Since the dawn of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, online meetings, and webinar platforms have come to light and all the major companies, institutions, etc. are using them. Most of them have also come up to support at these difficult times and offered discounts and addons to various plans. Example- Increased time limit, participation limit, etc.
Earlier this month, I was organizing a webinar with some influential people and was on a quest to find the right platform for the event. We were supposed to host 300+ participants for at least 1 hour. After visiting and signing up for various websites like Zoom, Webex, GoToWebinar, Hangouts, etc. we found out that each one of them has limitations in their free/basic plan. Either the participant limit is way too less(
After a lot of research, we ended up where we started- Zoom. We had to get the pro version for conducting just 1 session, but as compared to other platforms, it was the best choice. Unfortunately, a couple of days post the session I came to know that there are open source options available like – Jitsi, where you can customize the session as per your need for free, but only if you know how to code.
Let us have a look at the major features that led to the popularity of Zoom.
Apart from the problems mentioned above including price, limits and administrative privileges, another major problem users face is the unavailability of adequate internet facilities to attend such highly data-consuming sessions. Telecom companies are forced to decrease the internet speed amid the ongoing crisis, which makes it difficult for the participants to watch the sessions conveniently.
Another major concern is compatibility. Some of the websites want the participants to sign up and even download an app in some cases in order to attend the webinar, which adds an additional layer of process to be performed for just a single webinar.
Say Hi again to Whatsapp!
Whatsapp needs no introduction, it has been one of the most used apps till date. It’s simplicity, popularity, and usefulness attracts the users for both formal and informal conversations. Almost every smartphone user prefers Whatsapp to connect with their colleagues, family, friends, etc.
Since its inception, Whatsapp has been trying their best to make both formal and informal conversations. Starting as a “just text” messenger, they kept on adding features like media sharing, voice notes, calls, and now payments to kill the competition and keep the users engaged.
Can Whatsapp be used to conduct online sessions?
Over the years, web conferencing platforms are trying their best to provide an interactive experience. Diving deep into the history of these sessions, it all started from religious teachings, for a small group of people with 2-way interactions. With the rise of technology, radio podcasts were introduced with an added facility to call and interact with the speaker. And now, here we are, sharing multimedia, videoconferencing, and managing events in a single platform like Microsoft Teams.
What is the future?
Companies across the globe have designed web conferencing platforms in different flavors for several categories of people. Specialized products for official meetings, webinars, podcasts, promotional campaigns, live streams, and even Netflix Party are available and trending in the market.
Whatsapp can easily capture a huge chunk of this market without adding any additional features. Let us have a look at some of the features that can introduce Whatsapp into the world of online sessions-
Suppose you are an influencer, you were invited to an event to speak. The event is somehow canceled and now you are supposed to interact online with the audience. It will be possible, but you will miss the informal interaction you might have done with the participants pre and post the event. Additionally, web conferences are still not that efficient to let the participants think and brainstorm on your views.
So you ask the coordinating team to share the Zoom or any corresponding link, and they share you a Whatsapp group invite where the session is gonna happen. You join the group sometime before the session, share your views in a series of voice notes/videos/texts. For a larger audience, admin only privileges can be imposed and subsequently managed during the doubts sessions.
You remain in the group for a sometime after the session, getting feedback, clearing doubts, etc. Over the years, most of us have made ourselves comfortable with the working of Whatsapp. Owing to its ease of you, sessions like these can be conducted even while you are driving, traveling, in bed, cooking, etc.
It makes it even easier and interesting for the participants as there is an enhanced sense of your presence and it makes it easier for them to clarify doubts, hover to listen, and even re-listen to the recordings that they might have missed, and save important pieces of information with ease. The hover-to-listen feature will come handy here, using which you can listen to the audio notes using the earpiece speaker which automatically plays the next recording to give that podcast feel.
Whatsapp should not at all be seen as an alternate for Zoom, Microsoft teams, etc. It’s just another evolved method of collaborating online. Events like coding webinars, tutorials can not be easily conducted on Whatsapp, but it can pave way for talks and webinars.
There are certain pitfalls to this too. Sharing the phone number, confidentiality of the data, (larger but still) limit on participants, etc. can narrow down the user base, but for groups comfortable with sharing the information, Whatsapp can be a pioneer.
A few days back, a famous copywriter & content writer, Shreya Pattar conducted a session over WhatsApp AUDIO notes for students of a Nigerian University— University of Lagos. Read her amazing experience here-
Whatsapp is currently used in a plenty of industries for business, education, promotional purposes, etc. With the rising COVID situation, and inefficiencies and trust issues with platforms like Zoom, Whatsapp can emerge out as one of the most convenient platforms for connecting remotely and efficiently over the web.