Webinar or live meeting?

I attended two aviation-related events the past two days. On Tuesday evening I attended a webinar, Abnormal Procedures for General Aviation, hosted by the FAA FAAST team and conducted by flight instructor Gene Benson. Tonight (Wednesday), I attended a seminar at a local hotel, Wanted: Alive! Reining in the Fatal Accident Rate, sponsored by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute.

Both events were interesting and informative. Their subjects were related. The webinar was geared toward thinking ahead of time about unusual situations you might encounter while flying, like an abnormally high oil temperature gauge reading, and what steps you would take to address them before they develop into something more serious. The local seminar outlined several actual accident scenarios and tried to get you into the thought processes of the pilot’s involved so you might be able to prevent similar mistakes in your own thinking.

The different experience in the two formats was also interesting. The online webinar was nice because I did not have to leave my house. I sat in a comfy chair with a drink in my hand and watched the presentation. Gene Benson made good use of the online polling capabilities of GoToWebinar to outline several abnormal situations and then poll attendees on which of several actions they would take. There was one technical difficulty at the end of the webinar that caused him to not be able to tell who wanted to ask questions, but several people were still able to ask questions or make comments.

The in-person seminar was only 10 minutes away from my house, so it was still convenient, but not like sitting in my own house. The presentation format was similar to the webinar, except instead of multiple choice options for the scenarios the presenter left it open ended and let audience members provide there own actions. There was one technical difficulty caused by the presenter forgetting to plug in the power cord for his laptop, but that only caused a couple minutes delay while he grabbed the cord from his briefcase and attached it. Another advantage of the in-person seminar is that he was able to give away some hats and books as door prizes.

I can’t say one format was better than the other. I liked the convenience of the webinar, and I thought more about the scenarios in the webinar because there were no distractions. (A lot of the answers in the seminar were pretty far out in left field.) On the other hand, at the seminar I sat next to a friend and we were able to exchange ideas about the presentation as it was going on. Also, it was nice to see the other hundred or so people at the seminar to get an idea of the type of people interested in this. There were over 800 people attending the webinar, but I have no idea who any of them were.

The bottom line is both formats worked well. The quality of the presentation content plus the style of the presenter are much more important. Both of these events had high quality content and good presenters, so both were winners.

And if you are wondering why there are so many general aviation safety seminars going on, the general aviation accident rate is about 40 times that of the airlines. It is bad enough that general aviation safety is on the National Transportation Safety Board most wanted list. Most of the problems are caused by poor decision making by pilots, hence the number of seminars and other events related to general aviation safety.

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