Landscapes - Summer 2016 - (Page 56)

THE WEBINAR CORINNE MEAdOWS JIM URBAN LIVE - CONdUCTING A WORKSHOP It's been eight years since well-known tree expert, James Urban, FASLA, published up By Roots, his seminal manual on managing trees in the urban environment, but he continues to be a self-confessed, real-life Lorax, the Dr. Seuss character who speaks for trees... When he recently co-hosted a webinar, I decided to listen in. Then, in a followup phone interview, Jim and I discussed some of the benefits of the increasingly common medium of webinars. EN_ PRESENT A LECTURE in front of a live audience, and you get immediate feedback. Present a lecture in a webinar, and you have to wait a bit. When the feedback arrives, it's in the form of online questions submitted at the end. As I listen to Jim's voice (he is explaining how collaboration is critical to keeping tree needs front-andcentre of any project), I wonder who else is listening. I am surprised to discover that as many as 250 people attend Jim's webinars, and that they are listening from across North America, the united Kingdom, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. Later, when Jim temporarily doffs his (metaphorical) tree hat to share tips on the webinar process, he mentions this clear advantage of the medium: he is based in Annapolis, Maryland, yet he can connect with scores of people continents away. 56 LANDSCAPES PAYSAGES JAMES URBAN: HOW TO PRESENT A SUCCESSFUL WEBINAR Jim prefaces our phone conversation by clarifying that he does not believe that webinars should replace conferences. "I still believe in the networking that occurs before and after conferences," he says. But a webinar can save an awful lot of time. "A lecture for 200 people can involve at least a day's travel." Factor in the low cost of producing a webinar (one popular platform I researched, gotowebinar, charges $90 a month to reach 100 people), and the webinar option becomes a financially interesting way to spread your message. So what does it take to host a good webinar? Jim offers some key pieces of advice. PREPARE THOROUGHLY A webinar involves a "tremendous amount of work," he says. Jim gives himself two to three months to prepare. Webinars need to be well researched, so that the information will stand up in the public realm. If hosting jointly with another person, it also takes time to dovetail two presentations into one cohesive lecture. And don't forget the graphics. Jim spends a full two weeks on his images. As an aside, he warns against using too many words on any given image. He refers to Mark Twain's famous maxim on the difficulty of writing succinctly. ("I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.") Verbosity is easier than brevity. This is "so true in PowerPoint images," says Jim. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Choosing the right topic for your audience is key, yet by nature, the audience of a webinar is self-selecting. Jim sometimes canvases the attendee list before the webinar. Depending on the audience breakdown - for example, the ratio of designers to contractors - Jim will tailor his presentation to provide the right balance of information. PROMOTION IS CRITICAL. Leda Marritz, Creative Director at DeepRoot Green Infrastructure, has developed a list of invitees that includes people who are likely to spread the news. She sends out invitations seven to ten days before the webinar, asking people to forward the email. She also uses Twitter, asking people to retweet. People do help, she says; Jim's webinars "elevate the broader practice." When done well, Jim says, webinars are a wonderful way to share knowledge. Then he dons his tree hat again, and like Dr. Seuss' Lorax, who speaks for the trees because the trees have no tongues, he says: "Whatever we can do, we need to do, to make sure trees are looked after." I do a mental double take, realizing I've recently attended a good webinar on the very subject. For a sample list of Jim's webinar topics, visit his website at

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Landscapes - Summer 2016

To Begin With
Our Writers
Spotlight on Schools
2020 Vision: 3 University Landscapes
Active Praxis, Hybrid Practice
Entangled With the Real World: Experiential Learning
Round Table
Les Jardins De M├ęTis: A New Landscape Lab Emerges
Vivarium: A Sky Condo
Getting Digitally Dirty: Improvisational Bricolage in the FABlab
Designing Play
A Smile on the Lips
How to Present a Successful Webinar
The Last Word

Landscapes - Summer 2016