Webinar Technique: What to Do When the Phone Dies

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I just finished watching a LinkedIn Webcast entitled, Webcast: What you need to succeed with marketing on LinkedIn, which was produced on the WebEx webcast platform. During the webinar, the speaker, LinkedIn Direct of Marketing Keith Richey, explored the individual products that LinkedIn customers can deploy to help move prospects through the sales funnel. As the blog title and image atop the post suggest, the webinar was not problem free. In this post, I’ll share my observations regarding the webinar presentation.

The webcast was audio-only, which has its pluses and minuses. I’m a video guy, so I think a talking head adds to the connection, and helps retain interest. But there are enough folks that disagree to convince me that this is just my opinion, not fact.

During the webinar, which was originally conducted via phone, the audio died. Not a huge deal, it happens. The first time it went down, Richey continued via telephone when it returned, after another issue, he transitioned to computer audio. A couple of observations.

First, the computer audio sounded better, so I’m not sure why Richie didn’t start there. As I mention in my book (shameless plug), Mastering Webcam and Smartphone Video, while telephone audio is easier, computer audio is usually better. You can see this in the figure below. By way of background, I produced two webinars using the Onstream Webinars platform, the first using a landline, the second using computer-audio technology called Dolby Voice. Then I captured and analyzed the waveforms from the recorded files from each webinar to produce the figure below. 


If you’re familiar with waveforms, the difference will jump out at you. On the left, the bushiness around the centerline is noise, which is distracting, and makes the speech harder to understand. On the right, the centerline is absolutely clear, which means noise-free audio that sounds more professional and is easier to understand. 

Most webinar platforms, like Webex and Onstream, have multiple audio options. Though the phone may be easiest, in my experience, it’s seldom the highest quality. 

Have a Backup Plan

The other impression from the webinar was that Richie had a backup plan. Once he decided to switch to computer-audio, he was back on in about two minutes, which is impressive. I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing that he had his microphone ready and waiting. Plus, he was completely nonplussed, a real pro. 

Which takes me a huge divergence, was he plussed, or nonplussed? I’ve often wondered which was right, and because this is a full-service blog written by a professional writer, I thought I would check for you. Here’s what the Oxford Dictionary had to say. 

In standard use, nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’: the hostility of the new neighbor’s refusal left Mrs. Walker nonplussed. In North American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning ‘unperturbed’—more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning: hoping to disguise his confusion, he tried to appear nonplussed. This new use probably arose on the assumption that non- was the normal negative prefix and must therefore have a negative meaning. It is not considered part of standard English.

So, if you’re reading this in the US, Richie was nonplussed. If outside the US, he was unperturbed. Wherever you’re reading it, the point is he was prepared for an audio-related problem and had a backup plan which he quickly implemented. If you’re the presenter, moderator, promoter, or producer, you’d be well-advised to do the same. 

About Jan Ozer

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I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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