Marshall McLuhan and web conferencing — from The Webinar Blog by Ken Molay

“The medium is the message.” One of the most quoted five-word phrases in the last 45 years. I’ll bet you think you know what it implies. I’ll bet you’re wrong.

I just finished reading an erudite and fascinating article by Mark Federman, Chief Strategist, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. The article has the unwieldy title of “What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?”

There are questions I see all the time from webinar creators and administrators. Some common ones include:

  • How long should a webinar be?
  • How do I hold my audience’s attention?
  • What’s a good audience size?

I see an underlying communications message in these questions that is based on a prior medium.

Webinars extend our communications reach to that audience in a new way. And the change in the medium changes the dynamics of the message between hosts, presenters, and audience members. There is no more sea of faces. There is a multitude of simultaneous one-to-one communications between a presenter and an individual listener.

So instead of concentrating on “How much time do I need to reserve before it is seen as worth the trip?” we need to ask “How much time do we really need in order to deliver the value we promised?” Don’t be afraid to end a session early. Or at least end the lecture quickly and move to audience-guided questions and discussion.