What I learned from pig webinars during the Covid-19 pandemic
Webinars have certainly increased in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemics. The big question is whether the webinar trend will continue its' rise in popularity or quietly disappear? You can read my verdict later in this post, but I will first describe my experiences with webinars ranging from excellent to poor. The webinar trend is a natural product of the limitations in the offline face to face communication with the Covid-19 pandemic. Numerous agricultural exhibitions worldwide were cancelled during 2020, and even in 2021, we still see that a third wave make severe limitations. Personal meetings with existing or potential clients have, of course, also been critically affected.
A new tool for marketing
Tonnes of articles have described how the pandemic has forced people to work from home. The pandemic also affected the marketing efforts of the companies in the pig industry. Many companies have tried to figure out how to reach out to potential clients when they cannot meet in the "real" world — one of the digital tools to achieve that are the webinar format. As a result, webinars have seen a high increase in popularity among many industry players. Suppliers of feed ingredients, genetics companies, and pig magazines are just some examples that have stepped up and increased their webinar activities. Free webinars with tonnes of updated information on a variety of pig topics. So what's not to like?
Information for free?
Webinars were initially perceived as a digital replacement for real conferences, but people have realised that webinars possess other valuable characteristics. For example, webinar organisers always ask for contact details. So, when you come across adverbs with "free" webinars, this is not entirely true because you will always pay with your contact details. However, you would also expect that company people at an exhibition booth would ask for your name in the offline world.
Content and dialogue
What about the content in the webinars? Are webinars the right way to present scientific information, or are there more suitable ways? One of the unique aspects of a webinar is that it enables real-time communication with the viewers. The presenter can ask the audience questions and vice versa. In this way, webinars can be a powerful and dynamic tool to convey commercial messages. Unfortunately, quite many webinar presenters do not have the understanding of involving the audience. Some presenters do not even ask questions, whereas others ask irrelevant questions. If the presenters do not utilise the dialogue option, the conventional pre-recorded video format is more suitable.
Disturbing technical issues
Internet download speeds are generally increasing everywhere, but it seems as if some webinar organisers neglect that internet upload speeds usually are much slower than download speeds. It is not unusual to experience presenters logging on from home, make a presentation with unacceptable digital distortion in both sound and picture. In these cases, it appears as if the webinar organisers are non-professional and forget how valuable the viewers' time is.
Screenshot from the Pig Progress webinar "Gut health."
Variable presentation performances
During the presentations, you also expect a flawless flow from one slide to another. It makes an awkward impression when the presenter multiple times needs to say, "please, next slide". The webinar software solution should allow the presenter to control this to give a sleek presentation.
The presentation quality of individual speakers varies a lot precisely as in the offline world. Scientifically talented people can be very poor presenters, and the opposite is also the case. As webinars are live, it is even more critical the presenter has a proper flow because it is impossible to undo the presentation. The webinar organisers must bear in mind that there is an opportunity to excel and show a high degree of knowledge. If it is impossible to perform without technical disturbances and a stuttering presentation, the conventional video format is an alternative, however, with some limitations.
The viewers must, to some extent, accept that the presenter's goal is to mention situations where their products can benefit the swine production. If the right balance between the description of the issue and how the solution solves it, the presenter can subtly enlighten the viewers. If the presenters do not possess this ability, you quickly get the impression that they want to use their products no matter what.
Webinars offer excellent possibilities to reach out to potential and existing clients. However, every rose has its thorns: The quality of the scientific content in the pig-related webinars is variable, and the technical quality suffers from time to time. In addition, the webinar dialogue is often quite limited or do not contribute to the overall information level.
The webinar must provide value for the viewer to be relevant. Each viewer has paid for the webinar with contact information and spent valuable time. If the viewer's perception of the webinar isn't positive, it may negatively influence the viewers' impression of the company.
Future room for improvements
Many webinar platforms pick up a lot of valuable data during the webinar, such as basic information like the number of attendees, if and when the viewer steps out, how many invitees watch the webinar and much more. Companies who do not realise that they must invest time studying and analysing data from their webinars will soon be impatient due to lack of marketing effect. If the first webinar does not turn out so successfully as anticipated, other approaches could be tested and see if changes impact the result.
The webinar format will most likely mature as the organisers get more and more experience. However, it would be no surprise if most companies significantly reduce their efforts spent on webinars as soon as the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemics gradually disappear.