Webmeetings can be very successful and productive. They can also suck the will to live out of you like a giant energy syringe. There are plenty of factors in a meeting's success or failure, but there is one that will set you up for success above all others. You probably know what it is - but do you actually use it?
People are funny. We know what we need to do in life and yet resist it. Then we complain about the results. Like with our weight. It's within our control (or so I'm told by those who actually do anything about it) if we simply balance out our intake and our exercise. The trick is to actually do it.
Which brings us back to that magic factor: the agenda.
Don't click away! Seriously, do you send out a functional agenda for every web meeting? The key word there is functional. An agenda has to serve several purposes if it's to have the impact it should.
Make it easy to attend. If people show up online frustrated because of the technology, or frazzled because they had the time wrong or couldn't find the dial-in number you won't have their attention or their best attitude. Everything should be clear, easy (even if they should know the dial-in by now) and automated (yes they should be able to do the math on time zones but you'd be amazed how often they get it wrong).
Tell them what to expect. "Status Meeting" is not an agenda. People want to know what is going to happen, what they will accomplish with their time and what is expected of them. If they know what should happen they can adjust their expectations. If they show up expecting the same waste of time as always, well you get what you deserve.
Help them prepare and then you can hold them accountable. If people show up expecting to discuss a certain topic, and they're not ready, you have a gripe. If they don't know what will be discussed, and then aren't ready to contribute their best thinking when you suddenly raise the topic, well what did you expect to happen? (Remember I said that you know this already but you don't necessarily do it, especially…)
Get it to them in time to actually be useful. One of the most common frustrations of attendees is getting the agenda….but in too little time to actually be useful. Too many of us forget to send the agenda until the last minute, then are frustrated that people haven't read the necessary document or given sufficient thought to the topic du jour.
A good agenda is sent out a minimum of 24 hours in advance. You can't hold people accountable for what they don't know they need to do.
None of this is particularly new, but it is shockingly uncommon. For more information on the one thing that can make or break a web meeting, download our newest white paper here on the Management Issues site.