word webinar also has (undeserved) baggage associated with it.

Key word here: undeserved. We don’t blame Microsoft Word for a poorly written report, do we? No. The tool isn’t the problem. The writer is the problem.Webinar-As-Waterboarding

But we blame webinars for being boring? Or salesy? Or…? Is it the software’s fault?  Still, people love to blame webinars like they like to blame PowerPoint.

Most webinar producers confuse the medium and the communication style.

Continuing with the Word analogy, would you open a word processor and think there is only one way to write. No – poetry and technical manuals and TED talk scripts would all look very differently.

When it comes to real time communication in groups, meetings and seminars and keynote speeches and training sessions are all rather different behaviorally and psychosocially.

So why do we think that a presentation – delivered using conferencing or casting software – is “45 minutes of presentation with Q&A at the end?” It totally sells the medium short of its potential.

We’d all be more accurate to use something else

Again: meetings, seminars, mastermind groups, broadcasts, lectures, keynote speeches, workshops, classes, and coaching sessions all, when speaking of our in person interpersonal communication, connote some form of context.

If it was up to me, we’d abandon the virtual distinction. “What do you do? I host classes for presentations skills, onsite or online.”

People in the world of learning and development make a similar argument – that we should drop the “e” from e-learning. Learning is learning, not the medium through which it happens. Work is work regardless of whether or not you’re in the office or at Starbucks. And seminars are seminars when we congregate and facilitate communication in a certain way. Or lectures. Or meetings. You get the idea.

But “webinar” is by far the most used by web searchers, so…

So that’s what we use. Not because it’s our fave, but because we’re also practical business people who serve organizations who need to host meetings, seminars, lectures, keynotes, workshops using video, web, and audio conferencing technology.

The bottom line

So there you have it. We’re not big fans of the word, but we’re obviously big fans of helping organizations be more effective with real time communication that includes participants who aren’t in the same geographic location. It’s why we’ve all been in the industry so long.

And as long as we’re here to serve, we’ll call ‘em whatever you want to call ‘em.

Topics: Business, Observation Deck

Roger Courville

Written by Roger Courville

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