Can a webinar really replace a workshop?

Empty training room picture

There has to be a better way. Many of us spend far too long travelling to and from work, whether it’s the daily commute, or travelling to a meeting or event.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt like this, and it certainly isn’t an issue unique to me. But stuck in heavy traffic returning from Bristol to the East Midlands earlier this year, I thought about the stress, the toll on my physical well-being, the wasted time and the damage I was doing to the environment. I could have opted for train rather than car, but it would have meant three changes and an even longer journey time.

But how does a trainer like me deliver an interactive course for a dedicated group of individuals when they are in the south west and I’m from Leicestershire?

Sure, the organiser could have tried to source a local trainer, but I was offered the job and couldn’t afford to say no.

So what are my options?

I already work remotely much of the time when undertaking consultancy. Indeed, I’m rarely needed in person when advising on the GDPR or a social media policy. Meetings can be run quite effectively via FaceTime, Skype or some other platform. In fact, I’ve been to enough poorly run and frankly boring meetings to know that a short online event can be much more efficient and worthwhile. What’s more, I also know from experience that it is possible to conduct such work from the sunnier climate of Spain.

But unlike these other activities, my main service, providing training, really does benefit from the personal interactions between the attendees and the facilitator; and recreating this online, in my experience, rarely works.

I’ve taken part in many webinars and so I know they just aren’t the same. The key problems seem to be technical on the one hand (glitches with the platform and connections), unfamiliarity (lack of trainer experience using the platform), limited time (after an hour people lose interest) and a considerably slower interaction speed between participants – or none at all – due to the different format.

Some of these issues can be overcome; and perhaps the others don’t matter if the result is successful learning outcomes. Maybe the webinar format just needs to become the norm. But it begs the question, can a webinar really replace a workshop?

Ultimately, it will be the learners who decide.

2 thoughts on “Can a webinar really replace a workshop?

  1. ccvsblog says:

    Hi David. Really good article and an issue we are grappling with here at CCVS. I think that the learner probably has to move on and accept new technology, I am old enough to remember acetates and OHPs. I think that it is not an either or situation and some leaning may be better suited to online. I think that just because you can train a room does not mean you can do a webinar, we must get training, practice and develop new skills and not assume we can do it. I think we have to stop skimping on technology and get the right kit/platform, you are right there is nothing worse than a webinar that does not work.
    Our members say they value the networking and learning from others in the room, that is hard to do in a traditional webinar but I have heard amazing things about VR.
    I think for us webinars will play a bigger role going forward, they won’t replace face to face training (until we are all VR enabled), but they will allow us to do some things differently and either do what we do for less or, I keep my fingers crossed, do more for the same amount.


    1. David Green says:

      Thank you for your comments Mark; and I fully agree with what you say. I’ve been reluctant to run a webinar myself because it needs new skills which I will need to acquire first.

      Liked by 1 person

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