This is my inaugural post on GLEAN Magazine, and I have to admit something: I hate webinars.

And I have tried to like them. I have tried really hard. But I don’t. I am not technophobic. I am not anti-continuing education. I understand that presenters put a lot of time and effort into them, and I just cannot get into them. Even topics that I am very interested in (and who attends webinars these days that they aren’t very interested in), about 15 minutes, I catch my attention wandering. My eyes are starting to glaze over. My hands, with minds of their own I promise, have pulled up another tab and started scrolling through my RSS feeds even as I continue listening. A webinar just doesn’t capture my interest.

On top of that, I think that it is an inefficient way of connecting with an audience. The speaker has no way of knowing if the audience is with her or not. She can’t elaborate on a point that has caught the imagination of the crowd or speed through a section that is bombing because she can’t see the audience. Further, most webinars are backboned by a Powerpoint presentation, everyone’s favorite cue that you’re about to see something that’s not going to be very engaging.

I’m not trying to disparage those who present webinars. The information can be very good. They can potentially be engaging. But I think the medium has major shortcomings that at least turn me off. I bet I’m not alone out there, either.

This is no excuse for not getting the information. After all, as much as I love libraries, this is work that I’m doing and I’m a professional. But if you’re like me and a webinar speaks to you not at all, here is some of my advice for getting the content without all the fluff.

  • Listen to the recording-I rarely attend webinars live anymore. Speakers usually provide their e-mail addresses, so you can follow up after the fact if you want. With a recording, you can pause the talk, skip ahead or re-listen to sections, and you have a tangible thing you can share. Plus, a scheduled webinar can be hard to fit into your schedule (especially if you have to take an hour or more off of a desk). Recordings are the only way to go, in my opinion.
  • Seek out other formats-Is this the only way in the world to get this information? If you don’t handle presentations well, seek out other sources. Case studies (which often are the core part of library webinars) are constantly being published in the professional literature. If you absolutely need the information from this presentation, see if you can download the notes or slideshow separately. Oftentimes, this will have all of the information in a format that can be digested much more quickly.
  • Turn it into a viewing party-One of the problems with many webinars can be the lack of discussion opportunities. Whether the technology doesn’t support or the host has turned off interaction, many webinars only have communication between speaker and participants instead of between participants themselves. Find a colleague to watch it with you so you can bounce ideas off of each other and turn the information into a discussion that could possibly turn into future action. If you can’t manage an in-person party, see if you can hook up with a group on Twitter who may be talking about the same thing.
  • Vote with your mouse-Most of the time, I attend webinars because I want to or I think that will be beneficial to my personal professional development. So if I’m attending a webinar that isn’t providing me with the things that I need, I vote with my mouse. I close the window, and I do something else more beneficial with my time. We’re all busy. Don’t feel compelled to stay in a bad continuing education event just because you think you should.

I love learning. I love that I am surrounded by passionate professionals both in my system and around the world who love libraries and are rabid in their defense and advocacy for them. But if you’re like me and a webinar doesn’t work for you, I hope these tips will help make them a little easier in the future.

John Mack Freeman is the Marketing and Programming Coordinator for West Georgia Regional Library System headquartered in Carrollton, GA.


  1. I’m not a fan of webinars, either, and I try to make them as lively as possible when I’m conducting them. It is tough! Great tips, Mack!! I’m going to use some of these – especially that viewing party one! 🙂

  2. I’m a “catch the archive” guy myself. I think webinars have a place in the continuing education stable as a vehicle for delivering topical information. Like reality TV, they’re cheap, easy to produce, and can have mass appeal. I think we just need to be sure that the overall CE program is balanced out with more in-depth offerings.

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