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Oct 29 2008

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Building webinar experience

I sat through a webinar hosted by UK trade magazine, Building, earlier today. Entitled Improving Business Efficiency in a Tough Economic Environment, it featured a presentation by Steve Masters of BT, and was chaired by Ray Crotty of C3 Systems (formerly of Bovis). Reflecting Steve’s role at a telecoms giant, most of his talk was focused on ICT – lots of talk about service-oriented architecture, SaaS and the like – and wasn’t particularly specific to the needs of people working in the construction industry. However, that apart, I had some other minor niggles.

  • Firstly (more of a micro-niggle really), in the run-up to the event, I received emails saying the event was due to start at 12.00 BST – in the end, it started at 12.00 GMT.
  • The webinar interface (On24.com) was quite sparse in terms of the information it presented (basically, a Powerpoint screen, a small video screen, a field to ask questions or make comments, and a few buttons to view or download background information or slides. Some may like such simplicity, but I like to feel part of a group when I attend the event. There was no indication of how many people were watching, their backgrounds or interests, etc (OK, some may not have wanted to expose their details, but it would be good to ‘see’ those less reticent).
  • Having run some BIW webinars earlier this year, I know that some web-conference tools (eg: WebEx) allow presenters to poll the audience and present the results in graphs; there was no two-way communication of this kind to help us feel we were engaged with or helping shape the event.
  • I wasn’t particularly motivated to ask questions but I live-blogged via Twitter during the event – partly to see if anyone else I knew was also online (the only related Tweet I saw was from Building‘s web editor!). At Be2camp 2008 earlier this month having a live Twitterfeed allowed live and virtual attendees to share comments, notes and links and to ask questions.
  • Finally, it wasn’t clear if a video of the event would be shared online (eg: via YouTube) where those unable to attend live could view it, comment on it and embed/link to it.

I believe Building is looking to do more online events in future and wants to develop a more Web 2.0 approach to them. GMT aside, I hope these suggestions may help.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2008/10/building-webinar-experience/

3 comments

  1. Cece Salomon-Lee

    Hello Paul,
    Thanks for your feedback regarding your recent experience on a webinar powered by ON24. I would like to take this opportunity to address the points you raised.
    ON24 does allow our customers, in this case Building magazine, to customize the look-and-feel of the webinar interface. In fact, we recently launched the ability to hold these webinars using Flash, which provides even more flexibility and visual impact. While not all of our customers will immediately move to this newer interface, we believe that this transition will occur naturally.
    Regarding interaction, our platform does incorporate the ability to poll and survey audience members. You’re correct as this helps engage the people watching the webinar. With regard to this specific webinar, the presenter may have decided not to use polls based on his/her content. In the end, it’s an option that we do provide to all of our customers.
    As for Twitter, we’ve seen this used primarily with physical events where you have a dispersed group of people throughout a location seeking to communicate with one another. A webinar presents a different scenario as a group of people are coming together, not necessarily to communicate with one another, but rather to hear the content being presented.
    Finally, our customers have the ability to archive the webinar on our platform. We provide a URL that they can then communicate back to viewers. Since the webinar just concluded, a URL may be available in the next few days.
    Overall, you’ve raised interesting points that we believe will evolve as more of our customers move to a Flash based interface for their webinars. Our goal is to support our customers as they continue in this direction, such as including Twitter-like functionality, more visually impactful interfaces and more!
    In fact, we introduced a virtual show solution which is like a webcast/webinar on steroids – you can chat with other attendees, engage in group chats, search for peers, view presentations and interact with companies for more information.
    We welcome your feedback as this helps us to make our solutions better. If you or your readers have any additional questions about ON24, please feel free to email me directly at cece [dot] lee @ on24 [dot] com.
    Best regards,
    Cece Salomon-Lee
    Sr. Marketing Communications Manager
    ON24

  2. Paul Wilkinson

    Thanks Cece,
    I didn’t doubt that ON24 had the capabilities (eg: polls) to enrich the attendee’s user experience; I was more focused on how the application was used on this occasion. However, I suspect the event was more geared towards Building’s usual readership (not generally very switched on to Web 2.0) than people keen to see more interactivity/community in their online experience.
    I have seen Twitter used very successfully to bridge the gap between those ‘in the room’ and those online.
    The solution “which is like a webcast/webinar on steroids” sounds fantastic. Is it available yet, and, if so, where can I see it? Does it interface with open Web 2.0 apps like Twitter or is it more proprietary?

  3. Cece Salomon-Lee

    Hi Paul, if people are more interested in learning about our virtual show solution, they can learn more at: http://on24.com/products_virtualshow.html.
    The solution is available and we are constantly looking at how to integrate appropriate apps into the solution. More than happy to hear feedback at pr @ on24 [dot] com.
    Thanks!

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