Last night (12 midnight Sydney time) I stayed up late to speak as a part of the most recent webinar in the IFLA & ALA joint series “New Librarians Global Connection: best practices, models and recommendations”. I was invited to speak at this webinar (recording now available) as a result of my IFLA presentation in Helsinki last year and I was very excited to be taking part.
It is the first webinar I have taken part in as a formal ‘speaker’ and it was an interesting experience. I’ve spoken at a number of conferences and present regularly as a part of my day job, however this was really very different. I prepared for the webinar in the same way I would any presentation. I planned what I wanted to talk about, wrote some notes, created some slides and practiced it a bit. I had a technical test with support from the excellent team at ALA, Delin and Don.
Last night when the webinar started, I dialed in and tested my microphone for sound. I enjoyed listening to the other speakers but something that rationally I knew was coming actually caught me a little off guard was when it was my turn to speak: unlike other presentations I’ve done, the audience wasn’t there in front of me, none of them had microphones and as I was running the presentation from my computer by sharing my screen I couldn’t even see that chat functions. There were no faces to see if my jokes hit the mark, if I was talking too quickly, or too softly. I was sitting on my sofa in the middle of the night talking to myself.
I could see some of the audience’s responses from comments and tweets afterwards but it got me thinking about the different experience of presenting and communicating online compared to face to face. Online or remote communication is often referred to as ‘lean’ communication as it is missing the depth that other non-verbal factors such as tone and expression give to traditional face-to-face modes of communication. Without those non-verbal cues as a presenter I felt a bit disconnected from the audience whilst I was speaking and had to take quite a different approach to my usual mode of ‘conversational’ presenting. I would say that if I had a choice I think I would always choose face-to-face presenting, despite the nerves, but I do recognize that online presenting gives fantastic opportunities to reach audiences you couldn’t ordinarily reach.
I think these trade offs are a fundamental part of our global library world, and certainly a significant part of the International Librarians Network. We have another post on a similar topic coming very soon so keep your eyes peeled… but in the meantime share with us your thoughts:
Have you presented online or taken part in a webinar before? How did you find it?