I am writing in the hope that I can encourage you to engage with webinars, assuming you are not already an enthusiast. Beyond all the bells and whistles, webinars are just another way of communicating. When you think about them like that, then, as a professional involved in education and therapy, doesn’t it make you want to become involved?
Myself and Sophie Wood of Buzz Web Design & Consultancy have recently founded CBT Psychotherapist Briefings. We are just starting to offer webinars, primarily to CBT colleagues, and primarily on subjects of interest to people working in independent practice.
I have been involved in delivering training since the early 1990s. I learnt early on that the biggest stress for most people was getting to the venue. Travel, especially travel to a place you haven’t been to before, is really stressful. You don’t want to get there late and have everyone look at you as you walk in, but then it’s frustrating to get there early and sit for half an hour regretting not having had that extra time in bed. Parking is often a nightmare, but so too is sitting on a slow moving train, willing it to move faster, and have you seen how expensive parking has become? It’s almost on a par with rail fares!
Savings on travel time and costs are not the only things that make webinars more appealing than face-to-face interaction. Quiet, shy people often find it easier to actively participate in a small, well-managed webinar than in a training room. I am not quite sure why, but online meetings are generally more focused than face-to-face ones. Innovations like group polls and virtual breakout groups help make the online learning environment stimulating and fun. Screen and file sharing mean that you don’t even have to miss out on PowerPoint! …Though some of you may think that shouldn’t necessarily count as an advantage.
What are the disadvantages then? Well, we can argue about what gets lost in communication when people are not in the same room. You may say “body language”, and “intimacy”. I may counter “halitosis” and “flatulence”, not to mention body odour. Poor taste jokes aside though, the most common objections we come across seem to be technophobic. As we CBT-ers all know, the best treatment for phobias is exposure! There are lots of ways to make the webinar environment welcoming and easy to navigate, even for the less experienced. We are on a steep learning curve with this one. What we’ve learnt so far is that it helps to brief people about what to expect in the joining instructions. We are planning to provide a webinar etiquette sheet on registration, and we’ve started taking ten minutes at the beginning of our meetings to orient people to the control panel on their screen. Most of all, we ensure that our presenters and facilitators are pleasant and relaxed. Nobody gets humiliated, even if they forget to mute their microphone whilst using their electric pencil sharpener… all of which is just a translation of what any decent trainer does in real-world delivery.
If we are going to introduce more of you to Webinar World, and get you to stay, we need to do even more to make the environment comfortable. Although the technology is increasingly reliable, connections can drop, but attendees can reconnect using the unique link that is emailed to them before the event. We’ve learnt to have more than one person hosting events so we have a better chance of being able to monitor our email and the chat window, not to mention the Q&A box. We’ve also learnt that Ethernet cables on desktop computers provide more reliable connections than WiFi. As a real-world trainer, I had to learn presentation techniques, for example, rather than standing at the front with ankles crossed it’s better to keep one’s feet flat on the ground, slightly wider apart than normal, and not to place oneself in front of a well-lit window. Presenting online has necessitated me learning a new set of techniques, for example, you need to ensure your face is well lit from the front and on both sides. I’m even beginning to experiment with green screens, which means I can be seen against any background imaginable. This is stuff we would all do well to learn because an increasing number of clients are asking for online consultations. And guess what? Once you start seeing the bells and whistles as exciting and fun, instead of a potential source of failure and humiliation, it all becomes surprisingly easy quite quickly.
TV didn’t render the radio obsolete, any more than radio rendered books obsolete, and the arrival of webinars is not going to sound the death knell for face-to-face training. It’s just another option. I am committed to being a scientist-practitioner, and to keeping up my CPD, but my time is constrained. I don’t relish the idea of reading any more scientific papers than I do already and that’s why reading materials will only ever reach a fraction of their potential audience. Technology is enabling us to make knowledge more accessible. I am sure I am not alone in wanting information and commentary curated and digested. Webinars can give me what I need to know through presentations, interviews, seminar discussions, quizzes and all manner of other interactive methods. These are the ways most people learn best.
If you have suggestions for topics you would like to see covered in a webinar format, or you would like to be involved in organising a webinar yourself through CBT Psychotherapist Briefings, we’d like to hear from you.
Adam May (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Convenor, CBT Psychotherapist Briefings.