Business operations are increasingly being performed via online meetings.
Equipment is at once getting both easier to use, with seamless integrations, and more sophisticated and powerful in features. Even people in transit can pull over to a rest stop or find a quiet place and participate in an online conference from the convenience of their smartphone.
Business Web conferencing solutions are inexpensive, often ranging from $20 per month up to $40 per month for a feature-rich service package. As per a table provided by Getvoip.com, a Web communication advisor, most business VoIP telephone providers will even offer Web conferencing solutions as an add-on for a monthly fee ranging from $5 per month to $15 per month.
Web conferencing can be a revelation — or a big waste of time for some organizations if not implemented properly. The technological wonders will be worthless if Web-based meetings are disorganized, too long, too short, meander or in other ways are inefficient and ineffectual. In other words, the attributes of a good meeting held when everyone is in the same conference room must be maintained, as well as possible, in a Web conference format.
SyberWorks’ Mary Polley-Berte offered an exhaustive list of Web conferencing tips. Here are some of her suggestions to help make your web conferences a success:
- Be very careful in the production of PowerPoint slides. They must be compelling and on-point.
- Have a “go-to” person who is the central focus when organizing the meeting.
- Let attendees know what will be tackled during the meeting.
- Rehearse and test the presentation before the meeting.
- In general, make sure that everybody involved in running the Web conference is familiar with the technology that will be used.
Some of Polley-Berte’s subsequent suggestions — there are 23 more — are very useful. The bottom line is that the Web conferencing technology is still in its early stages, but the keys to using it largely and effectively are based on old-fashioned common sense.
CIO’s Esther Schindler covers some of the same ground as Polley-Berte. But her unique spin and insight make her thoughts another worthwhile read.
Schindler suggests that sending information ahead of a teleconference is more important than doing so for an in-house meeting. Ground rules are important because of the nature of Web teleconferences. She adds that tight control is a must. People attending Web conferences are liable to all the distractions of a home office or Starbucks. Thus, mental discipline is hugely important.
It also is important to not fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. In hybrid meetings — in which most people are in one location but significant numbers attend remotely — there is a tendency to forget about those not in the room. A structured approach to the proceedings is an important step in preventing this.
Humbolt State University, in an unbylined piece, looks at Web conferencing from the week before, during and day after vantage points. There are multiple suggestions for each time period. Here are the top ones from each:
- Before: Anticipate likely participant questions and prepare answers; provide an agenda and create a clear understanding of the goal of the conference.
- During a dry run: Use the computers that will be used during the event to ensure that they have the proper software and are working correctly; include all speakers and moderators in the dry run so everybody knows what is to be done.
- The day of the session: Use a detailed agenda; begin the online session 30 minutes before the event.
- During the session: Inviting participants to introduce themselves via chat serves the dual purpose of familiarizing them with the technology and keeping them engaged; run through the agenda and do a sound check.
- After the session: Review any recording as a way to improve in any and all aspects of running a Web conference; post a link to the recording from which participants and others can benefit.
Dr. Tony Karrer at eLearning Technologies also offered a list of steps that will increase the odds of holding a successful Web conference. The article isn’t new, but it has advice that still is very relevant. Some of Karrer’s important insights:
- Don’t plan on ad hoc participation from participants. Design them in. If folks volunteer input, consider it a bonus.
- If it is a long or multipoint session, design in breaks.
- If the Web conference spans time zones — especially internationally — schedule very carefully.
- Encourage folks who will present on related topics or during the same panel to communicate with each other before the event.
Web conferencing offers tremendous advantages. At the same time, they are preparation-intensive. Many of the things that happen naturally in a premises-based meeting, such as impromptu conversations during coffee breaks and the ability for folks to read the verbal cues of speakers, are wholly or largely absent. Making up for this is difficult, but not impossible.
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