Virtual meetings are becoming more common than in person meetings today. I personally facilitate over 20 standings meetings per month for committees or training opportunities. My goal is to engage each person on the call and make them feel as though they contributed to the outcome of the meeting.
I was once a participant on a virtual call and I was able to mute my phone and vacuum my office without ever having to un-mute. The presenter read each of the slides on the screen and I didn't even have to look at the slides. I often wondered why they didn't just send them out to everyone to view on their own time. If they were worried that no one would view them, they could offer a contest for answering questions related to the content. I felt that it was a waste of my time and hope to lead a meeting like that.
Here are some quick tips for your next virtual meeting or training.
- Use a wired Internet connection
- Power off any devices using the internet that are not necessary that are using the same internet connection
- Reboot your computer 2 hours before the broadcast time
- Close any programs that you do not need to have open
- Use a secondary "participant" computer to see what your participants see
Use a headset and microphone
- If you are using a headset and microphone, mute your computer speakers to avoid feedback
- Develop your meeting based on the lowest common denominator of technology savvy
- If you are not recording the meeting, use a separate phone line for audio
Use an audio service that allows administrator to mute lines
- Power off your cell phone.
if you need to leave your cell phone on for messages, do not put it near your computer.
At the conclusion
- Send your participants a survey asking for feedback
- Don't start a private conversation with other hosts or presenters at the end. You may still have participants listening that have not logged out.
- Greet the participants with a friendly opening.
- Do not let them sit in silence wondering if they are in the right place
- Allow participants to chat with each other - do not disable that function unless you are embarrassed about how few participants you have.
- Ask your presenter to give you a backup copy of their presentation. If their internet connection fails, you can continue the presentation running the presentation from your computer while they are on a phone line giving the audio portion.
- Have the presentation available in two formats. If you are using a powerpoint, convert it to a pdf as a back up. The "transitions" and "movies" will not play but you will not have to cancel your event due to a bad file format in powerpoint.
- Scale your pictures. Screen resolution is 72 dpi. Cameras now take photos at 600 dpi and higher. The higher the resolution the bigger the file. Just because you "scale" the photo down when you placed it into the file, the program still "loads" the full size file and then scales it, resulting in additional bandwidth unnecessarily used. Scale your photos before you place them to make the file size the smallest.
- Don't use "transitions". You are not trying to "entertain" the participants. You are conveying knowledge and creating a community of learning, so don't include anything that doesn't meet that objective. Transitions do nothing but make people dizzy and take up additional memory.
- Practice in advance "live" with your presenter.
- Instruct them to practice from the location of which they will be presenting. If they do a practice with you from their office with a fiber internet connection and they are live from a hotel with wifi on your broadcast day, it will not go well.
Meetings less that 20 people with participant audio
- Start your meeting with a basic question of interest, such as "where are you today and what do you see out your window?" This gives you a chance to hear their audio connection quality and predict any issues.
Keeping participants engaged
- Integrate the participants into the process. Ask them to read from the screen.
- Plan your event such that participants that are not using the visual can still hear the audio and participate.
- Vary the voices that are heard by asking participants to read a portion of what is on the screen. This also keeps them paying attention as they may be worried about you asking them to read.
Practice and use available technology
- Technology is great but be an expert at it before you use it. Many on line services offer "breakout" rooms, collaborative discussions, pop up windows so you can direct all participants to a specific web page that opens on their computer, down loadable files and music on hold.
- Online gaming is great and very interactive.
- Before you roll out one of these tools be sure you assess your capabilities, the bandwidth of your audience, your audience's expected technical capabilities and lastly practice, practice, practice prior to going live.
Meetings without participant audio
Of course, do not offer a dial in phone option, you don't need one. I have been on a call where you had to dial into a phone line but were never un-muted. I could have listened through my computer speakers and text any questions.
Use polling questions to keep participants engaged.
Ask participants to answer questions using a chat box. Some platforms (Adobeconnect) will offer multiple chats that can be topic specific as well as person to person private chats.
What tips do you have to add to this list?