29). Other webinar authorities emphasize the need to customize the material to the intended audience rather than attempting a “one-size-fits-all” approach. As Riddle points out, “Perhaps the most important thing we discovered about creating and delivering webinars is that they must be thoughtfully tailored. Webinars, like any form of education, simply cannot be effective when dished out as fixed scripts delivered to a faceless audience” (2010, p. 29).
Although companies can develop the in-house expertise and technological support needed to deliver webinars, there are a number of vendors who provide webinar services, including Microsoft (Live Meeting), Webex and Genesys, as well as many others (Rudolph, 2006). According to Rudolph, “They all offer application sharing, white boarding (demonstrations), chat and real-time question-and-answer capabilities and have the ability to tailor delivery by group size” (2006, p. 57). The specific type of webinar used will likely depend on the material being presented and the size of the targeted audience. For example, Rudolph notes that, “Small webinar meetings usually are interactive, for example, while larger ones (20 or more participants) likely will follow a teacher/student lecture format” (2006, p. 57).
One of the main attributes of webinars is the ability to share information in a real-time fashion. According to Rudolph, application-sharing features involve two primary tasks:
1. Viewing. This feature allows all webinar participants in remote locations to see an application, even if it is not installed on their local hard drive.
2. Sharing. This feature allows the collaborative editing of documents in real time, again without needing local software. Another notable function is the presenters capacity to conduct online polls, tabulate the data right away and share the results with the audience — or let them remain anonymous (Rudolph, 2006, p. 58).
Another key advantage of webinars is their relatively low cost compared to conventional seminars and training sessions. Although costs differ by vendor, the length of the webinar and the number of participants, typical costs run between $21 to $30 per hour or person (Rudolph, 2006).
In addition, Rudolph reports that, “A user also can purchase a license for a specific number of seats for a year and pay one lump sum” (2006, p. 58). Companies that are interested in using these emerging technologies for their own purposes should take several factors into account in their design and implementation, including the following:
1. What does the firm want to achieve? This could be training for a core user group, such as employees preparing to take the CPA exam, trimming travel budgets or developing marketing campaigns.
2. Who is the target audience?
3. How many seats are needed?
4. Who will provide technical support? in-house support is preferable. Most Webinar systems do not require software installation but do need to have a plug-in installed to ensure proper display.
5. Who is the right vendor? Technology from established providers is a safer choice, but start-ups looking to break into the market may offer value. To determine which plan works best for a given organization, research each webinar provider carefully and listen to what the sales representative has to say (Rudolph, 2006, p. 58).
Finally, companies should begin with a modest application to assess its effectiveness and then incorporate additional components as presenter expertise is developed and new needs are identified (Rudolph,
The research showed that webinars are simply online seminars that can be used by companies of all types and sizes to help grow their business and provide in-house training. The research also showed that there are several advantages to the use of webinars, including the ability to reach audiences in geographically disparate locations, their relatively low cost and the ability to share information and collaborate in real-time. Finally, the research also showed that poorly developed and presented webinars will likely backfire and care must be taken to ensure that webinar content and presentation is sufficiently engaging to keep audiences in their virtual seats.
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