Webinar use is on the rise among meeting professionals, according to a survey of the readers of MeetingsNet Extra, a weekly e-newsletter from the MeetingsNet magazines.

In 2007, 34.4 percent of the survey respondents attended one or two webinars over the course of the year, and 34.5 percent went to three or four. Compare that to the first quarter of 2008: 56 percent have already logged onto one or two webinars, and 32 percent have attended three or four.

Only 6 percent of respondents (just 2 of the 32 people who responded to the survey) had never been to a webinar. In 2007, 17.2 percent went to more than six.

Job-related learning is a key webinar draw for our respondents. (88 percent are in-house or independent meeting planners, and the rest are suppliers.) Here’s a breakdown of the primary reasons respondents have for attending a webinar:

  • 72% meetings-industry education
  • 21% personal educational interests
  • 7% corporate communications

Perhaps most interesting were respondents’ impressions of their webinar experiences—and nearly everyone took the time to write in an answer. Convenience and cost-effectiveness were the two top positives, with about half the respondents echoing comments such as:

“I can keep up with my learning and don't need to travel. If it is a topic that is of interest to my team, we all participate together and can discuss afterward. Saves on travel costs and the costs associated with down time for travel. Convenience is the key!”

“Good way to learn in a time-crush industry.”

“They have been informative and are a more cost-effective way to attend a seminar than traveling to a trade show and spending large amounts of money on travel. You can download notes for future reference and get contact info to follow up with those who put on the webinar.”

“Great! All of the webinars that I have attended have been free. I can take them right at my desk. My company saves money, and I'm not losing productive office time.”

On the downside, webinar attendees criticize some events for not going deep enough into a topic, wasting time on introductions, and not being sufficiently engaging. Others have been marred by technical glitches. Here are some comments:

“Often times, you get hammered with PowerPoint and endless bullets. There is too much time spent on introductions and setting the table for the presentation. When multiple speakers are involved, there tends to be overlap and a disconnect.”

“They were somewhat informative and a whole lot about selling their point of view or product.”

“Not as beneficial as in-person meetings. Often webinar participants are multitasking and not participating at 100 percent. Better than audio-only concalls.”

“Occasional disappointments in the lack of sound quality or availability of an accompanying slide presentation. Some are actually recordings of previous sessions, but marketed like they were new live events. Many offer good, strong, and new content and address a particular topic not only in the presentation but also in allowing for questions to be submitted by online attendees.”

“They are generally interesting, but it is really hard for me to pay attention to them while I am at my desk and have a million distractions.”

“In general, they provide a very good start on the topic, but about half really do not cover [the topic] in depth because of time constraints. (Most I have attended have been one-hour webinars, with a company intro/housekeeping explanations in the beginning.)”