Make your web meetings more like real meetings

Oct 03 2011 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

A big complaint about web meetings and online presentations is that they aren't as effective as "real meetings". The fact is, there's a lot those meetings can do to be effective, but most people don't use all the features available to them.

Here are some simple tips for replicating (or at least coming awfully close) to re-creating a live meeting experience online:

Get to know each other personally: Many web platforms allow multiple webcams at the same time. It's a cheap and easy way to put faces to names. If you can't do that (or IT is having a cow over the notion), have photographs of all the attendees. Studies show that people are generally nicer to people they've met, or can at least identify. Take the time for some (appropriate) personal discussion and socializing once in a while, even if it's virtual. It will pay off in better working relationships.

Get immediate impact and feedback:There are many ways to gather information from the team. Polling is effective, although less formal methods work as well. Most platforms have a "raise hand" button, or emoticons like a thumbs up and thumbs down for quick votes.

If you'd use a white board or flipchart in the meeting, use it online in the same way: Get used to using the "white board" feature for brainstorming, creating parking lots and all the myriad ways you use them now. I'll bet your platform allows you to save the white board as a reference for later. If that seems like too much trouble, open a Word document and share it with the audience. You can have someone else serve as scribe to free your brain for other, higher-level, functions

Quit talking once in a while: There is a tendency when running sessions online to try and get all the information out of the way, then take questions. That would be disastrous in a live conference room setting, and it's no more effective online (although it's easier on the presenter, which is why it happens). Break after each "chunk"of information or piece of business and encourage discussion. Preferably this is live - go ahead and open the phone lines - but you can use the "chat" feature as well.

In fact, there are some things web meetings do that you can't do in a regular meeting session. You can enable participants to print or save documents, the PowerPoint file, even the chat log or whiteboards right from the meeting. No more emailing out to everyone afterwards. You can record the sessions (pretty hard to deny you took on that action item when it's digitally saved for posterity).

In fact, things that are necessary for a good online meeting (shorter sessions, more focus, rigid adherence to agendas and timelines) wouldn't do your regular meetings any harm. In fact, if they ran more like web meetings your team would probably be happier with themÖ.and with you.

Learn and actually practice all the capabilities of any web platform you have at your disposal or are considering. Then learn the best practices of great meeting leaders. One idea is to take a training class like Leading Effective Virtual Meetings. Another is just to take the time and ask yourself: what would I do in a regular meeting to be as effective as possible? Then consider all your options to make online meetings as "real" as possible.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.