Disabling webinar chat – what your audience really thinks

A webinar catches your eye, you register, add it to the calendar and look forward to it. On the day you login, keen to hear from the speakers but also to learn from other people. Hey, you might even be able to encourage others or pass on a nugget from your own experience.

Except that chat is disabled. There is no chat window. Or it’s set to panellists only for questions.

Boring

I had this today and I was immediately disappointed and disengaged. I’m not the only one, here are some other responses to me sharing this in a tweet:

Sunder highlights this nicely by stating how important conversations are rather than just broadcasting content.

 

Webinar or video?

I decided to log out of the webinar. The point I made to a friend also attending, and in the tweet, is that if there’s no chat window, then I might as well watch a video later. I can watch it at a time that’s more convenient (exercising, making dinner, whatever) and even on 1.5 times the speed if I want to get through the content a bit quicker.

There was a question panel, so I know I was missing out on asking questions to the speaker, but I felt thoroughly disengaged. It’s the speaker’s choice not to have chat on, but it was also my choice to log out.

Other people saw the lack of chat in a similar way:

And Donald H Taylor, the webinar master himself, sums it up nicely.

 

Is chat distracting?

Others made some good points about chat getting in the way:

Katie and Richard make some great points here about distractions. On a busy webinar, with a lot of people, chat really can get distracting and take focus away from the presenter and the content being delivered. Most software allows you to turn it off to try and ignore it, but that’s not always easy if the chat flashes different colours or messages show in pop-ups.

As a speaker, facilitator, producer and attendee, my preference is always to have chat enabled. It adds far more value to all involved than it takes away. A webinar with chat means I’m engaged in the topic and the conversation and it’s probably front and centre on my screen. One without chat, if I elect to stay, means that it’s a small window to the side whilst I’m doing my email.

 

What does no chat really mean?

What I’m concerned about are the underlying decisions for an organisation and speaker to decide that chat isn’t the way forwards.

Amber and Gavin both make great points on this:

And Ken makes a great point here about how important some trainers see the content over discussion, experiences and activities.

You can read more about chat in webinars from me here.

 

What does your audience really think? That you don’t care

To me, not having chat enabled means that the speakers really don’t want to engage the audience, they don’t care that much about what people learn, or tailoring their message delivery to the people that have been gracious enough to turn up for their live event.

My friend who attended the webinar assured me that there was some great content, and I genuinely do look forward to watching the video at a convenient time. It just didn’t need to be another bad webinar.

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