That technology sinner is me.
I sinned this morning. I awoke at 5:30 AM to address an elearning conference in Europe via Adobe Connect. By 5:50 AM, with colorful earrings in my ears, and virtually suitable clothing on top, I was ready for the webinar.
This isn’t about technology failure. Connect worked like a charm. Or I think it did.
And therein lies the problem. I presented for 45 minutes, with PowerPoint, to the assembled group. I used lively examples, provocative questions, and a few self-effacing personal stories. I prompted for reflection and urged application, and I pointed to relevant, accessible resources. I smiled and gesticulated through my web cam.
I tried. I worked at it. Doesn’t it sound like I did a good job?
Your guess is as good as mine. I do not know how my webinar went. Not a hint. It was impossible to tell. I delivered my keynote into an abyss.
I posed questions and after suitable wait time, I answered them myself. I texted, but received no participant responses. Throughout the session, I received no feedback. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. They might have been tossing beach balls around the auditorium. Was it an auditorium? I solicited questions at the conclusion and was informed by text chat that it was time for them to move on.
I have no clue if my audience liked it, paid attention during it, or took notes about it.
It’s important to recognize that I am not setting a high bar here. I am not talking about transfer to the workplace or the value attendees would assign to my messages. While those are proper concerns, early this morning I found myself worrying about things that are lower in Maslow’s hierarchy. Were they facing the screen during my session? Could they hear me?
When I shared this experience with a friend, she blamed it on Europeans’ Friday afternoon attitudes. They were ready for the weekend, not another presentation. Perhaps they were quietly hostile, she suggested. I doubt it, but acknowledge it could be true. The way the technology was set up for the webinar, I couldn’t tell if they were cheering, booing or sleeping.
It’s possible that they were cheering
If it went well, and it might have, attribute it to the fact that I’ve done many webinars before. I prepared carefully. Prior to the event, I asked questions about the audience, and then thought hard about what would be useful for them. I made educated guesses. I constructed materials to provide a way for them to follow along readily, tracking progress throughout. I structured carefully because they are not native English speakers. I scaffolded and I summarized. I put time into testing the technology.
What then was my sin? Sometimes you have to push back, say NAY, demand some things, like interactivity, as a core component in the delivery of the program. Noisy in the webinar, I was silent about standards before and during it. Just because I could do something with technology did not mean I should.
As someone who has blogged about quality in webinars, it is fair to read this story and wonder what was I thinking? I know better. How could I participate in this? (Don’t be thinking money. I did it for free.) I sat in San Diego and declaimed. I sprayed my content across the USA and Atlantic Ocean and over to Europe, to a country I have never visited. I went on a toot for 45 minutes and nobody riffed back. I was a caricature of the one-way presenter. Now, seven hours after we concluded the webinar, I’ve heard not a word from a participant or organizer. No tweets either. It’s as if I tossed my webinar into the Grand Canyon.
You are probably curious about the topic for my webinar. Engagement. Engagement was my topic. More irony, I think.