Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A cure for Webinarrhea

Also perhaps spelled Webinarrhoea, depending on which side of the pond you are located, this topic came to mind because my last post was about webinars. Given my varied personal interests, over a period of time I seem to have gotten onto the subscription lists of a variety of publications. Almost every single publication, it seems is on the webinar bandwagon.

I suspect that publishers are bundling webinars into the media vehicles that they take to their advertisers. I get inundated with invitations to webinars on a variety of topics. Typically, they are hour-long webinars. They come with a single-click mechanism to add them to my Outlook calendar so that I remember to stop multi-tasking (now that qualifies as a topic for a separate post by itself), and focus on an hour-long webinar. With so many webinars turning out to be advertisement vehicles, the task of building credibility for a webinar is becoming increasingly difficult. I can foresee webinars getting commoditized. They are at risk of turning into cyber-debris.

Webinars have another inherent flaw. They require a fairly well-sized audience to synch up their clocks, drop everything that they are doing and show up online at the appointed hour with undivided attention. Webinars do not give their potential audiences the flexibility of even a range of time to attend. Shouldn't one be able to, in a manner of speaking, 'Tivo' [TM] a webinar, and still be able to ask questions to the speaker and receive instant responses? That is precisely what a virtual tradeshow can do for you. It helps your online visitors 'Tivo' [TM] your presentations in your virtual booth. Possibly to overcome this issue, On24, a webcast technology provider is now offering Insight24, a permanent site of webcasts.

A virtual tradeshow, I believe, is that and much more. If one could take home a piece of every trade show one liked, then the virtual tradeshow would be the way to do it.

We delivered a trans-Atlantic virtual tradeshow for a very large company in the healthcare space. We first tried it with live webinars followed by the opening of a virtual exhibit hall. Exhibitors had recorded their presentations, but were also available for instant responses to questions. The technology used was a simple combination of MS PowerPoint [TM] and a combination of voice-over-IP and Instant Messaging. Exhibitors were from countries such as Belgium, Israel, Australia and the U.K. Attendees were divisional heads from various parts of the United States. The results were outstanding. In fact, there was greater participation from the distributed worldwide audience in the virtual tradeshow booths than when the same content was presented in live webinars launched at an unearthly morning hour to accomodate various time zones. Eventually the customer dropped the webinars and stayed with the virtual tradeshow format.

Want a cure for Webinarrhea? Try a virtual booth at a virtual tradeshow - where exhibitors will accomodate your schedule - not the other way round.