This guest post was written by Sandy Stachowiak.
More and more nowadays companies are conducting meetings, demonstrations, and training sessions on the Web. Remote workers, different office locations, consulting services, and new product training are all great reasons to use the web so that everyone can “be in the same room”.
With that, comes some obvious etiquette for presenters such as sending the URL and conference call information days ahead of time, being respectful of country and time zone differences, and using an easily accessible and practical Web meeting tool.
What also comes with Web sessions are things that should definitely be considered and avoided if at all possible. The success of a Web meeting depends on many factors that some may not even think about when being the presenter.
Below are five top annoyances and how to easily avoid them if you are the presenter for a Web meeting.
1. Email and/or chat notifications displaying.
Be sure to close your email and chat applications or turn off the notifications.
Unless you are demonstrating or training on something that requires your email or chat applications be open, close them.
When you are sharing your desktop, your meeting attendees should not see your email notifications, chat windows, friends signing in and out of chat, or any other communication that may pop up during your session.
I recently attended a few Web demonstrations. What I remember the most is that the presenter used Trillian and had a lot of people signing in and out of chat.
I was also able to see email notifications with short descriptions coming into this person’s inbox. One just so happened to be from one of my co-workers.
You never know what someone else may see on your screen, so shutting off these applications or their notifications before your session begins is always the safest bet.
Another true story: my co-worker was presenting a Web demonstration and did not turn off her chat application.
In the middle of her demo, her chat window opened with a message from me during lunch about open jobs at a local company. Since we were at work, this may not have fared well for me until the next message (before she could get the window closed) said “you have to be 18 years old." The audience then understood that it was a job for my daughter and not myself!
They laughed of course; however, it never should have happened.
2. Windows are too small or words are unreadable.
Open the application(s) you are using in full screen mode.
You may be showing a Web page, Word document, Excel spreadsheet, Visio diagram, particular piece of software, or a combination of applications. Be sure to open those windows in full screen mode or use the zoom feature so that all items within that application can be clearly seen by your attendees.
It is also a good idea to make sure the font is a larger size when you create documents or diagrams. Consider even creating a special set just for the Web session.
One web meeting I attended recently showed us diagrams. There were several text boxes making up the diagram, but some were in such a small font that they were unreadable.
I witnessed other attendees in the room, along with myself, lean in to try and read them, unsuccessfully.
3. Unprepared presenters.
Set up all items needed for the Web session early. You should be the first person in the session with all windows, applications, and documents open (but minimized) and ready to show your attendees.
When your attendees arrive before you and have to wait while you connect and open everything necessary it is disrespectful to your audience. Presenters have an obligation to be prepared.
In another Web meeting that I attended, the presenter was the last to arrive and was 10 minutes late.
They were then scrambling to open everything necessary for the meeting. Additionally, they needed 5+ browser tabs open to show the items and each took a very long time to load.
We literally sat there watching the spinning icon waiting for the pages to load, in silence.
4. Unclear audio.
Whether you are using the Web tool for audio or a telephone, make sure you have a clear line, that the microphone is close to you, and that you speak clearly.
Set up in a location without background noise, even if it means that you have to move to a private room.
When you begin to speak, ask your audience if they can all hear you okay. Speak up and speak clear.
I have attended several online meetings (as well as conference calls) where the audio seemed to move in and out. I have also heard traffic in the background, televisions, dogs barking, cats meowing, music, and a “mumbler”.
Remember that what you are showing your attendees is important only if you can describe it.
5. Forgetting your attendees.
Take a breath and check in with your attendees. While you have an agenda and want to move through your Web session, be aware of your audience. Pause every so often, ask if there are questions, or interact with your attendees by asking if they understand. Do not forget that your attendees are the reason for the Web meeting to begin with, so be aware of them.
Some presenters, depending on the purpose of the meeting, may ask for attendees to hold their questions until the end of the presentation. That is fine; however, you should still check in with your audience at certain points throughout the session.
What if the attendees had technical difficulties, dropped off the session or phone, and were not able to let you know?
I, probably like many other people, have attended demonstrations or training sessions where the presenter seemed to forget about the audience.
They moved through the session with such a rapid pace and quick audio that there was no way to break in and ask a question. I have even been a part of web meetings where something technical went wrong and the presenter never checked in or took a breath in order for us to let them know.
Web meetings have become such a wonderful business tool and one of the technological advancements that really makes me happy to be a part of, but…presenting a Web meeting brings with it an obligation.
Remember the purpose, remember the audience, be respectful , and be prepared. If you remember these rules and avoid the annoyances, you can have a very successful web meeting!