Webinar Breakdown: How to keep it from happening to you

Jun 08, 2015
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve a witnessed webinar breakdown first hand and it wasn’t pretty. A couple of months ago I attended a webinar that began as smoothly as any other. The log-in was easy, visuals were sharp and the audio was completely clear. After the moderator (I’ll call her Lucy because I really like that name and don’t hear it very often) ran through the agenda things started to crash and burn.

First, the presentation vanished and was replaced by a confidential document that was also open on Lucy’s screen. After about 3 excruciatingly awkward minutes (that felt like hours) the presentation was back up and the guest speaker began. A few minutes later, her audio began to deteriorate and all the audience heard was static. Really. Loud. Static. The guest speaker disconnected but the next two times she connected the deafening static returned. The third time was the charm and the webinar was back on track.

There was smooth sailing until about half way through the event when all of the presenters (who were in the same room) dropped off of the webinar. The participants then endured several agonizing minutes of the moderator troubleshooting while trying to fill the dead air. At this point the number of participants fell from 429 to 73. It was brutal. I stayed logged in because, to be honest, I was curious about what else would go wrong– it’s not every day that I witness a webinar go so completely off the rails. It was, at the same time, both fascinating and horrifying. Moments later a note popped up onto the screen asking participants to log out and join the next webinar.

There are two things that would have helped this event.

1- Have a tech person (who is familiar with your event) ready to jump in. Throughout the webinar I heard several people say, “I’ve never used this service before” and “I wish Joe Schmoe was here; he’d know how to fix this”. If you’re not VERY familiar with the webinar technology, be sure to have a point person who is. It’s not enough to have taken an online tutorial- you’ll want (and possibly NEED) the help of someone who knows what glitches are likely to occur and how to fix them. It’s great if you’re familiar with the webinar technology also but as the host, you’ll want to focus on content.

2- Take a dry run. Yes, I know you’re busy (and, yes, I know that everyone else is busy too) but squeezing a dry run into your busy schedule might literally save your webinar. You may realize that your visuals crash when you try to run your audio and animations simultaneously or that the main phone connection in “Conference Room-A” hasn’t been reliable since it was rewired last week. As my grandma used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Would you rather take 20 minutes to squeeze in a dry run with your 5 presenters or risk having your webinar crash and burn with 400 participants logged in? It’s your call.

These might seem like common sense suggestions but you’d be amazed by how many people consider the precautions to be unnecessary- only to later wish that they’d taken the extra steps. When it comes to your webinar there is no such thing as planning too carefully; dotting your ‘I’s’ and crossing your ‘T’s’ pays off in the end.

Happy webinaring!


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Hang-gliding: ☐