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?

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.

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