I’m a life-long learner, I read voraciously, and really value intelligent conversations. I also really enjoy collaborating with others, learning from different perspectives, and combining theoretical constructs with practical/pragmatic applications of ideas.
Like most other professionals, I get a ton of emails about upcoming webinars, particularly while we’re all living with the Covid-19 pandemic and am often eager to learn from others I perceive to be thought- or practice-leaders and brilliant sources of insights.
So, I embarked on a journey to soak in as much of this online tsunami of learning as possible. I registered for, attended, or otherwise watched replays of 128 webinars over a two-week period. I know what you’re thinking – no one can attend that many. And you’re right – several times throughout the week, I had double, if not triple bookings. I was on a European one at 5 AM my time and others from Asia late into the night. Oh yeah, I still had work of my own to do as well. Many organizations send replays of their sessions and instead of streaming yet another mind-numbing TV series on my favorite streaming service over the weekend, I decided to watch replays of the sessions I had missed.
Scott Galloway, NYU Stern Professor of Marketing recently put on a two-week strategy sprint that I attended. Although much of was pre-recorded, he did deliver two (2) 90-minute live stream sessions with his over-the-top, ambivalent style.
Here are five key takeaways. See my recommendations at the end:
1. Just Because You Can’t, Doesn’t Mean You Should! 115 or roughly 90% were a waste of time and I disengaged rather quickly. Amateur hosts, narcissistic, grandstanding guests, and zero value from the onset. Completely misaligned between what they promised and the promotional event it became, some never actually got to the core of the content they promised, and too many were selling in a time when they should be focused on adding value and nurturing both existing and new relationships.
2. Expert First, Presenter a Distant Second. 105 or roughly 82% were heavily promoted by a recognizable brand. From my cloud-based CRM provider promoting a celebrity talking about crisis leadership and how difficult it has been to shelter-in-place from her mansion in NYC (please!) to my financial newspaper putting on a three-day digital conference by global luminaries. The best sessions were always by those who had demonstrable expertise and could defend their position in the Q&A sessions, not just regurgitate a book report!
3. Who Are You Trying to Date? 97 or roughly 76% were vague or inconsistent about their target audience. In an effort to be of interest to (if not desperate for) a very broad spectrum of participants, they catered to none! Large enterprises have very different needs than small- and medium-sized businesses. Most executives don’t attend webinars, so they were predominately catered to front-line contributors, mid-level managers, and periodically influencers. Even within a function, say marketing or sales, the spectrum of need is vastly different.
Alan Weiss, Ph.D. is not only focused on the solo-practitioner market but he consistently delivers unique value in each online session.
4. Confusing Outcome with Input and Format. All were one-to-many webinars, where one to a few presenters spoke at the rest. That’s input – what and how they did it. The challenge is that they lost sight of the outcome, which should have been to ask, “what has to happen for x to become y?” In many cases, one-on-one or one-to-few would have been a dramatically better format and instead of a solid hour or even 45 min of content, they should have spoken/presented less and discussed more.
5. Old Containers to Hold New Ideas. I’m reminded of when TV was first introduced. Did you know they used to broadcast radio shows?! That’s what they knew. Webinars, virtual, online presentations, are all in their infancy. The tech is still kludgy, presenters are still digital amateurs, and the experience is like watching a TV show of a radio broadcast. The opportunity is to make it dramatically more energetic, engaging, experiential, if not immersive.
We recently used a digital whiteboard for our two-day program on Strategy Visualization and Agile Alignment at Emory Executive Education.
So, here are my five recommendations:
1. If you’re thinking of doing a webinar, Don’t. I started ten years go because it was a novel format, they became passé, and Covid-19 has proven, like Periscope, their time has passed! A lot of the current platforms are the MySpace of their era and their 15 minutes of fame are up!
2. If you insist on doing them, focus on audience, outcome, path. Who’s your singular target audience – focus on a smaller, more intimate gathering just for them. What’s your desired outcomes – what do you want them to think, feel, or do anything differently? How can you connect the dot from their now to their next?
3. You’re Not the Hero of the Journey. Any online session should be less about you and a lot more about how your target audience is better off because of you. Be Yoda – their guide. The hero can’t get to their desired outcome by themselves. If they could, they wouldn’t need you. Have a plan and guide them to their desired promise land. That’s why Everest climbers use Sherpas!
4. Think Before You Present. No one wants to know everything you know. Most people can’t remember more than three pertinent points. Focus on the most salient ones to bridge their unique situation. You’re not in the ice cream business, but if you give people a taste of your mad skills, those who get it will seek you out and want more.
5. Learn from Every Digital Interaction. Digital etiquette and digital relationships are more critical than ever. If you’re not learning something from every single digital interaction, you’re leaving personal and professional growth and by extension, your personal value creation opportunities, on the table.
Your strategic relationships need your unique ideas and independent perspectives more than ever. How you package and deliver those ideas and perspectives to engage and influence your relationships, and in the process, ensure that they’re dramatically better off because of you, will make all the difference.
For a list of the actual 128 Webinar, head over to our member-community, Nour Forum.