Webinars: Access all areas

Laurie Jadick, chief people officer at Capgemini US, has played a huge part in shaping learning and development at the consulting, technology and outsourcing giant.

Her achievements include one of training’s holy grails: aligning learning more closely with business aims. She is someone from whom many training professionals can learn a great deal. And the good news is that, on 8 November, Jadick will share her experiences, as a member of a panel of speakers on global succession planning.

Think you can’t make it? Well think again. Jadick will present via a webinar, a seminar hosted by e-learning provider Skillsoft, which takes place across the internet. As long as you have an internet connection, you can be there at www.skillsoft.com/infocenter.

“We’ve seen many pedagogies emerge for training and all bring something different to the mix,” says Chris Mitchell, director of In Situ Productions, a London-based specialist webinar production company. “But if you want live online audio or video, the facility for feedback and chat, and have a geographically dispersed audience, webinars are ideally placed.”

Charlie Blackburn, co-founder of London-based BrightTALK, which has produced events for a range of corporate clients and industry associations, says it can attract up to 3,500 online attendees to its global webinars from across several time zones. “If we hold a global half-day or full-day symposium, we tend to start in Asia and follow the sun,” he says.

Webinars typically feature a tutor or expert speaker, and can be viewed or listened to as live events at the desktop or accessed from an online archive. The webinar can be broadcast from a presentation room with a live audience, but may also entail the speaker simply broadcasting via a phone line from their desk.

Either way, attendees who log on can interact and ask questions just as they could if they were in the same room as the presenter. The main difference between a webcast and a webinar is that the latter offers a two-way interactive experience as opposed to a one-way, passive one.

The value of webinars is greater than the live event because they can be archived and accessed at any time.

Software company Micro Focus uses WebEx’s Meeting Center application to deliver sales training and consulting and support to its global workforce. About 70% of staff are regular users of the software, says Rosario Cappello, the senior consultant responsible for training staff, who is based in Sydney, Australia.

“These sessions are recorded and posted on the web so that the one-to-one interaction and shared experience are not lost after the event,” she says.

Using a specialist

There are sophisticated desktop sharing programmes available, such as WebEx’s tool and SkillSoft’s virtual classroom. But, in general, webinars can be accessed via a standard browser and applications, such as Windows Media Player.

If you are creating webinars, it may be wise to use the services of a specialist producer to ensure the best experience for the user. “Remember that when using video, for instance, there will be a level of expectancy,” says Blackburn.

As well as creating in-house webinars, organisations can also tap into the huge online resource – free and paid-for – that exists. Usually you can surf the web and find a host of webinars, either taking place or accessible via an archive, on everything from neuro-linguistic programming to employment law. They come from a host of sources, including learning providers, magazine publishers and industry associations.

Blackburn says the key challenge to producing successful webinars lies in keeping the technology “invisible” to the end user, which means using standard browsers and applications.

It is also important to ensure inclusivity when it comes to access to the webinar. This can be done, for example, by providing phone access for interested parties who are out of office or whose firewall blocks access.

Webinars can open up a new world of learning. Sceptics should key the term into a search engine to find offerings from around the globe. And, who knows, you could be taking part in a top-flight symposium in San Francisco tomorrow – without even leaving your desktop.

Case study: Business Link

Business Link Kent, which provides business advice and services to 55,000 small and medium-sized firms, is in the middle of piloting a webinar programme.

It commissioned In Situ Productions to produce a five chapter webinar on search engine optimisation with internet marketing expert Jan Klin as presenter.

“We decided to buy a licence through In Situ so that we could develop a whole series of webinars to provide high-quality, engaging information for our client base,” says Simon Warran Smith, innovation and technology manager, of Business Link Kent.

Already it has created two in-house webinars for internal staff briefings.

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