Why User Experience Matters During Webinar Instructions

The moment was finally here. I’d been anticipating attending a free webinar by Chief Learning Officer (@clomedia) magazine about retaining top talent, so I logged in right at the “15 minutes early” mark. Sometimes those free webinars max out on attendees and if you aren’t logged in early, you end up locked outside and staring at the pie through the window like Steve Urkel.

My first impression upon logging in was recognizing they weren’t using the standard webinar platforms that you typically see: WebEx, GoToTraining, or Blackboard. It looked proprietary and functioned well. The various standard “parts” I expected to find were there like chat windows, resources, and slides, and they were displayed well on the screen.

Then the music started.

Most people recognize what I mean when I say elevator music. This took that frowned-upon musical category to a whole new low. It was like someone took elevator music and re-recorded it on a bad synthesizer, with three sheets in the wind.  I thought to myself “Ew” in my best Jimmy Fallon voice, and turned off my speakers.

While I waited for kick-off time, I downloaded the slides that were conveniently available as a PDF. Now let me stop right here – I’m a big opponent to providing slides ahead of a presentation. It gives the attendees a chance to see everything the presenter will say, and review the content of the entire presentation. If the speaker doesn’t have good slides, this can be a huge turn off for the attendee and actually affect their ability to learn.

Back to the webinar.

My impression of the slides was lukewarm at best. I remember being surprised at how many instruction slides there were at the beginning of the slide deck. Push this button for this, press that button for that, put your first name and last initial in the chat box to say hello to 1000 people you’ll never meet again (but now we have community, right?! No, no we don’t). The time is here so I turn my speakers back up, and wouldn’t you know it, the music from elevator hell is just ending…to be replaced by Mr. Script Reader.

This guy did me in. He gives the typical cheesy “Welcome to today’s webinar” and then launches into an obvious script about all the features of the webinar platform and how to use them. Not only is he clearly reading it, but he’s doing it with almost no emotion in his voice. (I was waiting for him to say “Bueller.”) Now to his credit, he’s burning through these instructions pretty fast, but I can’t get over his lack of enthusiasm. After about the third minute, I’m done and I shut down the site.

So what went wrong? How did Chief Learning Officer lose me before the presentation even truly began?

  1. Bad webinar title – I didn’t mention this before, but the title of the webinar wasn’t good even though the topic was, so I came in with a poor taste in my mouth already. It was called “Love the One You’re With: How Learning Can Help Retain Top Talent”
  2. I got to see the slides – after my lukewarm reception to them and their content, I was just about bought out. Could he have said some amazing stuff around those slides? Absolutely, and I bet he did. The speaker sounded like he’d be pretty good which is why I registered in the first place. But the slide content didn’t look like anything new, so now I’m assuming it will be a waste of my time.
  3. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad presentation intro. It was like walking into the entrance of Disneyland and finding it covered in trash and graffiti with mean people at the gates. You know the park beyond is probably awesome, but you just can’t get past the filth.

Folks, first impressions matter. Always. Don’t start a training session with boring stuff. Earn engagement from your attendees (virtual or live) first, then cover the how-to’s. Research tells us that attitude matters when considering the retention of information.

What are you doing that needs a better first impression?

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3 Responses to Why User Experience Matters During Webinar Instructions

  1. Laurie Potratz says:

    Hey Steven What a great article and so true with my experience on webinars. I just had a great example of enthusiasm and the appreciation it generates: We took Max to breakfast this morning before his last day of Middle School. The young man waiting on us recognized Max and asked how he was. Becca told him it was his last day of Middle School. The young man let out a whoop and clapped. Max’s face lit up and the whole table felt much more energized for 7am. What a difference enthusiasm makes. Howard Hendricks used to say to his seminary students, ‘If you want them to bleed, you have to hemorrhage. ‘ Great job. Great writer. Great point, Love and prayers, Mom

  2. You make some excellent points and I agree with you. It is hard to undo a bad first impression because it tends to set a bad tone for the whole webinar. A strong start and a little enthusiasm go a long way! Thanks for sharing your expertise Steven!

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