Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The other day at my office some of us received an invitation to attend a webinar. For those who may not be as technically savvy as I, (HAAA... that is good for a laugh!), a webinar is a fairly recent “how-to-maximize-your-time-and-save-money” business tool. In theory.
A webinar combines the mind-numbing boredom of a live seminar, complete with monotone presenters, who incorporate “Umm” “ahhh”, and lame jokes, all while being shared with hundreds of “attendees” via the Internet simultaneously. The primary difference is the attendee can partake from the relative comfort of their desk, or home office, or vehicle rather than being crammed into a too-small, too crowded, too stuffy meeting room. One can attend with confidence knowing the technological advances of the 21st Century will function flawlessly
Talk about a recipe for disaster.
Initially, one receives an “e-vite” ( a special way to say an e-mail is inviting you to attend) the webinar.
Typically, in order to respond and “reserve your spot, space is limited” (sure it is), you have to click on the blue “hot-link” or “hyper-link” (I refer to this as the “blue words with a line under them”), which will automatically, effortlessly, and instantly direct you to the registration site. Sometimes.
As likely as not, you will be directed to a website offering “Hot Ukrainian Women” or one touting “One weird old trick to STOP aging”.
This, in turn, sets off a flurry of meaningless e-mails from a horde of self-important people, all advising of the issue. While everyone is in agreement that the sky is indeed falling, and Western civilization as we know it will certainly cease to exist, no one has a solution.
Finally, an e-mail to “ all HQ” is sent from a corner office occupant. This e-mail states “an unfortunate programmer error had occurred” and that “all has been corrected”.
However, having been sent to everyone in the building, a mini-blizzard of e-mails from people who were not originally intended to take part in the webinar now follows.
Which, in turn, triggers an “all HQ” e-mail (this time from an Administrative Assistant) stating ONLY the parties who received the initial e-vite are to attend the webinar.
The mini-blizzard of e-mails is now reduced to a mere light flurry, and tapers off after an hour or so.
All of the above requires a new e-vite being sent/responded to. This in turn generates another e-mail, thanking you for registering, with a new link to use the day of the webinar.
By this time, you have spent approximately 1.87 hours of your day on this event, having to read and reply to the various messages.
Finally, the Big Day arrives. Your Outlook Calendar reminds you 2 hours in advance of the webinar that you have a webinar. A little screen pops-up, reminding you of what you already know. Dutifully, you click snooze. The little box goes away. For fifteen minutes. Then, it pops up again, telling you the webinar will take place in 1 and ¾ hours. A little less fondly, you click “snooze”, this time hoping the little man in charge of the calendar gets the message. Fifteen minutes later, in the midst of reviewing a complex excel spreadsheet... a little box pops up, telling you the webinar will take place in 1 hour and 30 minutes. You click snooze, with the knowledge you will be nagged to death by this idiotic reminder until you click “dismiss”. However, you are reluctant to do so, as you may be involved in something at the time of the webinar, and miss the whole thing.
Then, the Magic Moment comes. You go to your calendar, open the event saved, and with confidence click on the hyper-link. And wait. And wait. And....wait.
You see the little e-mail balloons floating up on your screen. Apparently, there is a “glitch”, not to worry, IT will reconfigure the portal, and all will be fine.
Approximately 15 minutes later your blank screen comes to life!
Oh happy day! There is the presenter's outline, snappy graphics, and a plethora of emoticons.
You dial the toll free number to give you access to the audio, and are greeted by a polyglot of babble as people log in. The presenter requests several times that everyone put their phone on “mute”. The noise subsides.... except....what only two people know is.... SOMEONE has been designated the “don't mute your phone” person.
It goes like this.
Late at night, a call is made from the waterfront on a pre-paid cell phone. The call is received by another pre-paid cell phone within a vehicle deep in a forested area. The following ensues.
“Is this Gina?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“Mr. Big! Oh my gosh! Couldn't you be more creative? HAA that is hilarious!”
“Come on! Get with it, Okay? The cow bays at the moonlight”
“Oh alright... the dog goes to the milking parlor.”
“Good. Do you know the purpose of this call?”
“ I think... is it to say I won Publisher's Clearing House?”
“Come on, will you?? No, you are the designated person.”
“Are you kidding me? I am the one this time? I don't want that!”
“Too bad... it is a burden we must all share.”
“But why me?? Let one of the new people be the one to not mute their phone!”
“Gina, this is important! We need someone skilled, who is able to remain off the radar, and stay quiet.”
“Sigh... if I have to. Can I just leave my phone at the gas station again?”
“That was good, but a lot of people could still hear. I was thinking along the lines of a saw-mill or a rock quarry during blasting.”
“Okay, I will do what I can do.”
“Great... I knew I could count on you.”
And.. the mystery as to why there is always that one person who creates all the background noise is revealed.
Unlike the good old days when people would attend a live seminar or group meeting; there is nothing to look around at during a webinar. Back in the day, you could look at other attendees, make mental notes about their hairstyle, or out-dated suit. You could gaze out a window, watching butterflies racing in the distance. If nothing else, you could wonder how long it would take the speaker to realize their pants were unzipped, and how they would casually close the matter.
Not so with a webinar.
You have stared at the confines of your office or cubical for at least 40 hours a week. You are more familiar with it than you are your own kids. Tough to daydream here. “Ah Ha!” you think, “I will play games on my computer!” With a smug smile you click on the start menu, go to games, and then come to the awful realization that your computer is locked, and you cannot deviate from the webinar screen!
Oh what to do??
Your cell phone buzzes. A text message from a co-worker, also bored beyond words, wondering how you are faring on the call. You reply briefly. Another text pops up. Before long, you are exchanging jokes and witticisms about the call and wondering who in the world is in a saw mill.
Finally, you hear those most welcome words “So, in conclusion...”. You breathe a sigh of relief. You see on the time-meter on your phone that 77 minutes have passed, and you don't recall A THING that was said.
You hang up. You see the e-mail balloons popping up... people wondering what the call was about, and “Who the heck was stuck in the saw mill?!?”
Thus endeth a 21st Century webinar.