About a year ago at work I was looking into the way webinars function. We were thinking in terms of using a webinar conference to host some people from the world of missional thinking rather than bringing them all the way to New Zealand. That was one of our thoughts. Like some other bright ideas, it only went so far as getting the background on webinars and how to use the systems and so on. Still it gave me the chance to actually 'attend' a webinar on a couple of occasions - one very early in the morning our time - and learn how frustrating the process can be for someone who's never done it before.
I also discovered that some webinars can be very boring to watch - because nothing happens on screen. It's rather like listening to the radio while watching the same picture for an hour. Other webinars are more interesting - a PowerPoint is presented, so at least you get some visual interest. However, since PowerPoints are becoming old hat in some quarters - see the amusing PowerPoint presentation Matt Blaze sent to the RSA Conference in 2011, for example. (It was originally laid out in only three pages...)
My PowerPoint slides for the RSA Conference 2011
University of Pennsylvania
I’m not using PowerPoint in my presentation.
• I hate PowerPoint
– I avoid using it whenever possible
– It is usually a terrible way to convey information.
• … and they presumably invited me to speak because they think I’m good at conveying information
• But the conference organizers just sent me email “reminding” me that sending a PowerPoint presentation “… is a contractual requirement for speakers this year.”
– what contract is that?
– they’re not even paying me.
End of PowerPoint Presentation for RSA-2011
University of Pennsylvania
See also Seth Godin's comments on PowerPoint.
However, webinars also come in more interesting formats, with live speakers visible on screen (a bit like Skype, but usually more effective in its speed). And you can access video conferencing software to sort out your own webinar process, if you're of a mind.
I'm not sure that broadband in New Zealand is up to watching streaming video: at least not in my neck of the woods. At the office - where I'll only be for one more day! - the broadband speed is pretty good. It's rare to see a video in bits, as sometimes happens at home. And when the various TV stations advertise that I can go to my computer and catch up with programmes I've missed, I raise my eyes - it would take me about three times the normal length of the programme to 'catch up'. Watching TV in this way just isn't on as yet.
When the Government finally gets around to contracting Telecom or one of its subsidiaries to provide high-speed broadband everywhere in the country, things may be different. In the meantime, I might have to stick with the sort of webinars that provide one flickering image and do something else while I'm listening.