Ask The Webinar Expert: Should our webinar speakers be together in the same room?

We come across this question a lot. One school of thought is that speakers should be together in one room, even if the webinar is an audio-only webinar. A different school of thought is based on the benefits that come from speakers being in different locations, or at least in different rooms. So which is the right choice? Let’s look at how they compare.

Benefits of webinar speakers being in the same room:

There is no doubt that being able to see each other helps with the dynamics between speakers. Seeing each other’s body language and non-verbal cues can be “heard” by the audience. It’s the same principle that allows you to “hear” when someone is smiling on the other end of a phone call. And this is the main reason why webinar organisers (or the speakers themselves) feel that webinar speakers should be together in one room. A good rapport and interactivity between speakers is appreciated by a webinar audience.

The downside:

There is, however, a significant downside to webinar speakers sharing the same room. Sound quality tends to suffer significantly as a result. Typically, the audio for webinars is picked up via a land line phone that dials into your webinar platform and stream (mobile phones tend to provide less reliable signal quality). For individual speakers on a webinar, this can best be achieved by using a headset or the phone’s handset itself.

However, when there are two or more speakers this is no longer possible, because there are usually not enough landline phones in the same room. In this case, webinar presenters tend to choose an alternative solution by using the available phone’s loudspeaker or a conference room speaker / spider-phone, in an effort to capture a combined audio for all presenters. In this scenario, because presenters are sitting further away from the microphone, the audio experience for the audience suffers.

Even if presenters were to use a separate headset each, there is still a danger that the headsets pick up feedback or noise from the other headset. Muting the headset in between contributions is impractical and defeats the purpose of speakers wanting to freely interact with each other.

Benefits and downsides for webinar speakers being in separate rooms:

The benefits for this scenario pick up where the downsides for the same-room-scenario leave off. Audio quality (and therefore the audience’s audio experience) improves significantly when speakers can focus on connecting with their own headset. Having this flexibility often also comes up with a more familiar computer setup, because presenters often choose to present from their home office or work environment. Good quality audio, be it at home or at work, is expected in today’s multi-media-savvy world. Poor audio stands out like a sore thumb and is noticed in an instant. Your audience will struggle to get used to (or forgive) poor audio.

There is, of course, the downside of speakers not being able to see each other. But there are a few questions webinar organisers should ask themselves:

  1. Will your speakers be continuously interacting with each other throughout the webinar, or will they deliver their presentations one after the other?
  2. If speakers will be continuously interacting with each other, would video not be a better option?

The reality is that most webinars will be structured in a way that speakers tend to present in succession. The other reality is that video streaming and video production equipment is readily available and inexpensive.

So what is the answer?

There is a choice to be made. Audio quality (presenters in different locations) or interactivity between speakers (presenters in the same room). If it was a choice only between these two options, your audience will prefer good audio quality more than they would notice a downside from presenters not continuously interacting with each other.

Adding to that, and with video streaming becoming more established (and affordable) every year, there is no reason not to pick audio and video according to the purpose you are trying to achieve.

Here’s our advice: Assess your goals and map the best solution to it. Whichever solution you choose, don’t compromise on the experience for webinar audience to suit your own preferences. Adjust your delivery model instead.

One caveat: The scenarios described here hold true for most webinar organisers. There will always be more technical or creative solutions to solving the question in this post. If you’d like to know more, or to share your own experience, why not get in touch.

Want to know more?

WebinarExperts supports organisations across a range of webinar topics, including webinar programme strategy, webinar programme design, and tactical webinar execution. To find out more, contact us or call today on +44 (0)330 001 5327.