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As a facilitator, trainer and adjunct professor working primarily face-to-face, I’ve noticed that the one-way nature of most webinars and web conferences misses opportunities to engage audiences and draw on the wisdom of groups—not to mention the knowledge of guest speakers, salespeople or instructors.  As the use of web conferencing extends to management training, leadership development, interactive workshops and collaborative meetings, the requirements of webinars shift from pushing information out to pulling ideas and knowledge in. This requires a new look at the design and facilitation of webinars and the technology tools used to deliver them.

This requires a shift from Powerpoint to powerful. From presenters to hosts.

Face-to-face workshops employ a wide range of collaborative learning techniques—from case study analysis and group problem solving to role plays, inquiry circles and brainstorming. Unfortunately as training programs and workshops have moved online they’ve become less interactive, limited by assumptions about technology choices and participant engagement. The opportunity presented by a more interactive and collaborative approach to webinars is to reclaim the myriad of learning methods used in face-to-face workshops and adapt them for a virtual environment. Going further, we can even take the opportunity that web conferencing technology is offering as a chance to redefine the meaning of learning together, of being an educator, and of being in the world. Does this sound ambitious and even exciting? This approach is the art of online hosting.

Why do people hate webinars? Because they are not engaging, because they are boring, because they are too long (or so they seem). This lead inevitably to a learning missed opportunity. People engaged in conversations are not bored because they are engaged in an act of co-creation. This is the core idea: they are co-creating actively their learning, rather than being passive receivers of information.

The promise of interactive webinars is therefore not just a chance for increased learning, shorter meetings with greater participation, less multi-tasking and on-going collaboration. It is also a chance of being engaged as leaders to change the work of learning (and teaching) as we know it, online and offline.

What could better webinars accomplish for your organization?