I love being wrong in this space. It is much better to be wrong here than in my day job, as this blog is a safe place to explore ideas and ideally to tap the wisdom of our crowd.
So I've been wondering if I'm wrong in my "Manifesto for Vendor Webinars." If you have a moment, go check the original post from 1/31/10, and then read the comments. Dr. Mann, Senior Product Adoption Consultant at DOE, writes that "I think your manifesto here is way off base", and he is pretty convincing. But if I'm wrong about how to fix the problem, that is the problem of bad vendor webinars, I'm at a loss for the solution. There must be a set of best practices and guidelines for educational technology companies to follow in giving a product demo webinar.
Let me take a shot at this again, keeping in mind Dr. Mann's comments.
Proposed Best Practices for Educational Technology Demo Webinars:
1. Try to get the client (the school) to provide use cases that illustrate their needs. It may be necessary to elicit this information in a phone call or e-mail exchange prior to the "big" demo. Always build your demo webinar around these use cases.
2. Always do a warm-up practice run of the demo webinar with the contact person (or persons) at the school. Use this run-through as an opportunity to get feedback and ideas about how to improve the webinar presentation.
3. Minimize the slide deck prior to showing the actual technology. This can be done by sending the slide deck ahead of time to be distributed to the audience. The slide deck should focus on a synthesis of the client's needs and very explicit but brief answers of how the product/service solves these specific needs.
4. Build plenty of time in the demo webinar for discussion and questions. Have regularly scheduled break spots and an ability for participants to "raise their hands." Think of the demo webinar more as a conversation and less as a presentation. You should be able to use voice-over presentation recording tools to "get through" all the materials you need to cover about your product or service (Camtasia Studio or Adobe Captivate or Telestream Screenflow are all great tools for this).
5. Talk about pricing up-front. When we evaluate a product/service we are evaluating against both the competition and the cost. Get the pricing on the table to start with, and have that pricing be as simple as possible (and be specific to the institution that you are speaking with).
6. Be willing to talk about your competitors in the space, but do so in a respectful manner. It gives you way more credibility if you say that product X does Y really well, and you admire their approach (and are learning from it).
7. Make sure that the conversation is focussed on your efforts to solve the problem jointly with your potential client. If you can turn your expertise into a resource that the school can call on than I believe you are much more likely to build a mutually long-term profitable relationship.
Okay…this is my best shot at this (for now). It may be that schools and clients and companies are so diverse that we can't find a set of best practices. I'm hoping we can.