Let’s be honest…web conferencing can be a wonderful business tool for teams who are geographically dispersed or working remotely. But even the most experienced web conference user will have surely experienced some of the common awkward situations that are part and parcel to getting a group of co-workers to communicate virtually. It’s not always the most natural of situations, and unless web conferencing is a regular occurrence in your business schedule, it can be easy to fall down some of the technology crevices.
U.S. comedy duo Tripp and Tyler have bundled some of these most common conference call gaffes that we’ve all experienced into their hilariously condensed four-minute video, ‘A conference call in real life’. The sketch illustrates to exaggerated proportions the pitfalls of web conferencing by playing out the scenario in the awkwardness of real life. It includes every inept situation you’ve experienced: the irritating hold music, the embarrassment of having to announce yourself on the call, the confusion of figuring out who is already on the line, the person who struggles to enter the access code correctly and last but not least, the person who keeps dropping out of the call and needs to dial back in again. It has the classic dog barking in the background, the constant interruptions as people talk over each other, poor line quality and that person who sounds like they’re stuck inside a wind tunnel.
Of course, with practice comes experience, and these pitfalls of web conferencing can be easily avoided if you know some tricks of the trade. Here are 10 tips to help you make sure your virtual meetings go right:
1. Dial in five minutes early – this gives you the time to deal with any access code problems.
2. If you’re the host, make sure everyone is familiar with the meeting technology at the start of the call.
3. Keep stationary – avoid joining conferences while you are driving or travelling to ensure you have a good quality, consistent connection.
4. Know who is invited to join the call and check off their names as they announce themselves.
5. Unless you’re the meeting host, activate ‘mute’ for the call duration and only ‘unmute’ when you have something to say.
6. Download necessary documents in advance of the call.
7. Prepare a checklist of items you need to cover during the call – the better prepared everyone is, the more effective the conference will be.
8. If you’re the organiser, set a modest timeframe for the meeting – the shorter the conference, the more productive it will be. Don’t let calls drag on unnecessarily (you might want to check out this post ‘Pointless meetings – and how to avoid them’).
9. If you’re working from home, set yourself up in a quiet part of the house where you are least likely to be distracted.
10. If you are accessing the call via VoIP, give yourself time to do a sound and microphone check before the conference begins.