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96% of Companies Use Virtual Meetings, So Why Do Most of Them Suck?

According to a recent study of the Meetings and Events Industry, 96% of companies (mostly larger ones) use web meetings or virtual events at least occasionally. So you would think that people were pretty good at running them. Not so much.

While hard numbers are hard to come by (and 96% is admittedly a stretch), ask anyone who has to participate in a webmeeting or webinar what they really think of them, and you'll get a mix of feedback ranging from "they're convenient" to "they're terrible" to "at least I catch up on my email."

If they're so ubiquitous, why don't virtual meetings get a more positive response? Here are four reason webmeetings get a bad rap -- and how a change of attitude can improve their image:

  • They're seen as a necessary evil instead of a useful tool. Most companies roll out technology like webmeetings as a cost-saving measure first: "Your travel budget has been slashed, use this instead." Suddenly, you've gone from sipping margaritas at company expense to being chained to your desk, talking to a screen. Who wouldn't love that? In fact webmeetings have a lot of benefits including convenience and productivity, but when was the last time someone actually told your people the good news for them in all this?
  • They're still meetings. At the end of the day, whether they take place via WebEx or in a Ramada conference room, they're still meetings, and who wants to have more of those? Online meetings need to be planned carefully and run well, and they need to produce results. If they're productive, people will tolerate them more. If they're a pain in the neck to connect with, bore you silly ,and get in the way of your "real" work, no one will embrace them.
  • They take too long. The biggest complaint about meetings in general, and webmeetings in particular, is that they're too long. People have limited attention spans at the best of times, and online meetings are particularly hard to stay engaged with. Do what you need to do and get off the line. Two shorter, productive meetings are generally better than one long one.
  • The presenters are boring. Even live, most people running or speaking at meetings aren't exactly riveting orators. The dynamics of presenting online make it even harder to engage the audience, and you don't have to avoid the speaker's eyes when using your blackberry in the room. If you use tools like chat, polling and annotation tools effectively, you'll add life to your presentations. The sad fact is, few companies offer training in how -- and, maybe more importantly, under what circumstances -- to run a good webmeeting. (Take this LinkedIn poll and help us find out real numbers on this!)
Money saved on travel or downtime and then wasted by lack of productivity isn't really saved -- it's just moved around on the balance sheet where no one can track it. Make the best use of these tools. It is possible.

Watch this YouTube video on "Why Web Demos Suck and What You Can Do About It"
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