Webinar of Deceit

I’m not sure I like the concept of webinars. I mean, they seem like a really good idea. Thousands of people can attend a single presentation and no one has to travel anywhere. You can sit in the comfort of your favorite company supplied ergonomically correct desk chair and listen in as some amazing speaker walks through an amazingly creative PowerPoint presentation. Many will be inspired. Questions will be asked via conference call, VoIP, and chat. Lives will be forever changed.

Technology is a beautiful thing.

Except when it’s not. Because sometimes it’s not.

I sat on a conference call today at my desk and literally heard maybe 3 minutes of it. Why? Well, let me tell you why.

It was a topic I was actually interested in. It was something I should have been able to easily pay attention to, but there were several setbacks.

1. The presenter didn’t prepare

The guy fumbled through each slide. Every other word was “um.” He basically read each slide and offered no original information. He could have emailed the PowerPoint out to everyone and we would have gotten more out of it. This was someone who was trying to sell his company’s services to us. We were already sold, we just wanted the information to bring more people into the loop because it is a technology that will give us a great deal of leverage when trying to combat fraud.

2. The PowerPoint was boring

I’m not PowerPoint wiz, but I can tell when something doesn’t look good, when there is too much text on a page, and when there are too many slides with bullet points. I am being slightly prideful here because I recently created a pretty awesome PowerPoint presentation with little to no bullet points. Since then, I have been searching for examples of great presentations to get more ideas on how to present information in a more entertaining way. This guy cut a pasted text onto some slides and tried to pass it off as a presentation.

3. I was sitting at my desk

This is probably the biggest obstacle for me, and the second biggest reason why I cannot stand webinars (not how I have moved from being unsure of whether or not I likes the concept of webinars to a full on inability to stand them). I have work sitting in front of me. I have emails to read. I have the internet calling my name (or maybe that was Siri). I have the iPhone 5 announcement being live-blogged to my cube. I have people passing by my desk. I have conversations in other cubes happening. I have my phone sitting next to me. In short, there are a lot of distractions around me. Couple that with a poor presentation and you can start to see why webinars are not good for people who are easily distracted.

But the biggest reason why I can’t stand webinars is that they make the whole experience so impersonal. The presenter can’t read the audience. The audience can’t let the presenter know that he’s bombing. There is all this unspoken communication that goes on when a group of people are sitting in a room together. Granted, I’ve sat in plenty of meetings and not heard what was being said, but I have never attended a webinar where I was so thuroughly enthralled that I could not look away; when Outlook and a text from my wife did not take precedence over was was on the screen.

And we aren’t even going to go into pre-recorded webinars. That’s just sick. If they are going to pre-record, then I am going to pre-listen and none of us need to actually attend.

Technology is a beautiful thing, but there comes a point when it dehumanizes human contact and communication. Technology can make us so much more efficient, but it can also cause us to lose sight of what is important; human relationships.

When do you think technology that is meant to help us move forwards actually causes us to take a step backwards?


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