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Teleseminars vs. Webinars: Which Teaching Format is Best for You?

by Marcia Yudkin

Aren't webinars a more popular, "with-it" format now than teleseminars?

A webinar, in case you're not sure, is a seminar that people listen to and watch on the web, via their computer, while a teleseminar involves listening only, via the telephone or computer. Since teleseminars became popular first and webinars followed, replacing them in a few niches, some people think teleseminars have become passť.

Webinars have numerous disadvantages in comparison to teleseminars:

  • Increased preparation time. For a webinar, you need to prepare visuals as well as what you'll say. Generally there is a Powerpoint-style accompaniment to the talking that must be organized, written and polished ahead of time. If you use photographs or other graphics instead of bulleted summaries of your points, those must be created beforehand.

The recommended guideline is about one slide per one minute of presentation. That means 60 slides are needed for a one-hour webinar, or a bit fewer if youíre planning a question-and-answer session at the end. For me, webinars take five to ten times as much preparation time as teleseminars.

  • Added costs. Webinars require a reliable hosting service that you need to pay for. Some high-quality teleseminar vendors, however, are free.

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  • Technology barriers. People who have dialup service or Satellite Internet usually cannot participate in webinars. Some corporate folks can't join a webinar because of their company firewall. And serious technical glitches are multiple times more common with webinars than teleseminars.

  • Computer dependency. Participants must be at a computer to access a webinar. If you expect people to participate from the office, this is not a problem. If you target a consumer audience, webinars are less of a fit. Unless you convert a completed webinar to an audio-only presentation, a recorded webinar likewise can't be accessed in the car or while running or walking as a teleseminar can.

  • Bigger learning curve. The last two times I participated in webinar-based conferences, I was required to take part in a one-hour training session first, so I would understand how to operate the controls while presenting. For me, having to simultaneously think about moving the slides and giving my talk makes a webinar much more stressful than a teleseminar.

Iím still tense giving a webinar, even after more than a dozen times. The interface is so much simpler for running a teleseminar that only a short run-through is needed, if that, for a first-timer to feel relaxed while presenting or teaching.

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Webinars do have some advantages over teleseminars:

  • Visuals. For teaching how to do something, or for keeping the audience engaged in more than one perceptual channel, webinars rule.

  • Higher tech. As the question implied, webinars appear more advanced than teleseminars. In some markets this is a significant plus. 

  • Bells and whistles. One webinar I led last year incorporated real-time polling of the audience. It was very cool to be able to ask a question and get participants' instant answers. That's not available with most teleseminar systems.

To make the right decision between these two modes of presentation, think about the subject matter you are teaching, the expectations of your audience, their technology setup, whether itís a work or non-work presentation, your budget and your own comfort level with the two types of technology.

Good luck with your teaching program!

Copyright 2012 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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