Webinars v Seminars

by Michael on 22 July, 2014

There has been a huge increase in the number of webinars recently, and I could spend half the day watching them. But there are also a lot of seminars available, many free and attached to exhibitions, but others in more depth run by trade associations and companies, and of course full scale conferences which are in relative terms very expensive – that’s relative to free I guess.


I suppose the value of any of these depends on relevance and gaps in knowledge, but also the quality of the content and presentation. Sitting at my desk watching a webinar beats struggling into Central London in the rush hour for an early morning seminar, unless the latter can deliver some real advantages over webinars.


I’ve listened in to some really good webinars recently which were well worth the half hour or so, and apologies for not remembering who presented them, but “7 New Things On Linked In”, “Using Twitter For Brand Reputation Management” and “Building On-Line Communities” were particularly good. All in the digital space and recent developments, and I think that’s where the forte of webinars lies. Free, short, to the point, quick learning, new topics, filling knowledge gaps, time switching (you can watch later if you want) and indeed the ability to abort after 10 minutes if it’s no good – with no travel time wasted on top.


On the down side, most of them are vendor run and have a one company view, and it may not be the cutting edge experience you expect – and you may not realise that. Some industry experts are just that, others may just be expert in selling a particular product. The webinars that don’t work for me are the broad brush ones – most of the email ones, quite a few digital which cover the whole field in half an hour, some on video, but generally bland. So I mentioned a LinkedIn one above, but another more general Linked In one a few months ago was just too broad and bland to be interesting or informative.


For seminars and conferences, there is more content, longer sessions, more time commitment including travel, usually more depth, often more variable quality – and networking.


Theoretically, a seminar with several speakers has more balance and some assumption of quality control, but the reality for say seminars attached to exhibitions is that they are often exhibitors and/or sponsors, so they are paying for the slot. But the organiser has a reputation to maintain, so there is a level of quality control, and this is obviously much more the case on paid for conferences.


But I threw in the word networking 2 paragraphs ago, and that is in some ways the most important part of physical events. I’ve recently been to 2 DMA events – one on direct mail and postal changes, which was worth a half day seminar and couldn’t have been covered in a webinar; and the other was a legal update on data protection and 3 UK consumer acts (the basis of my last post) and quite frankly, although too long for a webinar, it would have worked split into say 3 webinars, but there would have been no networking.


Two recent IDM events, one at Deloitte which I’ve also posted about, the other a case study from Silverstone, were maybe suitable for webinars (indeed the Chief Economist of Deloitte has subsequently held a webinar on much the same subject) but these are evening events with networking drinks afterwards and that is what makes them hugely valuable – especially for members, for whom they are free.


So although webinars are much easier and quicker, they need to have a specific focus for their half hour or so, and I prefer seminars for their networking element – maybe I should get out more.


Michael Howe

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