Outside the sun was shining and I could hear the waves breaking in the distance. In my hotel room at Shangri-La's Tanjong Aru, I was seated in front of my computer, moderating an IATA/Travelmole webinar on "Selling Travel In A Weak Economy".
I know. I too don't understand why I do the things I do but such is life, work and play in today's world.
The night before the webinar, scheduled for 12.30pm on Tuesday, June 30, we had had a rehearsal which didn't go well. I couldn't log onto the webinar for some reason and so I had to call in by telephone. Sometimes, just like a cat, technology has a mind of its own and doesn't do what it's told.
Anyway, after a couple of hours of trying and several email exchanges - and here I have to thank my personal IT butler (always travel with them is my advice) - we managed to sort out the problem (whatever it was) and I secured a link to the webinar.
You never know though till you know and until the start of webinar, there was some trepidation as to whether everything would go as planned. Would technology let us down or uphold its promise?
Such are the challenges of an online seminar - you are at the mercy of technology - but actually I don't think they are any different from that of holding a live conference. At the Asia Luxury Travel Market conference in Shanghai last month, the microphones kept fading out and we kept having to say, "Can you hear me?"
In a webinar, you speak and you hope everyone can hear you but more important, is listening to you. When you don't have a captive audience that's physically in the room with you, you have no idea what your audience is doing while you are droning on. Is he playing video games? Is she doing her manicure?
Speaking into the ether and hoping your words will resonate with someone out there demands a certain leap of faith but more importantly, I think a new mindset.
As executives, we've been trained to present in front of live audiences or in front of the television but how many of us have been trained to present on webinars, which when you think of it is essentially similar to the radio?
I love radio and especially listening to plays on BBC. In radio, voice plays a critical role - it has to entice, engage and evoke.
In a webinar, you have the support of the visual medium - slides/images - but I wonder how effective are standard powerpoint presentations in the new medium? At the best of times, even in live conferences, it's hard to follow presentations that are heavy on powerpoints; what more in the virtual context?
And context is what it's all about. A lot of things can be lost in context if we don't heed the medium and the audience, and different skills are required for different platforms. It's like in the old days of the Web when we took a brochure, put it online and said, "I have a website."
By the same token, can we take a traditional live meeting format, put it online and call it it a webinar?
I don't have the answers. What I do know is if you are in the meetings business, you are in the communications business. Meetings are convened to get a certain message across to a certain audience.
And effective communication is about communicating in context - the right message for the right audience and the right style for the right medium.
Whether it's a meeting in a boardroom, ballroom or bedroom, the objective is the same - getting your point across in as succinct a manner as possible in a way that entices, engages and evokes.