Are webinars the way forward?
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If you are working globally and looking for a different way to engage stakeholders, webinars are becoming increasingly common. The attractions are many – not least the possibilities of hosting scalable, multi-country training sessions or meetings in the most cost-effective way possible.

One of the things that has been a challenge in the past is whether they can successfully work in low-bandwidth environments or, based on personal experience, whether the technology itself is sometimes a bit of a stumbling-block. When you’re trying to connect so many people over different time zones, or would-be attendees need to load new software so they can join the session, things can easily go wrong.

We are exploring using more webinars for training and meetings and I had a very positive experience of what they can achieve earlier this year. The HIFA2015 and PLoS webinar ‘Can Open Access publishing provide Healthcare Information For All by 2015?‘ was an opportunity to try out the Elluminate webinar technology and, most importantly, it provided  a chance to engage with the HIFA2015 community over a subject I feel very passionate about – the importance of making sure health professionals have the information they need to do their work effectively.

The PLoS/HIFA2015 team provided lots of support prior to the webinar and this seemed to really pay off on the day – there were more than 50 participants from many countries, including representatives from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and North America. Being able to connect with such a global representation without stepping foot out of the office or pay any travel costs was fantastic!

There were two very thought provoking presentations from Ginny Barbour, Chief Editor PLoS Medicine  and Neil Pakenham-Walsh, the tireless HIFA2015 coordinator. I then gave a short commentary about some areas to be addressed for open access publishing to have the impact required in developing countries. As a presenter who loves to tailor what I’m doing to the audience I wondered how I’d feel not actually having people in front of me, but I needn’t have worried – it was  a very interactive session with emoticons and a text box to enable discussions to take place while the presenters were speaking. Very impressive stuff. Still not sure how quick I would be to use the thumbs down logo when someone is speaking though — harsh, very harsh.

The HIFA2015 and PLoS webinar was useful on many levels, not least in providing a platform for a very timely discussion of the steps open access is making in enabling increased availability of research by those that need it. The real success marker for me though is the ongoing debate via the HIFA2015 online community. Discussions have been fuelled by the recent open access announcements and the combination of a webinar and enabling opportunities for sharing thoughts, experiences and opinions after the event is really powerful stuff.

As we are exploring using more webinars I would love to hear what the experience of others has been – what works well, what are the challenges or things to watch out for, what is your software of choice… I can then share all the feedback amongst our network via some top tips for those hosting webinars or thinking of doing so.

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2 Responses to Are webinars the way forward?

  1. avatar Anne Powell says:

    I sometimes have what I think of as “Industrial Revolution” moments, when two somewhat separate strands come together. In this case, BBC’s announcement that “Google has launched a text message-based version of its email service targeted at users in Africa. Gmail SMS can run on so-called “dumb phones” which only have very basic features and no access to the internet. The service has so far been made available in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya… Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS.”

    The full text is available here: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18898967#story_continues_1

    After reading this “What caught our eye last (or this) week” link, shared with me by my colleague Lucy and her blog, I then saw a chance to experience a webinar with the invitation by STM to their webinar “Accessing Academic Content via Mobile Devices: Issues, solutions, and future developments”.

    In this free webinar, an academic librarian, technology provider, and academic publisher will examine how mobile technology is currently being used in the academic library environment to access academic content and will take a look at what further developments are on the horizon.
    More information at

  2. avatar Anne Powell says:

    Link seemed to be cut off above, should be http://www.cvent.com/d/4cq2hd