Death by Webinar – Ushering in a new wave of Virtual Conferencing

One of the consequences of lockdowns around the world is the sharp spike in the amount of webinars on offer. Nothing like a captive audience, right? In some cases, regular webinar hosts churned out more events and in other cases, new hosts dipped their toes into the waters of running an online event. The result? Unfortunately for the consumer, it wasn’t great. 

We believe this isn’t always the fault of those wanting to host webinars, but rather the fault of webinars as a format rather. When approaching this with a humancentric mindset, it’s easy to see that webinars are a stepping stone towards something better, more efficient or suitable for viewers. Early car designs intentionally mimicked the look of horse carriages, to help people adjust to the concept; in the same way, webinars are the intermediary phase as we explore all the possibilities that a virtual conference can hold. 

But before we get too deep into that – you may be asking, ‘What’s wrong with webinars? I quite enjoy them.’ Here are some reasons: 

The focus is on the teacher 

There is always a place for thought leadership – we strongly advocate for it in fact, by having a variety of contributors write for our blog. But there is little need for a live element when the information transfer is one-way. We could watch a TED-talk or a YouTube video to be inspired or get the latest insights, and then we’re able to do it on our terms. In a webinar, all ‘power’ lies with the presenter – they can mute who they want, choose which questions to field, control the pace of the slides and even remove participants if they want. To summarise, this replicates a high-tech version of an 18th century classroom where the best a viewer can do is sit back and watch. 

They can be boring 

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but sometimes your audience just doesn’t find things as interesting as you hope. By reducing participants to merely viewers, like we discussed in the point above, there is very little activity left to engage them with the content. This allows their minds to wander and potentially drop out of your event. To reiterate, this sometimes has nothing to do with the presenter, their content or presentation, but merely the fact that the framework for this transfer of information is, unfortunately, boring. 

The guise of learning 

We chose the final words of the last paragraph very carefully – webinars aren’t about learning, but rather transfer of information. It’s unfortunate that many webinars operate under the guise of learning though, sometimes promising big things if you apply what is ‘learnt’ through the event. But the definition of learning is quite different, particularly for younger generations. They like to get hands-on and question everything. They want to test things to their breaking points and find out motivations or reasons for things happening the way they do. Webinars are not set up for that; the presenter simply comes on screen and talks through their slides. 

The importance of informal communication 

Think back to how many times a friend or colleague has taught you how to do something – particularly menial things like Excel time-saving hacks or email-managing tricks. You picked up that practical information through informal communication – they didn’t host a web event to present on this. Webinars are all about the formalities and, by limiting the cross-communication, limit the amount of true learning that can happen between viewers. 

What is the alternative then? What can one do to still operate in a virtual space and engage their audience with their content? The answer is simpler than you think. Conferences are a natural space for learning to happen – a hybrid between the formality of thought leaders sharing in sessions and the less structured collaborative thinking in workshops. COVID-19 has dealt a serious blow to the physical format of conferences, which is why Digitlab is proud to be offering virtual conferencing packages. 

We’ve assembled the most energetic team of event professionals to provide innovative and engaging virtual event productions. We know that conferences require great venues, powerful stage setups, engaging content, networking opportunities, influential sponsorships and unique personalised connections and we are positioned to provide everything you need to do exactly that – in a virtual space. Don’t contribute to your customer’s ‘death-by-webinar’ experience – host a virtual conference and engage and collaborate with them instead! 

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