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Avoid Rookie Mistakes to Look Like a Webmeeting Pro

Given how many managers are cranking out webmeetings on any given day (WebEx estimates over 11 million on their platform alone) you'd think we'd be better at it. Instead, most of us look forward to running online sessions like we look forward to a root canal.

There are a few of us out there,fighting the good fight against bad online presentations and meetings. One of the best is Roger Courville, who is the author of The Virtual Presenter's Handbook and big brain behind the 1080 Group. I asked him why so many people hate webmeetings, and what are some ways to look smarter than the average web presenter.

What holds most managers back from doing web meetings (or at least good ones)? Meetings, in general, suffer from a lack of purpose. They're catch-alls, and if you haven't read Patrick Lencioni's Death by Meeting, I'd highly recommend it.
Now move that into an online environment and you compound the problem. There's too little attention given to the fact that you're in a new environment--not better or worse, not right or wrong, but different. For example, attention spans are shorter online than offline, and yet we try to do the same thing online we did offline.

So do you have any recommendations? One recommendation I'd make is thinking 'trade off.' Shorten the duration of online meetings for increase their frequency. Yes, I know people don't need more meetings, but research shows that they believe they're needed...and what people hate is how they're run.

If you have a tightly focused meeting that requires no travel (to the conference room, setting up the projector because someone left it unplugged, etc.), you'd find folks more willing to show up and contribute.

Why don't people learn to use the tools early, like when IT sends out the licenses? People have 'technology adoption personality styles.' Except for the minority of visionary tinkerers who like to play with new stuff, IT sending out licenses doesn't answer the question, "Why should I invest my precious time learning something new?"

Remember, inertia rules the day. If you want a scary analogy, consider how many people really use all the features on their corporate phone. Adult learners are motivated to learn what's relevant. An email from IT usually screams "more stuff" instead of benefit.

What are a couple of common rookie mistakes? One, the completely worst thing you can do is deal with mixed audiences--some on the web conference and some in the conference room. It only doubles your difficulty in connecting to individuals and connecting them to each other in a way that facilitates natural communication. You're actually better off to have everyone virtual and 'on the same page.'

Two, not managing audio well. Face it, even well-meaning meeting participants sometime create real audio distractions, often without knowing it. I'd look for a solution that lets you do the muting/unmuting--don't rely on telling people to put themselves on mute. Web conferencing makes this much easier than what your typical audio conferencing provider has, and admittedly some help you and some don't.

What are 3-4 easy tips to look brilliant right away? Ha! Solve that common audio problem and you'll be a long way down the path to "online meeting rockstar." Here are a couple more:

  • Take 20 minutes to "practice with a friendly" to get to know exactly what your meeting participants are seeing. This will equip you to guide their experience and participation.
  • Consider skipping the video or any other part of your solution that is problematic. I know the conferencing companies are groaning at this one, but the reality is that it only takes one meeting participant to say, "Hey, I'm not seeing--" to derail your meeting from an effective communication experience. Use fewer tools well, and grow into the rest.'
You aren't a fan of video? I'm not saying that. It's a tool like any other, and it can be used well or poorly. It's often considered the "answer" to the lack of eye contact problem, but seriously, webcam experiences usually mean you're looking at someone's forehead or right ear. Adapt and you'll do great, but technology isn't the magic potion, growing your professional skills is.

If you're trying not to look like a rookie, I'd recommend Roger's "bullets to visuals" tutorial (free if you sign up for his newsletter). You can also develop your skills at 1080 Group or with us at
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photo by flickr user Alex E Proimos CC 2.0
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