Webmeetings are Worthless (If People Aren't Ready to Rock)

Last Updated Sep 27, 2010 9:41 AM EDT

Ever been to a meeting that completely wasted your time and wasn't worth the effort? Now imagine you have to go through an annoying checkpoint at the conference room door, they might or might not accept your ID (which is even more hassle) and when you finally get there you have no idea why you had to go through all this or what it was about? How productive would you be and how much of a contribution would you make?

That's what your audience goes through when you schedule a webmeeting without thinking about the logistics. Here are 4 things you MUST do to make your webmeetings successful.

Decide if you even need a webmeeting at all and don't call one if you don't. Webmeetings add value when you need a mix of audio and visual information. If you're simply checking in or making a quick decision on a single action item,it might be easier just to get people on the phone,make it quick and let everyone get on with their lives. Webmeetings really add value when they are interactive, include visuals that are crucial to decision making or discussion and are easy to setup and connect with. Otherwise they're conference calls with annoying login functions.
Make it easy to connect and explain your expectations. Your audience is busy and might be on the go. "The usual dial-in information" doesn't tell them what they need to know. Use your webmeeting platform to send links and always send the audio information,even if you think they should have it. Then let them know any logistics and expectations. these can include:

  • Use landline phones if possible, headsets if not. Nothing makes webmeetings or conference calls more stressful than background noise and bad connections. Encourage your remote workers to get on a land line if possible, or at least use headsets to diminish background noise.
  • If you expect them to participate, let them know how and why. You can't hold people accountable for their contributions to the team if they don't know what they are supposed to contribute until they get on the call. If you expect interaction, let them know that you'll be asking for their input -- that way when you call on them it won't be a surprise and there will be less uncomfortable silence. Send them anything they need to know in advance -- or better yet send them the link to the latest version on the shared site so they get used to using it.
If you want people to be really ready to contribute, send the agenda in advance (and advance isn't 5 minutes before the meeting). Busy remote workers need to be able to access the information you request and it isn't always available on their Blackberry. Also, if there are important decisions to be made, they are hard to prepare for in airport lounges and Starbucks. Let people get mentally ready to excel and they might do just that. Catch them off guard, and you get what you deserve. Always let your people know the meeting objective well in advance of the meeting itself.

Set expectations for interaction and get them involved early. If you want them to use the white board to capture their ideas,do they even know how to do that? You might think the chat feature is "intuitive" but you'd be surprised how many people aret yping in the wrong box and getting their comments aren't showing up. If you want people to be comfortable using the tools, they have to get comfortable with the tools.

The longer your team is together, and the more you all work this way, the less stress and prework will be involved and your meetings can be more productive,faster. Without helping them understand what you're trying to achieve and how webmeetings can help you achieve it, you're fighting a battle against apathy, frustration and technophobia. Set them up well, and you can get them logged on, productive and back to work with considerably less drama.

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photo by flickr user linh.ngan CC 2.0