Is there anything more pleasant than an unseasonably warm winter’s day? After weeks of bone-chilling freeze that makes it hard to move so much as your fingers, it is bliss to wake to melting frost and fill your face with sunshine. If your local weather service was caught unawares and left you expecting the weather to stay cold, even better. Unpredictability, when it spins in your favor, makes everything just a bit better.
Getting a little unpredictable is exactly what today’s webinar planners and hosts need to do. We’ve heard the promise of what online mass meetings could bring, but what has been delivered is more of the same in-room talk fests that have existed for decades–just with a few invisible onlookers added via video conferencing.
They need to embrace video calling’s new capabilities, and they need to loosen up a little and let a little fun shine in–Hollywood style. After all, who better than your favorite celebrity to brighten an otherwise dreary day?
The Webinar Standoff
Webinars, which are really just oversized group video chats transmitting the traditional marketing and training information, currently exist in a colorless limbo between the tightly controlled in-room seminar and the wilder frontiers of the internet’s new live streaming trend.
As industry experts like Gadfly CEO Scott Kraft have told us, the big brands are not going to lead the way to a brighter webinar day. They’re too scared of losing control of an online audience to make any creative changes.
Warren Buffett, for example, dipped a pinkie toe in the open webinar forum when he decided to try a remote virtual shareholder meeting. Virtual attendees could follow the show live but were not allowed to pose their own questions–that might prove too difficult to control.
Instead, it falls to the smaller, hungrier online brands to shake things up and use modern communication technologies to their fullest. That includes beaming hosts in from wherever and whenever they live.
Charities have already woken up to the convenience and power of bringing in celebrity names in the pursuit of online eyeballs. Audiences have video conferenced with celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Drake as part of events to raise money for charities and pet causes.
The prevalence of smartphones and the ease of video calling means all a celebrity needs to do to participate in an online video chat event is pick up the phone and clear their schedule for just 10 or 20 minutes.
Webinars are no different. Companies such as Zoom are already bragging about their ability to stage multi-room, multi-party webinars across any device from a desktop PC to a smartphone.
So let’s warm up that next investment seminar or brand relaunch or IT training session by introducing Brad Pitt live from a gondola in Venice to tell us all how he stays afloat in choppy financial waters, or why he thinks Dell has the products to keep your company’s head above water.
The Future of Webinars
The value of online brand ambassadors–and video conferencing with them–has clearly been demonstrated. They lend credibility and recognition to a brand, and the spread of their influence among their social media followers is easy to track. YouTube, usually the vehicle for these kinds of associations, has itself turned to star power to demonstrate its credibility and clout to advertisers.
Any emerging company could pull the same stunt, but with the added newsworthiness of letting anyone directly communicate with the stars. After Mr. Pitt runs through his scripted spiel about how fabulous the new brand is, he could turn the mic over to the audience and get personal. Sure, he’d face inevitable questions about Angelina, but that’s the point. Embrace the unpredictable, see where the conversation flows once the crowd has taken their paparazzi shots, and generate a unique feeling of open and honest dialogue around this brave new company.
Everyone sitting at home with their webcam is going to be intrigued, and how often can you say that about a seminar audience? Obviously Brad’s current sad dad routine isn’t a perfect match for every brand, but there’s bound to a celeb out there that fits.
To work though, it’s got to be more than just false effusiveness for a particular product. A brand needs someone who can get loose with the crowds and share the kind of unpredictability that petrifies the industry standard bearers. Live broadcast stars are already using all manner of stunts to attract attention for their sponsors online, such as YouNow stars delivering lobster by limousine.
It’s time to let that same energy permeate the webinar video chat room, and take the online meeting experience out of the realm of drudgery.