What's the best platform? (part 2)

Whenever I hear this question, I cringe.

And it’s not because I think it’s a stupid question, but because of the chatter that immediately follows?

Why this is not a stupid question

If you look at the market maturity of any given thing (in this case, webinars/webinar software), different people (or organizations) mature at different rates. 

“What’s the best webinar platform?” isn’t a bad or stupid question, it’s the wrong question. And someone who’s asking the question doesn’t know any better…which doesn’t make them wrong or stupid, it just means they’re where they’re at in their own journey.

What is the right question?

Let’s use transportation as an analogy. “What’s the best car?”

If all you need to do is to get to the store to buy milk, any one of them will do. And technically you could haul gravel or children in either a pickup or a minivan, but the elegance of one solution versus another emerges at deeper level of differentiation.

The question, then, is “What’s right for me?”

So why do you cringe?

Whenever I see someone post this frequent question (such as on FB), people come out of the woodwork to say “I love X” or “I tried Y and it sucks.”

The problem is that this answer almost never includes the context of their usage. 

I want to jump in and say, 

  • “Oh you use X, but she’s got a Mac, and X’s platform doesn’t handle recordings in the way she wants to do it.” 
  • “Oh, you use Y and think it’s too expensive, but did you ever stop to think that you’re not their target market, and the APIs that they’ve included actually make this an awesomely reasonable price for their target market?” 
  • “Oh, you’re recommending Z, but what she’s asking about is more like needing a content authoring solution instead of a web conferencing/webinar solution…maybe a webinar platform isn’t the best thing for her?”  

The list could be endless. Just remember, people want to justify what they've purchased (who wants to say, "I use X, and I'm really an idiot in the way that I chose it."). If you ask friends and family what's best, expect a friends-and-family answer.

But what if I don’t know what I need. What do you recommend?

Here are a few strategies, none “right,” and in no particular order:

  • Try out a bunch of services using their free trial.
  • Create a mini RFP listing out the things you want and send it to vendors and see how they respond.
  • Just get started with any of them (so you learn what you want and need). I’d recommend a market leader like Citrix, Adobe, Webex first. Value = speed to market, safe purchase.
  • Don’t discount your personal preferences. We do it with cars (“I like the way this one handles Bluetooth”), and it’s perfectly legit to think “I just like the way this one does <this>.” 
  • Hire someone with deep experience in the space to help you discover the right option for you or write that RFP.
  • Find someone with exactly the same use-case as you and try out what they’ve done (be careful...keep reading).
  • Read this…maybe hosting your own web conferencing platform isn’t the right thing at all (maybe you should use what the client has)

What things should I be asking about when look for a vendor?

This list, too, could be endless. A few of the zillion little things that could be a big deal to you:

Do you need marketing features? Ability to upload video or share a YouTube video? Use Keynote instead of PowerPoint? Enable robust test-taking? Download the video in a format you can use in an editor? Use transitions/animations in PowerPoint slides? Integrate with a marketing platform? Have ecommerce possibilities so I can charge for this stuff? Be drop-dead easy to use because you’re not a techie? Track how long someone stayed on the webinar?

And on and on and on and on.

The problem is that it is in your exacting details where this stuff emerges. Just showing PowerPoint and recording the webinar is a start, but don't stop there. 

So what’s the best platform for webinar? 

Glad you asked. That leads to a lot of great questions.

Why avoid the conference's PPT template and what to do about it

Today's post is inspired by a question from one of my coaching clients. Her question (and problem) are likely something you can relate to: Conferences frequently ask speakers to use their conference PowerPoint template. Should you?

It's a bad idea. Here's why.

To be fair, somebody at the association or on the marketing committee of the conference is trying to do all they can to promote the conference's brand. They're doing their job the best they know how.

Unfortunately this works against you as a speaker in many ways. Here are a few thoughts and what to do about it.

The problem with templates

PowerPoint templates are never designed by psychologists or learning specialists

My slides aren't designed by a psychologist, either, but they are designed by someone who has read the primary research about attention, cognition, and retention and teaches the dos and don'ts based on how the senses and brain work (me!)

"Pretty" isn't the point. Impactful communication is. Conference templates aren't.

PowerPoint templates (usually) perpetuate the "slides as documents" disaster

If you held up a physical object as a prop, the point would be helping you to make a point. You wouldn't expect to give one to every person in the conference.

Giving away PowerPoint decks almost always presumes that someone can read the deck in lieu of being in the audience of the live presentation. Why? Most of the time PowerPoint is used as a document, not as a visual that helps you put an exclamation point behind one of your points.

Now imagine you've used a piece of video or animations to build out ideas. This translates even more poorly to a pdf.

