Sharat Sharan and John Carucci. Webinars for Dummies. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
I read this book hoping to learn some new tips for producing my technical writing webinars. I was very disappointed, but I will at least start with a summary of what I did learn:
- The authors support the concept that webinars incur fewer lost work hours than traditional stand-up instruction.
- The book attempts to present a wide spectrum of delivery from a do-it-yourself approach to near concierge (white-glove service). One author, Sharat Sharan, is the co-founder, president, and CEO) of ON24, which provides webinar-based solutions and virtual environments.
- The authors present a good overview of how to introduce a webinar (p. 77):
- Present basic operational information.
- Dissect the session into each major part.
- List five points about the session (to reveal the structure).
- They offer a great principle for slide creation: Prioritize keywords over sentences.
- Chapter 7 provides pretty good options for setting up video and audio. For example, I learned that producing a webinar in a conference room without windows is wise because lighting will be consistent.
- One really clever phrase that the authors use is the word “deminar”—a product demonstration by webinar.
However, I found most of the book annoying, juvenile, and unhelpful:
- I tired quickly of its forced cleverness: “A hoodie might be fine for an audio cast, but it may not be the best choice when you are on a video” (p. 161). Why not tell us what to wear or not to wear on video cameras or webcams?
- Inane metaphors abound. I’ll bore you with only one: “A webinar is not like a Bruce Springsteen concert that can run for hours without a predictable end and nobody minds” (p. 85). The reader soon tires of these useless and silly metaphors.
- The pictures are mostly inadequate and of poor quality. On page 112, there’s a poorly contrasted picture of a lavaliere microphone. Really? The typical reader would not know what this device is? Page 224 contains a full poster that is all but illegible.
- The book is very poorly organized. Topics appear to be scattered throughout; many topics repeat in different chapters without explanation or linkage. Chapters 8 and 12 cover basically for the same topics at about the same level.
- As a copyeditor, I cannot help but notice bad editing and bad grammar—for example, “If you got [sic] 45 minutes of great content” (page 86). Whoever proofread this book must have been asleep: “If you’re not showing your presenter, consider doing it for you [sic] next webinar” (p. 171).
- The index is poor—the word “webcam” appears only three times in the index but very often throughout the text.
- Finally, I was offended by the elementary instruction in PowerPoint® in Chapter 6. I cannot believe anyone today needs 101-level instruction in a Microsoft® Office product.
All of that was frustrating enough, but the real disappointment in this book is that the authors spent almost no time on how to deliver training by webinar. The book is heavily skewed toward Big Marketing webinars, a genre that already gluts the market.
(Stay tuned for my upcoming book on delivering training by webinars!)