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Online Conferencing Tip #1... Don't leave them guessing

April 2, 2014

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Just over a year ago, I started my career in online conferencing.  

While I had a lot to learn about this quickly evolving industry…I did feel I knew something about the influence and power of conferencing.  After all, I had attended several audio conferences and many face-to-face meetings and countless boardroom gatherings.  I was one of those people who had never been in a web meeting or video conference for business.  I have to say, I was truly surprised to learn how effective, efficient and truly personal an online meeting can be.  Over the past year, I have been in numerous online meetings in almost every platform available.  I have been in extremely good presentations that were highly interactive and engaging…and I have also found myself multi-tasking during a presentation that has lost my attention.I have come to discover that across any meeting dynamic (online meeting, coffeehouse, boardroom, etc.), the most important aspect of any meeting, that you can control, is always going to be the preparedness of the host.  #1 Conferencing Tip -- Don't leave them guessing why...Nothing can ruin a meeting quicker than not having the correct people in attendance, a thrown together presentation and/or lack of meeting executables.  No matter if it is a one-on-one meeting, a one-to-many meeting, or a webinar…you have to think through all aspects of your meeting, prior to its initiation.  I use the toolkit below to insure that all parties involved receive the information that I intended to relay.  Your conference is all about the participants. What is the best means of conveying your information to your target audience? Also, don’t be afraid to show your personality.  There is a reason you are the presenter… no one else can do it the way you do.  

1.  PRE-Meeting Tips

    • Set your objectives – develop an overall plan for the information you would like to deliver & the knowledge you would like to gather from the meeting.  This is usually a small stepBy the time you have created the meeting, there is already a need for it.  It is important to keep the initial objectives at hand when preparing the presentation.  It is easier than one might think to forget why you created the meeting in the first place.

    • Agenda – I always send out a meeting agenda to all parties with the meeting invitation.  To schedule smaller meetings, less than 50, I utilize my outlook calendar toolbars.  These are great plug-ins!  For larger meetings or webinars, I use the Adobe Connect event module to send out invitations.  Within the invitation I make sure the meeting location is clear and access phone numbers are available.  I also like to include the agenda within the invitation.  This is a great way to remind your group what the meeting is for.  In today’s busy world it simplifies the process to include all meeting information in one location.  I also schedule a reminder to be delivered to all meeting participants 10-15 minutes prior to the meeting initiation.  

    • Materials – A picture is truly worth 1000 words.  To guarantee meeting, conference or event success use video and/or a presentation to assist you in presenting details.  I utilize PowerPoint presentations for a majority of my online meetings.  I like to have just enough information on each slide to assist in communicating the point.  I find the more words I have, the more I read, rather than interact.  Also, if there is too much information on one slide it can take focus away from the speaker.  *It is a must to have another person run through the presentation to check for consistency and proofing…it is far too easy to miss your own mistakes. 

    • Practice – Run through the meeting agenda and make sure you have all aspects covered.  If multiple people are presenting, you will want to do a run-through, depending on the type of information being conveyed. 

    • About 15 minutes prior to your event – Enter your online conference room & make sure everything is just the way you would like it.  Pre-load any poll questions, video, and/or presentations you would like to display.  Check your camera angle & lighting and make sure your audio settings are clear for the meeting.  If you are going to record the meeting, it is good to go ahead and start recording a few minutes prior to starting.  This is another item that can get easily overlooked as the meeting initiates.  

2.  During the Meeting
    • Remember time is valuable – try and be on point throughout

    • Use your webcam…even if it is just for a brief time during the introduction.  With just that little action you have changed the entire dynamic of your meeting.  It becomes interactive in a way that cannot be done online without face-to-face encounters.  I prefer to have the person who is speaking on video.  Tools like Adobe and Lync provide active speaker, this allows the person who is currently speaking to have full screen video to all who are present.

    • Let participants know to where the Q&A is.  Utilizing the Q&A will help you keep your meeting timeline.  I like to show the participants where the Q&A is located and ask them to submit questions in at anytime during the meeting.  I also let them know that there is a Q&A session toward the end of the meeting and that we will address all questions at that time.

    • Engage the group with your pre-loaded polling questions.  One of my colleagues, often asks his meeting participants, “Who was first, the chicken or the egg?”  It simply keeps your participants engaged in the discussion as you move through agenda items.  I usually plan for several poll questions placed throughout the meeting.  

    • Recap – this insures that your intended message was not lost and that all particpants understand what information was reviewed.

    • Follow-up – This is probably the most important step in the process.  All parties involved need to have a clear understanding of what needs to be done next.  Make sure you have well defined these action items.

3.  After the Meeting
    • Provide a follow-up email for all who attended in a timely manner.  I also like to send the recording to all who attended, as well as those who were unable to make it.  This keeps your group up-to-speed.  Outline the action items that were highlighted at the end of your meeting. 

Remember you are truly the one who makes your meeting successful.  Being prepared is the part of the process that you can plan for.  If you don’t have any surprises, it makes it much easier to relax and have a successfully online conference! 

 

 

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