Five webmeeting tools you aren't using - but should

2013

Many people find webmeetings a waste of time, and heaven knows they can be. There are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is not using the tools as intended. In fact, 80% of presenters and meeting leaders use only 25% or so of the features. And this is consistent across platforms so it really doesn't matter whether you're using WebEx, Lync, Adobe Connect or something else.

Most web conferencing platforms offer much the same feature-set, although specific tools might look different and have different names (and this is one of the big objections people have when they use them) . But the under-used and under-appreciated tools pretty much boil down to these.

File transfer or attachments. Have you ever been in a meeting where someone doesn't have a document and you have to leave the meeting to email it to them, then they have to retrieve it? What about when someone has a document to contribute? It's actually very easy to use the file transfer function in most of the platforms to ensure everyone has the same version of a file and never has to leave the meeting (hey, even Skype can do this!).

Additionally, the file will go directly to their computer, so they don't have to mess with attachments. This is also a great way to control when people have access to information, just like in a live meeting you can distribute your handouts when you're ready and keep everyone on the same page.

Document and White Board Sharing. If you've ever been in a meeting where you use lots of flip charts, then have to have someone (usually you!) transcribe them and send them out you know it's a waste of time and effort. In most web platforms everyone can save a white board or brainstorm directly to your computer (in most it's as a PDF file or a JPG, which is essentially a screen shot of the whiteboard). This prevents time and transcription errors. It also holds people accountable, because they can't say they didn't get it in their email.

Recording. This is yet another advantage webmeetings have over their traditional, analog, counterparts. When the meeting is recorded for posterity, you can easily help people who couldn't attend catch up. It's also a great way to hold people accountable for action items and things they've committed to. Not to be a jerk about it, but if accountability is a problem, you have a permanent record of what happened.

The "attention meter". See that little red exclamation mark beside someone's name (or maybe it's a yellow triangle, or another icon)? It's beside some names and not others? That means that person is looking at another screen than the one you're presenting. This isn't always bad news (people can be looking up an answer for the group or checking to see if they have the document you're talking about) but it's a good indicator to the meeting speaker that their audience is splitting their attention.

Meeting or Participant Permissions. The default in most web platforms is to maximize what the presenter or host can do, and keep audience participation to a minimum. By ensuring the maximum permissions, participants can print hard copies directly from the meeting, upload content in advance of their presentation, save documents and files directly to their computers and log on early without needing the host to "let them in", thus reducing late starts and too much administrivia at the beginning of the meeting.

If you're unfamiliar with these features, or don't even know if your platform has them, that's part of the problem. Take the time to poke around and see what the tools are actually capable of. I recommend just starting in the upper left hand menu bar and working your way across the top of the screen, since that's where most of the commands are. If there's a drop down box or menu, check it out. You'd be surprised what's actually there for the using.

The problem with most meetings isn't a lack of ways to interact or make them more engaging. It's more likely you and your team aren't taking full advantage of what's there.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.