Like many of you, I am trying to ensure that I keep my skills and knowledge as current as I can. I don’t have CPD obligations, but it’s easy to get stale or set in our ways, and there is always something new to learn. (Are you a Duolingo fan? I’m now in my fourth month of learning Italian and can confidently tell anyone who asks that the elephant is wearing a pink shirt but does not drink lemonade.)
And stepping into the training breach is the webinar. I have two main areas of interest these days – AML and writing/publishing – and in the past weeks I have signed up for about a half-dozen webinars on various aspects of these. And although they are slick enough (most of us have wrestled Zoom/Webex/Teams into submission and worked out that we shouldn’t film ourselves against a bright background), they are really not an efficient way for me to learn. It may be the ones I choose – i.e. the free ones – but everyone presenting is, to put it bluntly, trying to sell something, which is entirely understandable. Unfortunately, this means that they spend a good five minutes introducing themselves and then, of course, give you only a bit of information. And indeed, why should they give you everything for free? But the upshot is that from an hour’s webinar I will probably get three bits of useful information – and that’s not a good return on my time. It’s not possible to “skim-watch” a webinar in the way I will routinely skim-read documents to find the relevant bits.
This also partly explains another shortcoming of the webinar: I just can’t concentrate. Unless the webinar is riveting and jam-packed with information that I want, my mind and my mouse wander, and before you know it, I’m on eBay looking for those handy labels that you stick on boxes in the freezer and a new pair of summer slippers for my husband [true story]. However, the real problem for me with webinars – and again, this is the ones I have seen – is that they seem to be too general, too fluffy. They are opinion pieces rather than hard information. So yes, I can guess for myself that the pandemic is going to lead to a rise in pandemic-related frauds: what I want is examples, and how to spot the signs, and what we can do about it. Perhaps the format – demanding our total attention when there’s no-one to check that you are actually listening (or even in the room) – is better suited to more technical information. In pre-pandemic times, I once attended a webinar on the significance of the Sixth Money Laundering Directive. The trainer/presenter went through the directive article by article, explaining what it meant. No opinions, no calls for greater co-operation, no deferring courteously and flatteringly to other experts – just hard facts that I wanted and needed to understand. I was riveted.