Thoughts on Presenting an ATA Webinar

The American Translators Association (ATA) hosts an ongoing series of webinars on a range of issues related to language services. Participants either watch live presentations online, with Q&A sessions, or can click on a link to the webinar at any time afterward.

ATA recently asked me to prepare and present a webinar on a subject near and dear to me: the economics of language services. I addressed a topic I have written about extensively, regarding the constraints that freelancers face when attempting to set and/or increase the prices they charge for their services.

Despite all the lectures I’ve given in university classrooms and at professional conferences and seminars, I was a bit apprehensive about the online format. From the audience’s perspective – at least, in the way in which webinars are offered through ATA – they stare at a PowerPoint presentation while listening to the disembodied voice of a moderator and then the lecturer. The slides transition from one to the next, as the lecturer presents the topic, typically stopping once or twice over the course of an hour to answer questions.

From my perspective, as the lecturer, this setup posed some new challenges. The first was the webinar technology itself, which involved an online platform provided by GoToWebinar. I was sent a link and asked to log on 15 minutes prior to start time, to make sure that everything was running smoothly. A week earlier, we had done a dry run with two moderators from ATA to check on browser and operating system compatibility, as well as microphone and speaker levels. The GTW platform was user-friendly and easy to navigate. It showed the number of people simultaneously watching the webinar, and it allowed them to submit written questions, which the moderator organized and then asked me to answer during the Q&A sessions.

The second (more formidable) challenge was lecturing for an hour while staring at my laptop screen, without any feedback from the listeners. I was looking at the slides in my presentation and talking away. But unlike every other lecture I’ve ever given, I had no idea whether I was speaking too fast or too slow; if they were processing the information; or if the content was keeping them interested or boring them to sleep. In short, I was flying blind. It was a bit odd, sitting alone in a room with a headset on, talking at a laptop screen, and hoping for the best.

In the end, though, it was a very good experience. The webinar went off without a hitch. The technology worked great. I presented the content and answered questions, and I’ve gotten positive feedback from the ATA webinar organizers, as well as a few people who attended the lecture.

Lecturing in a webinar format isn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed the experience and look forward to presenting again.