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ATD Blog

We’re Doing Webinars All Wrong

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

First, we said our heads were “in the clouds.” Then, it was our data that was stored in the cloud. Now, it seems like our lives are taking place in the cloud—via the Internet. The novel coronavirus has changed how we do business, how we lead our teams, how we develop our people, and even how we raise our families—and this trend is likely going to continue into the foreseeable future because, number one, it’s not all that bad and, number two, people are going to get used to it. The only thing I can’t get used to is how companies and trainers have used this as an excuse to be lazy.

I don’t mean lazy in the typical sense. Companies are doing more than usual to support their people and their communities. Businesses large and small are contributing where they can. And you’ve been invited to 136 webinars so far.

So then, how do I mean lazy? Why are talent development “professionals” delivering webinars while sitting in chairs? What the heck is that about? It’s either lazy, naïve, or disrespectful. Is that how we create high energy? Is that how we interact with an audience? Is that how we engage with the human soul from the platform? No way! And it’s certainly not as much fun—for them or for us.

Professionals don’t sit on stage; we’re not reading the news. We’re up. We’re energized. We’re ready to inspire participation. And I don’t mean just in a Q&A section at the backend of the webinar.

Let’s start there: What is a webinar? There’s no Latin root for the word; we’ve only been using it since the 1990s. A webinar is a seminar on the web. What is a seminar? It’s a meeting or conference for discussion or training. Discussion. It’s not a lecture (which is an educational talk).

What does this mean? The same strategies that we deploy to create a high energy, interactive, engaging, and fun experience for a stage performance are the ones we should use for a digital experience. We need to change our mindsets, our approaches, and our language.


1. It’s not just a webinar; it’s a digital experience. Think about how you can transform this simple online training into an event that people experience feelings instead of only thoughts. Use our Learn-Say-Do-Reflect (LSDR) model to make your training a want-to, not a have-to. (See graphic and get to this session.)

2. It’s not just a presentation; it’s a performance. Don’t just provide a chatty lecture with graphs and charts that you think are interesting. Stand up and give your learners the energy they deserve. Do more than just provide information. Get yourself engaged to get everyone else engaged. (Again, see the LSDR model.)

3. It’s not just a group of attendees; it’s a community. If a seminar is a “meeting for discussion or training,” we need to make certain the lines of communication are open during the entirety of the event. If you create the space for conversation, it will happen. Find ways to create connection between everyone’s insights and actions so they help you co-create the experience.


4. It’s not just your home office; it’s your studio. Get the right staging and lighting and sound equipment to look like a pro. If you’re on camera and you have a window behind you, it’s time to redesign your office. This is a new skill that you’re going to need as a trainer as the world gets used to working from home and remote experiences, so be ready. And don’t worry, a beautiful front stage usually looks ugly backstage.

This all sounds nice, but does it work? Of course it does. We at the Total Solutions Group have been providing remote culture-driven solutions for businesses since 2004, and we’ve been deploying these strategies for creating an energizing participant experience since computers and smartphones had HD cameras.

Join us in transforming the standard and less-than-satisfying sit-down webinars and remote training into standup experiences that maintain the same approach you would in live learning experiences.

Want to learn more? Join me at ATD Virtual Conference to experience the Learn-Say-Do-Reflect model in action during my session, Make Training a ‘Want To’ (Not a Have To).

About the Author

Joe Urbanski is the COO of the Total Solutions Group (TSG), a strategic consulting, training, and coaching firm committed to driving a transformative impact to what’s really most important to an organization’s value proposition and results. TSG’s core focus areas are organizational and culture transformation, strategic planning and business growth, leadership development programs, and train-the-trainer certifications. When it comes to empowering people and organizations, Joe is committed to helping you co-create your own learning experience. For more than a decade, he has honed his electrifying facilitation style, performing for as many as 2,400 participants during full-day training sessions, three-day retreats, and multiyear programs. He has delivered more than 525 on-site and online workshops for more than 400,000 participants, including executive leaders, corporate trainers, and everyone in between. Joe is honored to be ranked among the top 10 percent of speakers in the Society for Human Resource Management and ATD.

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Thank you, this was good insight. The webinar is only the medium and should not be limitation to delivering the same learning experience intended offline.
I also learnt something new- the LSDR model. Thank you
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Great information. Had not thought about the standing up just as if I was doing a workshop live!
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The LSDR model is simple and effective. It gets right to the heart of a well-rounded, interactive approach. Thank you.
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