In short, great slides make lousy documents. Great documents make lousy slides

The problem for you

You lack differentiation

If every speaker puts their content on the same PowerPoint template, how do you stand out? 

You spend good time and money on your wardrobe, your website, your logo, your products, and even the dancing monkey video you hoped would go viral. Now you're going to have your PowerPoint slides look like everybody else's?

You miss the opportunity for additional stickiness

If you're going to get future gigs from this engagement, part of your job is to be memorable. Part of it is to be findable . 

If the audience remembers you and can find you on the web, that's great. But what about the opportunity to have a document take up residence on their computer because it has perceived value so there is additional opportunity for them to bump into you? Keep reading. 

You decrease the impact of your visual engagement

As mentioned, PowerPoint is a prop. When you create your own, you put stuff on each slide that is thought through so it has maximum visual impact (I hope!). 

When you put that content on a different template, it changes the visual nature of how that prop is going to impact the audience. 

To continue with the clothing analogy, you wouldn't just haphazardly wear an orange socks with your outfit because it was consistent with the conference's colors. Give your PowerPoint the same consideration.

What to do about it

Decide where you stand on the issue

Since I get paid to teach presentation design, the last thing I'm going to do is use anything other than what best represents me. In other words, it's a non-negotiable.

Ask up front

 I have never had a conference organizer offer me a gig and tell me that their template was required. It always comes up later. 

What they want you to do in the live session is one thing, but the stickler here is that conferences nowadays almost always expect to distribute the decks to attendees.

If how you represent yourself visually includes PowerPoint (or Keynote or…), learn what you need to know before you sign the contract. It's easier to ask questions and set expectations.

Ask if you can submit a different type of handout

Handing out your PowerPoint deck is nearly always a missed opportunity (besides the rant above about slides making crappy handouts). 

A separate handout more easily accommodates links, links with special offers, a bio that (re)sells you, or the ability to include additional stuff such as a a description of your other services or a list of resources that they want to hang onto.

Pitch the digitally-distributable (new!) handout as a value-add

Level one is "avoid PowerPoint as a document/handout." Level two is "at least avoid PowerPoint as a handout on their template." Level three is "create a separate summary handout to avoid PowerPoint altogether and add extra stuff for you."

Level four is "ask the conference organizer if there is a way that you can support them by including mention of them in the handout."

Examples: Special thanks to specific individuals, encouraging attendees to buy your product from the conference's bookstore, a link and promo code promoting the organizations' next conference, etc.


Would you sign a contract with these terms?

Anne wrote with a great question:

"Hey Roger, question for you. I had an email yesterday that I was selected as a speaker for a (name deleted) conference in August.  I am excited!

One of the items I have to agree to on the speaker’s agreement is: 

Allow (this association) non-exclusive rights to publish my contributed materials, including posting my presentation and handout material on the chapter website and using contributed material for marketing and in conference guide.

I just wondered if this is common place?  In past circumstances, it’s been optional."


Hey Anne,

The short: It's commonplace, and getting more common.

The longer: The more that attorneys get involved, the worse it gets. To be entirely fair, if I was the attorney for the association or organization originating the conference, I'd write the terms and conditions in favor of the my client (the association).

What you've got in your hands is pretty tame, I think. Unless you have explicit objection to one of those items, I think you're alright (my non-professional, non-legal opinion, of course!).

Want heinous with a capital H?

Here are the terms of a conference that I turned down (emphasis mine). I'll pick it apart as a lesson below.

Speaker grants (the org) the right to record, edit, transcribe, duplicate, distribute, sell and replay Speaker’s presentation delivered at the Event in any and all media now existing or hereafter developed, throughout the world
Speaker grants to (the org) exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free rights to reproduce, distribute, and sell any written or visual material submitted in connection with Speaker’s oral presentation, in whole or in part, in any media in conjunction with this Program. 


They can copy it, use it, sell it, and do so anywhere forevermore without paying me an additional dime?

Another way of putting this is "derivative works." In other words, they can take your stuff, repurpose it in another form.

There are three lessons for us to take away from this:

  1. The CEO of your business is you…and your responsibility and judgment calls are part of figuring this out.
  2. You need to ultimately bake-in these costs to your cost of doing business. Remember when I've talked about PITA fees? This is what I'm talking about….occasionally you may really want the gig and need to retain counsel to make sure you're square.
  3. A pre-emptive activity that would be useful would be to figure out in advance how you will handle licensing.

The bottom line

The easy thing to do (which I do) is just to decide that I will never cross the line in terms of parting with my intellectual property. Would I for enough money? Yes. That may not be your strategy, though, and the best time to be prepared is before you've got a contract in front of you.