Why do so few people use webmeetings well?

Nov 08 2012 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

After five years of teaching people all over the world to deliver presentations and lead online meetings, I'm still surprised at how poorly they are prepared to use these tools. Here are some surprising numbers our research has turned up:

  • 80% of people who present online have never received any kind of training on how to use the tool effectively
  • Over 64% of online meetings are considered "wasted time" by participants
  • More than 75% of people use fewer than 25% of the features of the available features and tools
  • In the training field, over half of people expected to deliver online Virtual Instructor Led Training (VILT) have never participated in a well-run online learning session, but they're expected to make the move from the classroom to the virtual world as if by magic

I've come to a fairly simple conclusion, then. Most people don't use these tools well because they've never seen them used well and thus don't really understand the possibilities they offer.

If all you've seen of webinars and the like are maybe a shared PowerPoint with a narrator asking you to hold your calls til the end, that's pretty much going to be your opinion of what they can, and cannot, do.

Most of the platforms share similar features (although they are all just different enough to drive you crazy). In general, the rule should be: what would I do in a live face to face meeting, and how can I replicate that online? If you use that criteria, you can see how things can actually work well:

In a live meeting, you want lots of interaction. So why would you turn off the chat and ask people not to speak when you're online? Encourage people to comment, ask questions and even ask for their input as you go, rather than hold questions til the end. You can't ask people to sit passively for 45 minutes, then spring into action on your request.

Use annotation tools, arrows, highlighters and animation to bring your presentation to life. Online, it's easy to lose focus, or not be able to concentrate on what you want people to take away from your presentation. Use the tools in the platform to focus their eyes (and wandering attention) to key information and "take-aways"

Use the white board feature exactly as you'd use a flip chart or white board in a meeting. It will serve as a way to brainstorm, capture comments and table items that might take your meeting offtrack

You can't expect people to magically know how to use the tools to contribute. Help them learn how to use the tools at the beginning of your meeting or session so that they know how to raise their hand, submit questions or use the various features.

Gradually, people are starting to understand what tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect and others can do, but do you really have the time for that learning curve? If your team or organization uses these tools already, why not hold a session where you show off the possibilities and let people get to know the possibilities, as well as the limitations, of these tools. After all, it's not like they're going away any time soon.

Or may I humbly suggest you offer training on the facilitation and communication skills needed to use these tools. You can start at GreatWebMeetings.com, but there are plenty of other options out there as well.

The point is, if people have never seen a tool used well, don't even know what is possible, and have not gotten any guidance, why is it such a surprise that we don't use it well?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments for more than 20 years. In 2016, he merged with The Kevin Eikenberry Group, to create The Remote Leadership Institute, and now serves as Master Trainer and Coach to the Kevin Eikenberry Group. Wayne is also is the author of more than 15 books, including The Long-Distance Teammate and The Long-Distance Team.