Book Review: The Webinar Manifesto

Book Review: The Webinar Manifesto

While at the ASTD Conference 2013 in Dallas, I sat in on a presentation given by Matt Murdoch on the Webinar Manifesto. The topic was interesting enough to follow up and purchase the book. The purpose of The Webinar Manifesto* written by Matt Murdoch and Treion Muller is to encourage people to not create Webinars that suck. Or in their words, “We’re against Zombie webinars.”

The structure of the book is enjoyable. The authors actually want you to join a movement to combat an enemy, an enemy who is actually hurting people with poorly designed Webinars. The book begins with a call to action. The authors want you to go online and sign their manifesto. They also introduced the enemy and provide reasons why it is important to change behavior. They highlighted the importance of Webinars as they apply to training, marketing, and leader development. The bulk of this 150-page book is divided into seven chapters with unique names:

  • Manifesto Principle 1: Connect or die
  • Manifesto Principle 2: Don’t default
  • Manifesto Principle 3: Shut down the ugly
  • Manifesto Principle 4: Captivate or alienate
  • Manifesto Principle 5: Humanize the screen
  • Manifesto Principle 6: Crack the feedback code
  • Manifesto Principle 7: Cage the monsters

Murdoch and Muller  began the principles by emphasizing the importance of working with others to improve your Webinars. Have people review your presentations and incorporate their suggestions for improvement. Look for people who will help you grow and stretch your skills. They also recommended connecting with and sharing ideas with individuals outside your usual group. Use resources like LinkedIn to make connections. Share what you have learned with the rest of the world.

The authors also stressed the importance of getting to know your tools. This means reading the manual and testing out the features. Once you know how to use the features in your design and delivery, start writing your own guide for using the tools so you can quickly present exceptional Webinars. Everyone uses the same platform; who uses it best are the ones who will stand out. Get to the point where you can do what you want to do with the tools you have. The authors provided great discussion on how to get to this point.

“A webinar platform is just that—a platform. It offers the same launching pad for the inexperienced and the expert.”

Perhaps the greatest point stressed in the books is the importance of getting rid of the ugly. They want us to get rid of the ugly in our marketing of Webinars, handouts, actual Webinars, and Webinar experiences. We need to study and apply more visual methods for delivering everything. Plain text simply does not cut it anymore. The authors provided lots of detail how to accomplish this principle. They also talked about setting and achieving goals for increasing “cheeks in seats.” Finally, in this chapter, they stressed the importance of integrating engagement into your presentations.

“Technological advances shrink space. A webinar makes it possible for people to speak, literally, face-to-face and voice-to-voice across monumental distances.”

We have the ability to create a presentation so that it feels like it is face-to-face. We have a responsibility to develop this intimacy. One thing they recommended that I have not yet incorporated is to encourage others to NOT mute their mics. They also stressed the importance of looking at your audience and talk to them even when you cannot physically see them.

Another area touched upon was the need to interpret feedback. For example, why are people not attending your presentations? Why are they not engaging in your presentations? The authors provided great tips for understanding the feedback you receive, even if silent. More importantly, they provided ideas for addressing the feedback you received.

Finally, Murdoch and Muller wrote about how to cage the monsters, in other words, how to head off problems in content, technology, and delivery. They identify countless problems and provided a number of recommendations for mitigating the issues. Many of the recommendations reach back to previous chapters thus tying the book together. Lots of great suggestions appear in this chapter.

Each chapter had a succinct summary followed by a section giving guidelines for putting the principle in action. This was a great addition and a great call to action.

I personally found this book to be a great reminder that we can do better not only in virtual presentations but also during face-to-face presentations and elearning lessons. If you are interested in putting together better presentations, I would recommend that you add this book your library.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Webinar Manifesto”

  1. Stan – Re: muting mikes. I spent 50 minutes watching a noon-ish webinar while at same time hearing someone who, I think, was eating carrots. Really annoying, especially when I had hoped the webinar would be posted and open to anyone. Believe viewers would laugh at the crunching sounds and not even pay attention to the webinar. Unfortunate.

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