According to folks who spend a lot of time hosting web meetings, there doesn’t seem to be any gray area–it can be either incredibly rewarding, or endlessly frustrating. As technology improves, web conferencing applications enable hosts to extend the benefits of live classroom interaction into online spaces, while also allowing students to meet together online as they collaborate and grow in their knowledge and skills. When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing–but web meetings don’t always come together beautifully. Sometimes they dissolve into an infuriating nightmare of technical problems and mishaps.
Web meetings involve numerous moving parts, often operating below the surface. It’s Murphy’s Law of hosting web meetings: whatever part of the conference you forgot or ignored will be the part that gets you. There’s nothing worse than realizing in the middle of a web conference that the one detail you failed to address is now derailing the whole train. To that end, here are some do’s and don’ts that can help you with hosting web meetings.
1. Make sure you have a wired Internet connection. Wired connections are faster and more stable than wireless.
2. Be familiar with the web meeting application. Before you get into the meeting, be sure you know how to do the following:
- Start and end the meeting
- Invite participants
- Remove participants
- Share your camera video
- Mute and unmute your microphone
- Mute participants’ microphones
- Share files
- Share your desktop
- Share presenting privileges with other participants
- Record the meeting
- Send and read chat messages
3. Check your camera and audio settings. Here’s a checklist for that, too:
- Setup your camera and audio so people can see and hear you
- Position yourself relatively close to the camera
- Frame the camera so that your eyes are in the top third of the frame for best results
- Make sure the lighting is good–no lamps or bright windows in the background
- Use a plain, uncluttered background
- Use an outside microphone–don’t rely on your computer or camera’s built-in microphone, as you’ll get much better sound from a headset, clip-on, or desktop mic
4. Designate a technical assistant. This person will help people who have technical problems so you can focus on the other aspects of hosting web meetings.
5. Have a notification plan. Decide when and how you will notify and remind people of the meeting. Include the date, time, time zone, meeting title, meeting URL, meeting number, password (if used), and a brief description of your meeting. You might also consider instructions about meeting etiquette–how participants will make comments and ask questions, and whether they will be able to connect their webcams. Provide participants with dial-in information in case they can’t connect with audio through the Internet.
6. Decide how participants will connect and interact. For webcams–is your event a presentation or a meeting? If it is primarily a presentation, then don’t allow participants to turn on their webcams. Also, set up the program so that their microphones are automatically muted when they enter the meeting. For microphones–even in meetings where you anticipate everyone participating through audio, it’s best to start out with everyone muted. They can be unmuted to comment as needed. For chat–asking questions through chat allows participants to ask questions without creating the technical chaos that occurs when multiple microphones get turned on. Make sure people know how to access the chat function.
7. If you have several presenters, know how to transition between presenters. Make sure every presenter has tested their audio and video setup and has a relatively stable and fast (wired) Internet connection.
8. Decide how documents will be shared. Will you share documents before, during, and/or after the meeting? Some web applications allow you to upload files to a special meeting folder that participants can access. Regardless, it’s a good idea to have the plan in place before the meeting so you can share it with the participants.
9. Decide how media will be displayed, and then test it. For example, there are two ways to show a PowerPoint. The first is to share your desktop and let participants see your presentation as you run it through the PowerPoint application. Your participants will be able to see all the special effects and transitions in your presentation, but it’s a little awkward transitioning from your normal view to share the desktop and start PowerPoint. The second way is to import your presentation directly into the web meeting platform. Your presentation is preloaded, begins with a single click, and plays inside the meeting app, so there’s no awkward transition while you share your desktop, switch apps, and start the presentation. However, none of the effects or transitions will be present–you’ll just have still images of each slide.
10. Have a worst-case scenario plan. If, despite all of your planning and practice, the presentation can’t continue due to technical problems or presenter problems, have some predetermined options like:
- A telephone conference – if it all falls apart, plan to continue your meeting on a conference call. Consider communicating this in advance to your participants, along with the phone number and meeting ID.
- A forum chat – have a prebuilt chat room where participants can go and discuss the topic. You might even consider having some links to videos.
- An alternate date/time – let people know in advance when the alternate meeting will happen if this one doesn’t work out.
We hope these tips will help you improve your experience hosting web meetings.
Boston Tutoring Services