Why Webinar? The benefits of webinars for delivering training and professional development

In November 2018, Dr Peter Langford conducted Voice Project’s first ever webinar, presenting on the topic of Values Based Leadership. As a first foray on this platform to connect with our current and potential clients and partners, the presentation was a repeat of our Breakfast Presentations held in Sydney and Melbourne one week earlier. This gave an opportunity for participants in other locations or those unavailable on the Breakfast dates to also hear the topic. Due to the relative success of the webinar, our second webinar was held in May 2019 at the back of our May breakfasts, with St John Ambulance NSW sharing their culture change journey.

Our move to the webinar format is consistent with the trend in many organisations as part of their learning and development strategy, rather than holding traditional face-to-face training workshops. What’s driving this trend, and what are the limitations of webinars that hosts need to look out for?1

Benefits of webinars:

1. Convenient to attend

Attendees can login to a webinar in any location convenient to them (e.g. home, office or café, etc.), saving them the time and effort to travel to a specific conference venue or office. Also, webinars allow people to easily attend only the parts of a workshop or conference they are interested in, which is less disruptive than travelling to and attending a whole conference.

2. Reach a wider audience

Since webinars are not restricted to a specific location, stakeholders who are based in other cities or even countries can attend, saving the need to bring in attendees to a central location or have a trainer travel to multiple sites. Voice Project’s most recent webinar simultaneously reached as far as the UK, Germany, Japan and the United States! Also, conference venues are physically limited by their seating capacity, while webinar capacity can be almost limitless.

3. Cost effective

The total cost of running a webinar is much lower than hosting a traditional conference. This includes financial (e.g. venue hire, catering, conference materials, travel) as well as labour (e.g. venue set up, employees out of the office).

4. Seamlessly recorded

A webinar can be recorded as part of the broadcast, enabling people to fit the training session into their own schedule at a later time. Since it is intended to be viewed on screen, viewers of a webinar recording receive virtually the same experience as a live viewer, which is not the case for a recording of a live presentation. Viewers revisiting a recording will also be getting the same experience as their initial one, which is likely to assist their memory recall of information presented (according to the encoding specificity principle)2, 3.

Limitations of webinars:

1. Higher attrition rate

The lower amount of effort required to plan for attending a webinar makes it easier for potential attendees to drop out (only around 35-45% of registered attendees actually attend a webinar4). The usual promise or assumption of a video recording being available after a webinar also reduces the viewer’s feeling that they need to make time to attend live. This can be addressed by the inclusion of a live Q&A session during the webinar. Research shows that 92% of webinar attendees want a Q&A session at the end of the webinar, and it’s a feature which is only possible by attending live5.

2. Limited audience interaction

Not being able to see the audience, the presenter cannot gauge interest, reactions or mood and adjust the presentation accordingly. As webinars are usually limited to a one-hour time slot, if there are too many audience questions for all of them to be addressed during the webinar, there is no opportunity for the presenter to address them offline right after the presentation by staying back. It is also harder to receive audience feedback from a webinar as most viewers would log off immediately after the presentation rather than stay on to answer a survey. To negate these limitations, the presenter needs to diligently promote the various avenues where people can put forward questions and feedback, as well as respond after the session to questions that are not able to be addressed at the time.

3. Technical issues

To view the webinar requires attendees to have compatible equipment and software as well as the necessary technological skills to use them. A stable, high-speed internet connection is also necessary6. These issues are all out of the presenter’s control. In order to minimise such technical disruptions, the webinar organisers need to do thorough research before choosing a reliable webinar platform, as well as encourage attendees to perform IT capability checks prior to the webinar.

4. Less accountability for engagement

Without the presence of other students, or the watchful eye of the presenter, attendees are more likely to try to multitask and complete work or personal tasks at the same time, which means they are more distracted from the presentation. For serious training sessions, requiring live participation (in the form of Q&A or comments) or completion of a spot test can improve engagement in the session and accountability for learning.

Voice Project’s webinars can be viewed at: