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I was invited to speak on a panel for a Modern Manufacturing masterclass organised by Chris Maguire on behalf of Pro-Manchester. Originally it was a live event to be hosted at the Virgin Money conference centre in Manchester, but due to the COVID-19 situation, it was changed to a Webinar. My first ever Webinar hosted on the Zoom platform.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but am now a Zoom user so at least I was familiar with that.

There were 4 speakers in total and a host. The other participants could see us, but we couldn’t see them.

I have to say that it was a good experience and one that I had better get used to moving into the post COVID world as this will be more the normal way now I would think. Going forward we will continue to have to observe social distancing guidance and travel restrictions but business still has to continue, so the virtual world will be more common practice for certain. Days of the Salesman calling into a business with an order pad once a week were already dwindling, but now this could potentially disappear for good.

The downside was of course that I couldn’t get audience interaction in terms of feedback via eye contact and body language and meet those real people before during and after the event. But, they did have the opportunity to message us during the broadcast with their comments and questions which was good.  

The upsides seem to out way the downsides in a number of ways I would say. We had around 60 ‘attendees’ on the Webinar so that’s 60 people not having to travel into Manchester to attend the event, therefore more environmentally friendly of course. In terms of time out of those people’s day it is far more efficient because they only have to give up the time of the Webinar from their schedule. So, the one hour Webinar is pretty much one hour, rather than a potential 3-4 hour round trip to Manchester and back for some. The format of the Webinar allows for a more controlled environment in terms of questions and comments during the event. There is no platform to shout and heckle but instead a controlled list of questions is constantly coming through that the host can manage and filter out any potentially no relevant or abusive comments. Any nerves that a speaker could have facing a live audience are also reduced of course, because you can’t see the audience.

Being of a certain age and generation, I am more used to meeting people, shaking their hand and talking face to face. That will be far rarer moving forward as the business world is changing and changing fast so we need to adapt. One thing that my age and generation has always been very good at is adapting to change, so bring it on.

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