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What's the Word ON WEBINARS?
How new technology can help your practice
By John V. Wood

Woman sitting at a computer looking at the cameraFor years, chiropractors have attended seminars at universities, conferences, and clinics around the country. They take time away from their practices, their patients, and their families to travel to and from these educational opportunities.

If you do not have the time or chance to take part in live seminars, there are solutions.

Webcasts, Webinars, and podcasts are three multimedia answers for chiropractors on the go. According to DCs who use them, these media types are simple, cost-effective (for the most part), and priceless in that they share new and updated techniques and practices.

Chiropractic Economics pulled together experts familiar with these new media forms, and asked them about the benefits and risks to DCs, as well as their future effect on chiropractic as a whole.

WHAT ARE THESE MEDIA?

Webcasts, Webinars, and podcasts are called portmanteaus — new words formed by joining two others and combining their meanings. For example: "smog" is a portmanteau because it joins "smoke" and "fog." Another example is "brunch" ("breakfast" and "lunch"). You get the idea.

Webinar and Webcast both involve the World Wide Web. One word uses "seminar," and the other uses "broadcast," which means a Webinar is a seminar provided over the Internet, and a Webcast is a broadcast delivered in the same manner.

A Webinar is different from a Webcast in that a Web broadcast is a transmission of information without viewer interaction, whereas a Web seminar is designed to be interactive between the presenter and the audience.

Podcasting, a portmanteau of Apple's "iPod" and "broadcasting," is a method of publishing files to the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed and receive new files automatically by subscription, usually at no cost.

In most cases, whether it is a Webinar or a Webcast, the viewer watches a PowerPoint presentation while listening to the audio of the speaker. A podcast, however, is audio only. A podcast with video is called either a vodcast or a vidcast (combining the words "video" and "podcast").

ANY BENEFITS?

The benefits of this new technology are unlimited. The ease of message delivery, doctor/patient education, and practice research highlight just a small number of advantages of Webcasts, Webinars, and podcasts.

Greg Clark is the seminar technical director for The Master's Circle (www.themasterscircle.com), a specialized leadership training and practice-building organization. Clark believes the convenience of the technology is one of the main benefits.

"The best part of combining the Internet and our Webinars is being able to offer convenient, instant access to information. Convenience, convenience, convenience," Clark says. "It allows chiropractors to be more efficient with their time, and to do more of what they're supposed to do — adjust people."

Marilyn Gard, president of Clinic Pro Software, agrees. "We do Webinars for software training and also for insurance billing classes. The big benefit is that they are economical for attendees, since there is no travel time involved or hotel costs."

While being very informative, Webinars are very easy to find, join, and enjoy. According to Len Schwartz, DC, president of ChiroPractice Marketing Solutions, there's nothing to it.

"I collaborated with my partner, Chet Holmes, to create the first-ever chiropractic Webinar in 2004. We wanted to teach doctors seven things they could do to create and maintain a financially successful practice," Schwartz says. "There's nothing more [to a Webinar] than logging into a Web site, sitting back, and watching the presentation unfold in front of your eyes."

Clark goes on to say the benefit lies secondly with the technology. The true benefit is the message itself.

"The benefit is quite clear — the value of the content. The main advantage to the end user is not the technology; it just allows for convenience," Clark says. "Without the value of the content, the technology is worthless. If you, as a DC, cannot afford to send your staff to a live educational seminar, you now have the ability to share the quality content that the seminar provided without breaking your budget."

Another benefit of these new technology types is the increased reach of the individual message. Mike Dorauche, DC, creator of the Planet Chiropractic podcast, believes the additional reach of podcasting makes what he does worthwhile — and even makes him want to do more.

"The biggest thing for me, when I get an

e-mail from someone stationed in Iraq who's been able to listen to my information ... it just gets me motivated to do it more. I also get e-mails from chiropractic students in South Africa, who are new to this stuff, and they are really motivated," Dorauche says.

"I even got a voice mail last week from a chiro-practic patient in New Jersey, wanting to know how to distribute my podcast to other people — including her DC. The consumers want this stuff, and we should give them what they want."

RISKY BUSINESS?

For the most part, experts believe there are absolutely no risks to this new technology. The only risk is not taking part in their benefit.

Some Webinar presenters have experienced some bumps in the road, however.

Gard says, "The biggest detriment is that you have to sometimes mute folks, because they have background noise that gets distracting. Of course, you can run into that same situation [noise] if you are holding a seminar in a hotel."

Schwartz encountered more technical than informational glitches when he started his Webinars.

"The only bumps we've ever encountered are the occasional technical bumps when someone's computer is loaded with Internet cookies or temporary files, and we had to learn how to instruct these people how to delete these files in order to make room for the files they are watching live on their screen," Schwartz says. "Thankfully, we have never received any skepticism, or doubt from anyone coming on board, about the success of our teleclasses or other live Webcasts."

