Some Ways to Make WebEx Meetings a Little Better

As WebEx adoption grows on campus, we now have over 5,200 users, I am spending more time using the technology to get groups from across campus together. Without using the technology we have at our fingertips, we spend way too much time getting from our “edge of campus” locations to more convenient meeting spaces at the center. Using WebEx well can save the University money in the form of less wasted time moving around … clearly that enhances productivity. The down side of using WebEx or a similar technology to conduct meetings is that we don’t always do it really well. I was thinking about that issue the other day as I listened to people talk over each other, come into a WebEx meeting room late and interrupt, and fumble with technology. The technology can support very effective meetings, but we need to use it better. I thought it might be worth throwing out some ideas on how to make the meetings more effective. Some of this isn’t rocket science, but good to think about. I’m curious if others have thoughts.

If you are the host or a participant of a WebEx or virtual meeting, think about doing these things to make the meeting more effective:

  • Email an agenda in advance of the meeting. It is always a good idea to send an agenda in advance, but particularly important to send one for a virtual meeting. Do everyone a favor and email one as well as attach it to the calendar invite as many people don’t see attachments when we accept calendar invites on mobile devices.
  • Start the WebEx on time and before you start ensure that the physical room has any necessary conference phone, projectors, and equipment before the start of the meeting.
  • Let the meeting attendees know which WebEx functions you intend to use. Audio only, screen sharing, video. It is a bummer to decide to do a meeting while in the car only to find out that screensharing will be a big part of the meeting.
  • If you have a large number of attendees, conduct a roll call at the start. This is most effectively done with the host reading out the list of attendees and asking if they are on the call.I don’t know about you, but I find it very ineffective on a large meeting to ask everyone on the phone to randomly announce themselves.
  • If key participants are missing at the start of a meeting, ask the group what they wish to do. In other words, wait for them, proceed without them, or reschedule the meeting.
  • Again, just good meeting practice, but particularly important with WebEx meetings, at the end of the meeting, summarize what was discussed, what was decided and what are the next steps. As a host you can work with the people on the call to decide who will send out a meeting summary.
  • Have one conversation at a time to respect the team members on the phone. Actively stop side conversations. It’s very difficult to be on the phone and hear multiple conversations going on in the meeting room.
  • If additional participants join a meeting in progress, it is generally not necessary to immediately stop the proceedings to ask who joined and recap for them. I typically wait for a logical break, then ask who joined and recap as appropriate.

I think the most important thing you can do is work to make sure you join on time and mute your microphone when you aren’t talking. You milage may vary with these ideas … anyone have other things they do to make virtual meetings less frustrating?

8 thoughts on “Some Ways to Make WebEx Meetings a Little Better

  1. I quite like Tripp and Tyler’s conference call in real life video to explain to folks why behavior on virtual meetings matter.

  2. Another tip I got off blog in a UChicago ITS Slack channel is:

    “Also a good habit for ITS meetings in general is include a Webex on all meetings. You don’t know if ppl have a work from home day or a sick kid or whatever. Just always include one.”

    I think that is practice I would like to start with most of my meetings.

  3. I find that it’s useful to have an collaborative note-taking open during the meeting so participants can see the notes being taken and contribute. Box Note, Google Doc, Word Online, etc all can serve the purpose.

  4. If you have the luxury, one person should be designated facilitator of the meeting. This person’s job is to get attendees to stick to the rules of engagement in a conference call environment (i.e. “Jane has a question so we will get to that next”). They can also pay attention to the on-screen functions (hands being raised, chatter in discussion, etc.) to bring what’s happening on screen into the verbal conversation. It works well when all attendees know that one person is responsible for those tasks.

  5. 2 cent comment: I still find that in-person meetings can be very very powerful, and something I still recommend when it is viable.

    Tech can help bridge the gap, but nothing really mimics the experience of being able to sit with people live.

    I find that people tend to be much more distracted in virtual meetings – they are working on secondary screens or not paying attention to the meeting. In person, you can ask people to put computers away, but can’t do that virtually.

    So another helpful tip: if doing virtual meetings, make it clear if you need exclusive focus for the meeting 🙂

  6. These are great tips. Here’s mine—when possible, I find it useful to ask participants to activate the video as well as the audio connection—it’s helpful for people to feel present at the meeting and cuts back on multitasking. On a day where I’m not feeling my best, however, it’s better for all concerned if I leave the video off!

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