Live vs. video presentations

Chuck Rothman participated in a panel discussion at Osgoode Hall late last year. Video of the event later made its way online.

He asked several people who watched the video about it. Reaction was lukewarm. “It’s not like somebody will see me, call me up right away and say ‘You’re a movie star now!’ ” quipped Rothman, director of data engineering and analytics for McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

Rothman’s experiences as a presenter imply that people won’t get viral, TED Talk-like after-effects from recorded presentations posted online.

Sharon Nelson noted that video makes it different, from “the clothes you should wear, the arm movements you should make, you’re a little quieter.”

“With a live audience, you want to be more animated, you want your voice to change,” added Nelson, president of Fairfax, Va.,-based digital forensics, information technology and information security consultancy Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

“John (Simek, Sensei’s vice-president) and I go back and forth between our two voices. He talks hard-core tech and I tell great stories about technology and the law.”

Rothman said video sessions are no laughing matter. Asked about how a recent presentation went, he told his colleagues: “It was really good because people laughed at my jokes!” That doesn’t always work for him. “Sometimes I’ll say something I think is funny and the audience will be stoned-faced.” When doing an online presentation, “I wouldn’t even attempt a joke,” he said. “I wouldn’t get immediate feedback.”

Rothman has also recorded in a studio with only a camera watching. “It was harder for me to relax and speak the way I do when I go to conferences,” he said. “I’m used to seeing people’s reactions and I adapt what I say based on the reactions I get.”

He isn’t entirely against having presentations streamed. “People are less inhibited typing in a chat box than they are putting up their hand and saying something,” he said. “It’s likely the speaker will get better feedback through a chat system than they would if they were in the room with attendees.”

Rothman mused about the technical potential of video. After co-presenting a recent talk, he watched the resulting video. The producers incorporated visuals so that presenters didn’t dominate the segment.

“That’s more difficult to do live,” he said. “You don’t have control over what people see. In a video, the producer controls what the audience sees. It can be tailored better to the audience.”

Rothman even drew parallels to video games when he said that video presentations “can be more interactive. … watchers can answer questions and their answers affect how the rest of the presentation goes.”

Once a video goes online, presenters may want to promote it. Like Nelson, you may find the personal channels trump corporate ones. Nelson’s company plugs videos via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. “If I think it’s worthy, I’ll put it out on my channels,” she said. “That will more than double the rate of people accessing material. My marketing people complain that people follow me personally more than they follow the company.”

Neither Nelson nor Rothman would confirm marketing benefits of recorded video presentations. On the other hand, Nelson says live presentations are her company’s third-leading source of clients. “It’s even above our website, though not by much,” she said.

She figures that comes from talking with audience members after presentations and building genuine relationships. “If they like you, that’s a start,” she said. “Part of this is pure, genuine give-back to the profession. They like that too.” “If they sense that you’re more than a vendor, you’re more likely to be successful in promoting yourself without ever having promoted yourself, which is the best way to promote yourself.

“It’s a mix of giving back to the profession and the professional benefit of doing so. You don’t do it for the filthy lucre, but you know that some of that will come because you demonstrated expertise and spoke with people.”

This is where online video falls short. “When people approach you afterwards and they talk to you about a problem and you don’t charge them anything, they remember that,” Nelson noted. “And they’re thankful. Many of those people will never contact you again, but some will.”

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily website, published by LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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