IS HOSTING FOR YOU?

Participating in a Webinar is easy — so easy that you may decide some form of this media may be right for your patients. After all, if it's easy and convenient for you and your staff to learn via Webcasts or podcasts, couldn't you use these media to teach your patients about chiropractic?

Cost may be a roadblock, but it mainly depends on the level of Webinar or podcast you want to create. Podcasting requires a computer, audio-editing software, and a headset microphone.

The next thing you need to do is find a company to host your computer files. Depending on the size of your files and the amount of podcasts you want to create, relatively inexpensive hosting can be found.

Webcasts and Webinars are much more involved, because they require companies that actually facilitate your presentation. The Master's Circle, for example, hires a freelance video production company to record all of their seminars. The company turns them around in three or four weeks for Internet viewing.

Clark says, "This is not an inexpensive process, and that's because of the cutting-edge production value and accessibility we provide. We want to make our Webcast experience the best possible one for chiropractors and our other members."

Aside from the financial cost, the investment of man-hours also factors into these technological mediums. Time spent away from your practice and your family is something to be expected when creating your own Webinars or podcasts.

"In my experience, it takes roughly about 200 hours of preparation, research, and work in putting together the presentation itself — not to mention finding the site and getting the Webinar hosting taken care of," Schwartz says. "If you want a quality presentation, it takes your own time to put it together."

Image woman at a computer working and listening to a webinarEDUCATIONAL RECRUITMENT

The educational value of this new technology cannot be beat. Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic has been using Webcasts, Webinars, and podcasts to inform prospective students since 2006.

Karen Rhodes, Sherman's director of public relations, says there are several reasons why the college chose the Webinar format.

"We chose the Webinar format because we wanted to do something more interactive than just text on the page. We chose the topic of straight chiropractic because we wanted a way to educate our prospective students up front about Sherman College's philosophy," Rhodes says. "We've also found we can use this Webinar as an orientation tool to explain the college's philosophy to some enrolling students who may not be very familiar with straight chiropractic."

Sherman has also branched out to include several technological mediums to increase the efficiency of their philosophical message. The college has included podcasts, Webcasts, and blogs.

"We've found our student bloggers to be very helpful in the recruiting process. They give prospective students a realistic look at the day-to-day life of a Sherman student," Rhodes says. "The bloggers write about classes, social events, their hobbies and interests, the Spartanburg area, chiropractic, and more."

One of Sherman's next projects will be student podcasts and perhaps even vodcasts. In the spring quarter, Sherman will begin using an instant-messaging program on its admissions page, allowing for live, online chats between prospective students and admissions counselors during several set times throughout the day.

Image Many people around a computer watching what is happeningWHICH TOPICS WORK BEST?

Like Schwartz's Webinar, topics such as practice building or marketing work very well in these formats. Educational topics such as new subluxation techniques or improved office management also work well. Dorauche says anything that helps improve the knowledge base of the viewer/listener should be a guaranteed hit.

"In my experience, topics that are anything 'how to' are big. Things that help doctors grow their office, get motivated, and get up every morning happy to see their patients are amazingly popular," Dorauche says. "These re-energizing topics work wonders for morale."

"We've really been able to, over the last two and a half years put on Webinars for over easily 1,200 chiropractors at this point, and we've received tremendous amounts of positive feedback," Schwartz says. "Not only for putting on the presentation itself, but also being able to get this information out to chiropractors."

ARCHIVING

Another side benefit of Internet-based broadcasting is the ability to archive your files. Keep topics active for longer periods of time, and Dorauche says people will exponentially receive more of the benefits.

"Some of our most popular podcasts at Planet Chiropractic are more than eight years old. That shows the total importance of having an archive situation," Dorauche says.

Live seminars not threatened

The availability of Webcasts, Webinars, and podcasts are not a substitute for attending live seminars, says Clark.

"More people will buy a concert CD than actually go to the concert. This is the same thing, but it doesn't replace seeing the band live and in person," Clark says. "There's absolutely nothing like a live seminar experience. [Webinars] don't replace the experience; they just enhance the dissemination of the information."

Clark goes on to say that attendees can never take enough notes, or never glean all the information provided from the live seminar. Webinars and Webcasts allow people who have attended the actual seminar to weed out the information they don't need, watch classes or teachers they really enjoyed again, and also refer employees to pertinent sections they need to review in order to complement or improve their education.

With everything being easier, more convenient and more accessible via the Internet, our experts all agree — don't replace the live experience with Webcasts, Webinars, and podcasts. Use them in conjunction with the wonderful presenters around the globe.

Image Headshot John WoodJohn V. Wood is an Emmy-award winning journalist, as well as a nationally published freelance writer. He lives in Willow Spring, N.C., and can be reached at 919-632-1827 or by e-mail at john@johnvwood.com.

   
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