Webinars are so prevalent in the internet marketing and the technology industries that we sometimes forget that many people still don’t know what they are.
Let’s start with a description of it’s predecessor, the teleconference or teleseminar. I’m sure you are familiar with what a seminar is. Seminars or a conference is when you attend an in person meeting which has a speaker that talks about a particular topic. Teleseminars are very similiar except that you attend by calling a phone number and listening to the speaker. They have become very popular because the attendees avoid the cost of traveling and the presenters avoid the cost of renting a room. Another great thing about teleseminars is that they are usually recorded, so the busy person can listen to the recording later at a time of his or her choosing, although this means missing the chance to ask questions.
However, teleseminar attendee doesn’t always get the full learning experience of attending in person. You don’t see the speaker’s facial, body language and the presentation materials (such as demos and slides). Since people learn best when they receive information in multiple ways (audio and visual), some information is not absorbed as well when it is in an audio format.
Some teleseminar presenters will send out slides ahead of the meeting, which helps, but the presenter has to be very mindful of not losing his audience. The speaker must make sure the attendees are looking at the right slide and clue them in when moving to the next slide. This is where the technology of a webinar comes in as it solves this problem, syncing the visual to the audio. So here is how webinar works:
No need to figure out where in the presentation materials the speaker is, you just need to look at your computer screen. And the presentation can be more than just slides, you can see live demos and videos. Additionally many webinar tools allow the presenter to “point” to (with an arrow or some other symbol) the part of the slide that is being discussed, which can really help at times!
Webinars can be recorded just like teleseminars for later viewing. And if you want to listen to a webinar but you are away from your computer, you can still listen in but you will miss the visual component of the presentation.
There are a number of technologies that provide webinar capabilities. Some require no additional software to be installed, you just point your web browser to the right URL. Other webinars, when you click on a link, will automatically download the software, this may take a minute or two. Often you can listen to the audio through your computer sound card rather than calling a telephone number, a boon to folks (especially those overseas) who want to avoid long distance charges.
Webinars are becoming more and more common, so if you want to learn more about a topic it is the next best thing to attending a talk in person.
The Career Journal, part of the Wall Street Journal site, published Working Productively as a Telecommuter. The article had some good but general tips, such as avoiding isolation and making an effort to reach out to work colleagues, but some of the suggestions were of dubious value. In particular the old school urging of “dressing appropriately”.
I work out of a home office 4 days a week. I started telecommuting several years ago starting with 2 or 3 days a week. Some days I start my days very early, often around 7:30 in the morning. And at that hour, I am not interested in putting on a suit or other work attire. In fact, I might be even in my sweats, yet to take a shower, and my productivity is not impacted one bit.
In the end if you are committed to what you do, you really don’t have to worry too much about “preparing yourself psychologically” as Garone advised, as most people can make the transition. The article would have been far more useful dealing with topics such how to keep cohesion with a distributed team and a survey of ways to keep in touch with your colleagues (IM, email, phone, twitter) and when to use each.