One of the big problems I see with society today is that we seem to have even shorter attention spans than ever before and its getting worse.

Teacher friends of mine tell me they are ready to leave the profession because their students spend so much class time on their cell phones. And they are apparently not able to do anything about that as parents today scream to high heaven if they can’t have access to their kids 24/7, even while they are in school. (And administrators blame the teacher when test scores are too low. Sheesh!)

And it just occurred to me that I’m sounding a bit like an old fogey with that statement. You know, as in, if the music’s too loud you’re too old. I just think when kids go to school they are there to learn something and that requires attention to the teacher.

And now I’m seeing the same sort of thing happening on webinars that I’ve been attending. Personally, whenever I attend a webinar or a teleclass I actually go there to learn something from the presenter.

But lately, I’m getting less and less inclined to attend anything that’s being presented as a “webinar” for three reasons:

First, it annoys me to no end when the presenter spends the first fifteen minutes of the presentation trying to figure out how to make the system work. You’d think they’d test all that out or at least learn how to operate the system before they get on it.

I’m not talking about technical problems that are beyond their control here, I’m talking about not being prepared to operate the controls within the webinar system itself. No excuse. If you’re going to do a webinar, learn the system before going live.

Second, a boring Powerpoint presentation is just as boring — maybe more so — on a webinar presentation as it is in a darkened conference room. I can read as well as the next guy, and when the presenter simply sits there reading the Powerpoint slides I want to say, “just send me the dang thing as a pdf and I’ll print it out and read it the next time I go to the bathroom.”

Maybe just doing a regular old teleclass sans slides is not as sophisticated as doing a webinar, but for heaven’s sake, if you’re going to use Powerpoint slides, make them interesting and supportive of the material.

But those things only annoy me a little bit compared to the latest webinar phenomena, and that is “chatting” during a presentation.

This is a brand new feature apparently just added to webinar capability. At first I thought, well this is kinda cool. The participants can chat among themselves and ask questions of the presenter, but then I discovered that chat is a major distraction.

The other day I was on what I thought was a great, very informative presentation, but several people chatting there were making all kinds of unkind and disparaging remarks about the presenter and the presentation.

The slides weren’t working for that guy (legitimate technical problem it appeared), so maybe that was adding to the participants’ frustration. Some guy was trying his best to type out all the major points but was getting much of it wrong, and people were asking questions but the presenter couldn’t read all that AND teach the class and so people were angry that he was ignoring them.

For me, as a teleclass presenter, I must admit I get a little annoyed — no, let’s be truthful, a LOT annoyed — when people come to my teleclasses and multi-task. Luckily the system I use now allows me to mute individual phone lines so those thoughtless people don’t annoy everyone else on the call as they chat with other people, do their dishes, type, and even flush the toilet.

So I just can’t understand why a webinar presenter would INVITE distraction and encourage people to, basically, NOT pay attention to what he or she is saying.

Can someone explain that thinking to me? Or am a I dead wrong and just being too “old fashioned”? Like I said, I want to learn something at a webinar, otherwise I’ve got lots better things to do with my time.

So from now on I’ll be ignoring the chatting going on and just pay attention to the teacher as I’ve always done. That is, until I hear some demonstrable proof that chat enhances — rather than detracts from — a presentation.

How about you? What do you think? Any thoughts you’d like to share with me on this? I’d love to know what you think so please take a minute and share in the comment section below.