A Behind the Scenes Look at the SOA’s First Interactive Leader Session

by Mike McLaughlin,SOA President, 2009-2010

McLaughlin After much preparation in a short period of time, the SOA held its first SOA Dialogue: An Interactive Leader Session on May 5. I know that a few hundred people dialed in live, and hopefully many of you will be listening to the recording posted on the SOA website.

The webinar format is one of our communication channels, one part of the commitment of your leadership to send and receive more communication to and from SOA members. The webinar format seemed like an ideal way to present the findings of the member and candidate survey, talk about current initiatives and answer any questions that members might have.  SOA Interactive Leader Session

I wanted to give you a look behind the scenes. The day before the webinar, Don Segal, Greg Heidrich and I discussed the prepared portions of the presentation by phone. Pat Gould, the SOA’s managing director of marketing and communications served as timekeeper and moderator, and fired questions at us, testing our ability to answer questions on the fly.

On the day of the event, we were all onsite at the SOA office. This is common practice with formal webinars; it helps avoid technical glitches, and leads to smoother presentations. We also had several SOA staff members in the room. We reviewed our agenda, tested headsets, adjusted voice levels and got ready for the clock to hit 11am CDT.

When it did, we were off and running! The first 30 minutes was reserved for prepared remarks, and the second 30 for Q&A. We stuck to our timing pretty well. One thing I learned is that I am big on hand gestures—even when speaking on the phone, as opposed to an in-person audience. The SOA staff graciously pointed out this observation to me.

As the questions from members rolled in, Pat fielded them and directed them to the right speaker. We used hand signals and wrote notes to determine who was going to answer the next question. We answered as many questions as time permitted. When we reached the end of our time slot, there were just a few questions we couldn’t cover live. We’re working out the best way to get back to everyone, to share the same information with all members who are interested.

The event was a success! Initially we didn’t know whether we’d get 25 people or 2500 to join the discussion. In the final tally, over 160 sites participated, and we were able to respond to over a dozen questions sent in by members—some of which we hadn’t anticipated, but such is the nature of a live webinar! In the post-event survey, responses were very favorable with 80 percent rating themselves as “4” or “5” on a satisfaction scale. 99 percent rated their satisfaction at 3, 4 or 5.

I’m pleased that this was a great, interactive way to present the findings from our 2009 Member & Candidate Research.

We’re already talking about timing and topics for the next session, so stay tuned!

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