When I worked as an elementary school counselor, I used to get emails about webinars several times a year. Some looked really interesting, yet I never bit. How was I going to find time to participate in a webinar in the middle of a busy school day?
But if I’m being honest, I have to admit there was another reason — one that it’s probably not PC (that’s politically correct, not personal computer) for a Tech Talk contributor to admit — I was intimidated. I didn’t know the first thing about webinars. And I didn’t want to look foolish.
As it turns out, it was my hesitation that was foolish. If you can type in a web address and click on a link, you can attend a webinar. And the onus is on the presenter to make it accessible. As an attendee, you can sit back, relax — in your pjs if you’d like — and learn about, well, almost anything.
Just as “blog” is a shortened version of “weblog,” “webinar” is a condensed form of “web-based seminar.” Webopedia defines webinars as workshops or seminars that are transmitted over the web using video conferencing software. In addition, webinars afford the opportunity for interaction, just as live, in-person workshops and seminars do. At a live webinar, you can usually type your question into a box on your computer screen, and hit send to transmit it to the staff running the event. Much less nerve-wracking than stepping up to an actual microphone, and much less embarrassing if you are, indeed, attending in your pjs.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a webinar guru. Nor am I even a veteran attendee; I need only one hand, in fact, on which to count the number of webinars I’ve attended. Most have been great. One was a thinly-veiled advertisement for a service, which, in retrospect, should not have surprised me. (Next time I’ll do my homework a bit more thoroughly).
But, as I’ve already pointed out, the learning curve for webinar attendance is pretty much a straight, flat line. That said, there are a few things you can do to enhance your enjoyment of your selected webinar.
1. Make an appointment with yourself.
Write it on your calendar so that you give it the same importance you’d give to a live workshop or seminar. This way, you’ll plan for it, as you would for any other social or business obligation.
2. Get ready.
Get a drink, use the bathroom, dress for comfort. Grab a pen and a notebook, or whatever you want to use to record key points. Setting yourself up before you sign in allows you to sit back, relax and avoid scrambling for necessities once the webinar has started.
3. Show up early.
Some live webinars will take a few minutes to set up on your computer. Typically, you’ll receive a link when you register for the webinar, and clicking on that link will take you through whatever steps are necessary to get connected. Set-up is usually easy, so showing up early might even earn you a few stealth minutes to yourself. (Obviously, this is not an issue for pre-recorded webinars).
4. Eliminate distractions.
Close the door, turn off your phone (or set it to vibrate if you need to remain accessible) and shut down social media. If you treat this as you would an in-person speaker, you’ll get more out of it.
5. Take notes.
Some webinars (usually ones you pay for) provide handouts in advance when you register. Others may not, but if the subject matter was interesting enough to tempt you in the first place, it’s probably worth remembering. And if you’re like me, that means jotting down key points for later reference.
6. Relax and enjoy.
Webinars really are a low-key way to learn, and, like so many other web-based enterprises, they allow you to attend when it works for you, whether that’s at 5 am (when this Tech Talker is still snoring) or after midnight.
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Just to let you know how widespread webinars are: a Google search yielded 4,820,000 hits. Among these were recorded webinars (those that have already been run live, so you won’t have a chance to submit your own questions) and announcements for upcoming web events.
Just in case you didn’t feel like combing through that many hits, I thought I’d give you a few to get started.
Sites to check out:
A webinar especially for Catholic moms (recorded):
If you decide to give a webinar a try (especially if you’re a first time attendee), I’d love to hear from you about how it went — and whether or not you attended in your pajamas.
Copyright 2014 Lisa Hess