Interactive Webinars for Customers: We Want Efficient, Informative and Entertaining Talks

WebinarI’m not particularly a fan of specialist events. To be honest? I hate specialist events. I myself am one of the biggest hot air generators I know. And I am proud to have been a professional “champagne glass holder” for about 20 years. Generally, I can easily get to know new people and tell them something that they find interesting. You’d think I would love events and trade fairs. But I do not.

We are currently organizing the next round of our Atlassian Enterprise Club on March 28th, 2017 in Wiesbaden. We have Keshav Puttaswamy who is the Head of Product for the on-premise Confluence team to star in this event. If you would like to have a private one-on-one session with him on the following day (March 29th), you are welcome to book a time slot in advance. Actually, it’s quite the perfect event. If you can make it and have not registered yet, I suggest to do so quickly. There are only a few spots left.

You can probably see some problems: guests all have to travel to Wiesbaden, Germany. That is quite annoying for Mr. Wolzenburg from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg. And what about Puttaswamy from Sydney? He has to travel half the globe to be able to meet us and present here. This is inefficiency at its finest.

Do not get me wrong: I am completely convinced that few things can beat the intensity of a personal meeting. Our customers know that too. Individual sessions are booked out within two or three days. And the event itself is usually packed. Here we face the next challenge: We can fit a maximum of 100 people into our newly rented third floor. What if more people want to attend?

We have not even talked about the organizational effort that such an event demands. If you have had to organize such an event, you know what I’m talking about. And if you have not, well, may you be spared that experience.

Also, the participants have to travel to come to the event. People come from Munich, London, Hamburg, Berlin and from many other cities, which can sometimes mean significant travel times. This is not any different than any other event.

When our Atlassian customer meet-up ends, the two-day conference Tools4AgileTeams, which we organize, will become visible on the horizon.

But let’s leave the discussion about in-person events at that. Let’s talk about those virtual meetings: Webinars.

Most webinars today are modern day Tupperware parties, bad sales pitches, or, in German: Kaffeefahrten. (Thank you Dr. Hoffmann for this analogy.) Someone just wants to sell you something. Interaction is usually limited to the last five minutes. You could also say, “Here are my slides, this is what I want to present… ” (the speaker’s notes are read aloud with strong emphasis) ” … and you may ask questions during the presentation.”

After all, this webinar format is a little bit better than a YouTube video. Not by by much though because even there, you can leave comments and get answers later, if you’d like. I do not particularly like these webinar formats, because someone dictates when I can listen to their presentation. Sure, I want to hear it. With a video though, I can choose the time and place myself. And if I have questions, I’ll ask them later. If I participate in a live webinar, I’ll often ask questions simply out of boredom.

Now, we want to offer good webinars, not those kinds of webinars. No modern Tupperware parties.

We don’t want to offer webinars that only benefit the presenter, but webinars that are entertaining for all participants and work much better live, in comparison with a YouTube recording.

I am very enthusiastic about the idea of handing you our knowledge and experience, so to speak, regularly and on demand.

We are currently planning a format that takes about an hour, but of which, a maximum of 30 minutes is actually filled with content prepared by us. The rest is allotted for your questions, suggestions, and contributions.

I imagine that we’ll offer a content framework and invite a guest, an expert, who can briefly tell us what their message is in the first 10 to 15 minutes. It should be clear what problem there is, how it can be solved and what you yourself can do to solve it. If someone suggests his “solution”, we also want to cover alternatives, so that you get a general overview and unbiased information.

I hope that our listeners, and I am expecting about 5 to 25 people, will begin asking questions after about 10 to 15 minutes. The remainder of the hour will be dedicated to an open discussion, co-created with the participants.

It is quite possible that participants will also appear via audio and video. I’m curious to see how well prepared our participants are technically, to use these possibilities spontaneously. In any case, questions and comments will be made possible by public chat rooms. I have already experienced this and it works well. This format is particularly successful, if participants begin answering each others’ questions.

It has happened more than once that competing consultants and solution providers are present. Unlike the previous webinar cooperation partners, I have regarded their contributions as an enrichment. Sure, I don’t love SharePoint. Why should we pretend Microsoft is not a big player in the digital collaboration arena? As long as it is constructive, competitors and consultants are also invited.

I find it great to see how webinars combine the benefits of on-site events with the efficiency, speed, and simplicity of the internet.

There is no commitment: If you do not feel like participating in the webinar anymore, just switch it off, no questions asked. There are hundreds of legitimate reasons why you may not want to participate in the webinar anymore. This ensures that only the people who are really interested are participating. Leaving a packed hall while the lecture is going on, is much more unpleasant.

Unintentional dozing off is also ok. If a topic is interesting but momentarily not exhilarating, just pretend to be in “radio listening mode”, and quickly check your emails or something. Come back to the tab with the video when you are ready, and in the meantime, listen with only one ear.

In short: A webinar is an honest format and is very enjoyable and comfortable for customers. Simply switch it on and switch it off at any time.

We will even go a step further and also make participation possible without registering. This allows everyone who is only interested in the topic, to choose not to participate in the event live or to be directly involved. In any case, everyone receives all the information and resources. And you can even submit your questions beforehand, so that you can have your questions answered without participating live.

So much for our concept. Now I would love to hear your thoughts:

  • Are you generally interested in our webinars? If so, please register on the “details” page of the events: The participation is, as I said, completely without obligation.
  • Please let me know if you are generally interested in this format. Would you participate and actively ask questions?
  • Are you interested in being our guest and presenting your own topic?
  • Are there other webinar formats that you like?
  • What are the topics you would like to learn about during these webinars?

And one last request. At http://seibert.biz/webinars , you can rate our planned webinars with “thumbs up” and “thumb down” to provide quick feedback on what you find interesting or less exciting. Please help me our and vote?

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  • Levente Szabo [Midori]

    Hi Martin,
    Yes, this is something that I’ve been thinking about lately, namely how effective the “Webinar” format is as it is usually used. I mean, I’m all for the video content combined with interaction, but I’m seriously concerned about the value it holds for viewers compared to a pre-recorded, well prepared interview or a good product tutorial video for that matter, that can ignite discussions.

    It would be great to experiment with a shorter, well condensed format like what you proposed. Actually I would totally be up to join you sometime and learn more about it and maybe talk about questions around Content Lifecycle Management in Confluence. (Midori’s Archiving Plugin is a recommended add-on for Linchpin, so it could be relevant for your viewers)