10 tips for better web conferences
Web conferencing is a relatively new meeting form for most people and it requires practice and discipline to get meetings right. But once you master web conferences it can help you save time and cost. However, virtual meetings should and cannot replace all your meetings. Instead it will help you achieve more efficient collaboration with colleagues, customers or partners that may not sit in the same office as you.
To help you become a better presenter and a disciplined participant here are 10 easy tips that will help you master web conferences both as a presenter and as a participant:
- Location and noise – minimize noise and distractions.
Make sure you’re in a quiet place – You may not notice barking dogs, noisy office neighbors on speakerphone, or a stereo on in the background, but these things can be distracting for the audience. Turn off your cell phone. Ever get a ticking galloping noise on your speakers at home? That’s the magic of GSM. That will play havoc with the audio in your web conference.
- PC settings –reboot, standard resolution, and few open applications.
Lower your display resolution to 1024 x 768 – most people are watching this in a window on their work computer and in my experience, most work computers have low resolutions. Reboot your computer and only start the programs you need for your presentation – PowerPoint, for example. Close everything you don’t need. Your computer is doing some heavy duty audio and video encoding during a web conference and you don’t need anything else potentially eating up your PCs processing power.
- Network settings – connect via fixed network.
Make sure you are connected to a fixed network during a meeting. A wireless network connection will work in most cases but a fixed network will almost always provide you with better bandwidth and traffic quality.
- Log in early and test the links and content.
Make sure that the links in your invitation are active and working. Log in early before the meeting to upload material and make sure that material is displayed correctly in the web conferencing client. You may want to decide that some material is better shown by sharing the application it was created in. For example many Excel spreadsheets with many numbers and rows may be hard to see for participants or the web conferencing application may convert the material in a strange format when you upload it. Instead it may be better to share the Excel spreadsheet by sharing it via Application sharing in the web conferencing application/ client.
- Slide design – keep it simple and clean.
Avoid using text slides as a presentation script that you read to the audience. Break up key points into individual slides and find graphics that help to emphasize and complement your vocal presentation. Use high-contrast colors that let foreground text be easily seen and read over the background. Remember that some attendees may be watching on small screens. Make text and graphics large and easy to read at a glance.
- Reference information – distribute before or after the meeting.
Large amounts of text, data, graphs, URLs, or other reference information should be provided in handouts that are separate from your presentation slide content. Make your presentation about the value and use of the data, not about the factual information itself. If a lis tener can’t actively use the data while listening to you, it does not belong in the presentation.
- Audio & video – test before the meeting starts.
Test your microphone, speaker and video settings before the meeting starts! Wear a headset so that your voice comes over loud and clear. A PC/Laptop microphone and speakers are a bad combination. A microphone picks up everything it hears, including your speaker. This can result in either an annoying echo or the deafening squeal of feedback. Make sure everyone knows how to use the mute button. I can tell you from experience that it’s apparently not as intuitive as you’d think. If you’re using the video conferencing feature, turn of any lights behind you and turn on lights in front of you. This will help make your picture (contrast) much clearer to the other participants.
- Presentation style – fresh and enthusiastic.
Energy: Find ways to keep your energy level up while presenting. You may wish to stand up and pace while you speak, or make hand and arm gestures while talking. Enthusiasm: Demonstrate to your audience why they should care about the information that you are imparting. Keep enthusiasm in your vocal tone and in the words you use. Script your opening paragraphs and your closing paragraphs. This helps you move smoothly into your subject with a confident, comfortable introduction and helps you finish strongly with a well-planned summary and call to action for the audience.
- Audience interaction – yes, but decide how and when before the meeting starts.
Invite participation in the conference by including polls or typed questions and responses. But state the rules of interaction before you start, e.g. ‘ask questions via a Q&A panel or via audio’; ‘make sure to mute your microphones and un-mute if you wish to speak’. Note that interaction becomes more difficult to manage with many participants. So think about what kind of interaction is realistic for your meeting.
- Don’t give up!!
Running a web conference is a little different than running a face-to-face meeting. If your first meeting was a little rough don’t get discouraged. It gets easier over time. In fact, you’ll probably feel in control after just two or three meetings.