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On appearing on an OSPAs webinar

Professional Security magazine editor Mark Rowe has just come off this week’s OSPAs thought leadership webinar chaired by the founder, Prof Martin Gill. Here he gives his first impressions of the experience, and advice if you ever get invited to appear on one – and if you are, you should accept, he writes.

The rest of the world clicks into the Zoom webinar at 3.30pm. As a panellist, you get what feels like gold service at an afternoon out – you enter at 3.15pm via your own link, and while you don’t have your hat checked in, and you have to serve yourself tea, you do spend the 15 minutes meeting the other panellists and taking in the procedure from Martin. Having listened to dozens, I did know but it does serve to put you at your ease. Then it’s a smooth flow into the live recording and in fact the whole experience flies by.

As I said to the webinar, I had given the subject – of security industry journalism, and how and whether the security industry can have a bigger and better profile in the mainstream media – considerable thought in the weeks beforehand, after being invited to be a speaker. On the morning, I decided to throw up all I had gathered in my head and tell a story – as my way of adding value. Was it for the best? No idea, because the time flew and it was hard to take in.

Partly for that reason, I would advise that you jot down some outline of what you want to say – if only the main bullet points, on a single sheet of paper. Having listened to dozens of the 150 or so webinars so far, since the first lockdown of spring 2020, it’s apparent that at least some of the panellists write down what they then say. As with any public speaking, while that does mean you say exactly what you want to, it does mean spontaneity is lost, and we do notice.

And I repeat, the time flies – put another way, you have far less time than you might think beforehand. I jotted down about eight to ten points and I doubt I said many or any of them. For one thing, Martin quite properly puts questions to panellists from the audience – that is, what they want to hear about. I did find myself saying the first thing that popped into my mind; that I hope was relevant.

As for the actual content of what I said, and how I came across – you not only can sign up to hear and see a webinar for free, you can freely listen to them all afterwards. Martin said that feature is particularly of use since lockdown, as more people are back at work – and maybe are less able to spare 45 minutes mid-Thursday afternoon (in the UK; morning in the United States).

I learned less from the other panellists than I had hoped, because (to sound like a broken record now) it just flew by. I do hope that Martin returns to the topic, and indeed keeps the webinars going generally, because of what he has begun, that – serendipitously due to the covid pandemic – has filled a real gap, between banal online chat and the all-day or multi-day set-piece conference, out of reach and budget for many.

Martin by choice of guests has allowed us to see that issues and answers are common across the English-speaking world. It’s been a silver lining, thanks to covid, that tech has widened horizons – although, as I tried to set out, the internet has been the death of mainstream and all media, as the value of the printed, written word has collapsed to zero (as you well know, by reading this).

Martin’s webinars are not going to change the world – nor are they intended to – and we did no more than root around journalism and private security today; nor do I believe some of the ideas mooted are at all realistic, such as for a publicity campaign promoting private security (who’s paying?!); but as Martin has often said, the webinars are about making a critique – doing some critical thinking. Long may that, and the webinars, continue.


The next webinar is at an unusual time because it’s covering New Zealand; on Wednesday, December 8.


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