My first webinar experience – and how it relates to your remote teams

I put on a webinar for ThoughtWorks in the UK 2 weeks ago, and it was a most interesting experience. My topic was “How do you accelerate your enterprise agility”, using 2 examples – eliminating all the wasteful practices we put in the way of our development teams, and how to choose the most suitable tools to enable your development. I will (probably) blog about these at a later date (if I have not done so already!).

What was most interesting to me was the lack of feedback from the attendees – silence, no physical clues, nothing. I was on one end of an internet connection, and my audience was on the other end. They could communicate by sending me written questions during the webinar, but no other way.

As someone who speaks and teaches a majority of my working life, this was very, very difficult. How did I know if what I was saying was getting the attendees attention? How could I gage the attendees reaction to my opinions and thoughts? How did I know there was even anybody there?

Well, I didn’t have answers to any of these, and it was quite disconcerting. I kept telling myself that there were people “out there” (and fortunately I received questions throughout the webinar), not to speak too fast, too loud, or to preach. It was a difficult experience, but one that taught me something…something valuable.

Following the webinar, I held a 2-day workshop for a tram new to agile, and I thought about my webinar experience. You see, this team had a heavy distributed element (and what organizations these days do not?), and while I talk about the difficulties of this during my workshops, I decided to experiment with this team.

I split the team into two, about 6 people in each team. One team stayed in the presentation room, and another went to another conference room close-by. This second team then joined the workshop by speaker phone, and we discussed a segment of the workshop I had just presented. Surprise, surprise, the “remote” team hardly participated, finding it difficult (and frustrating) to get their views across, or hear what was being said by the “local” team. When we came back together as one team, there was a lot of conversation about how to overcome this communication problem with their remote colleagues.

Try this with your team, and see if it generates some creative ideas about how to overcome your communication barriers. I think you will find it a fun – and meaningful – experiment. And let me know what you learn…

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