As if trying to prove Andy Warhol’s old quip that we’d all be famous for 15 minutes, I recently found myself in the unlikely position of giving a Webinar on writing for the Web to an audience of hundreds from nearly 50 colleges. And learned that presenting virtually seems more difficult than doing so in person.
Things did go well for Web Writing 360, a Higher Ed Experts presentation on writing for Web sites and social media, but the first Webinar is probably always the toughest. When I present in person, I can scan the crowd and see how I’m doing — are they engaged or bored, attentive or asleep? Ever wary of technology, I even wondered at times if I were still connected or just speaking to myself.
In keeping with tradition, a decent performance came after a rocky dress rehearsal. I’d bought a new headset mic — quite possibly the only one in Staples that said on the box it was Mac-compatible — and at the beginning of the rehearsal I couldn’t hear Karine Joly, the Webinar organizer. Unplugging and replugging later, it was A-OK. Karine thought at times the rehearsal seemed distracted, which was probably when my cat Fiona kept jumping in my lap; that’s what I get for trying it from the couch. For the actual presentation I moved to my home office and technology and cats cooperated.
Attendees asked many great questions — one college had a room of 20 people with a lot of good thoughts — and I was pleased with the feedback on the #hee backchat channel on Twitter (I also had an exercise where I asked participants to describe their institutions in 140 characters or less). I also noticed retweets of an ad lib comment I made in response to a question about finding time to handle the college’s social media responsibilities: Some people go on a smoke break or a coffee break, I said, I go on a social media break. Glad anyone found that amusing or apt.
And while it was nerve-wracking at times, and a lot of work, I’m glad I did it. It’s good to get outside of the comfort zone and push yourself to try new things. Moreover, we are all experts at something and should look for opportunities to share any knowledge.