It's rare that i open my inbox these days without finding—nestled among the virus-infested messages and solicitations involving business opportunities in Nigeria—invitations to attend online seminars, briefings, Webcasts and other various and sundry "virtual events." But contrary to what you might be thinking, I don't just whisk them into the Junk Senders folder. I've taken many of the senders up on their offers and have found most of the events to be surprisingly informative.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, these online events are typically 30- to 60-minute presentations that essentially mimic a live briefing or panel session at a real conference (that is, one you attend in person). Most everything is the same: They start with introductions and so forth, segue into PowerPoint presentations with a voice-over, and then invite the audience to participate in some form of interactive Q&A. You generally get everything you'd expect to get by attending a conference session, without subjecting yourself to the rigors of business travel.
Given that most, if not all, of these programs are delivered straight to your desktop for free, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to log on at least a couple of times a month. If you're like me, you just might get hooked.
That's not to say that some aren't thinly disguised sales pitches designed to flog a particular product without offering anything in the way of new and fresh information. That caveat notwithstanding, I highly recommend that you give it a try. The topics are usually extremely timely, the presentation quality solid, and the computer interface pleasantly appealing.
The hosts of these events run the gamut from universities to consulting houses, research firms, vendors and service providers, professional groups, trade associations, and, yes, even businessto- business magazines like this one (although DC VELOCITY has yet to test these waters, readers should stay tuned). It's easy to overlook these invitations when they hit your inbox mixed in with all the other missives, jokes, "offers," bulletins, alerts, rants and, of course, actual work-related messages. But before you assume they're best dealt with via the delete key, stop and take a look. Some are actually worth the time.
One Webcast I "attended" recently addressed different ways of implementing RFID technology in logistics operations. I spent 60 minutes listening and learning and came away feeling I was genuinely up to speed on the topic. I heard from a market analyst, an end user and the vendor. All three were highly informative, delivered solid presentations, and stuck around for about 15 minutes to answer questions submitted in an interactive, instant-messaging format.
Two other sessions I logged onto recently centered on the capabilities of various software applications. The format was roughly the same: Three speakers—a consultant, a vendor, and an end user who was also a customer of the vendor —took turns delivering their spiels. Again the quality was great, the information helpful, and my time well spent. The vendors in all three cases, of course, focused on their own products and services and the benefits of buying them, installing them and using them. That's certainly their right given that they're paying to deliver the program. Still, while commercial in nature, their presentations were all worthwhile. It's not unlike getting a highly detailed and useful briefing from a car company exec when you're out looking at those new gasoline/electric cars. Though a Honda rep will want you to buy a Honda, you'll learn a lot whether you ultimately go for the Honda Civic Hybrid or choose a Toyota Prius.
At a time when e-mail abuses are rampant and the influx of spam makes us long for the days when junk mail came only in print form, it's easy to overlook an invitation to a Webcast. But stopping to check one out once in a while can be time well spent.
So click and learn. It might be the start of a beautiful friendship.