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?

Invitation to Model

Tomorrow after another Coffee with Cole I am meeting to discuss the rollout of the UChicago Voices space. I am not calling it a service quite yet, because I want us to think about it a little differently. Could we challenge ourselves to rethink how we support it? Perhaps we look at it like just another social space on the Internet and see how people use it and where they might fall down?

I’ve launched these things before, both at Penn State and Stony Brook. Support is a necessary piece of the puzzle, but in my experience it tends to be the kind of support that an FAQ, a google search, and some videos can handle. The heavy lifting is in how we promote, encourage, and model its usage.

It is in that last notion, modeling, that I want to invite you in.

wedding invitation. Envelopes

We aren’t yet ready to open the gates to just anyone yet, but I would be interested in having some local colleagues to write and publish with here on the UChicago Voices platform. If you’d like a space to explore and use, please let me know. I’d love to have someone to follow, link to, and comment on. If you are a member of the UChicago community and you want a space just leave a comment and I’ll figure out how to get you in.

Fall is in the Air

Campus is alive in ways that I am only seeing for the first time. Students are hustling to classes, I see events happening on the Quad, and there are conversations happening in every quiet corner as I move across campus. UChicago was an inspiring place when I first arrived when it was nearly empty, but now that I see it coming to life with the spirit of our faculty and students I can start to appreciate it in new ways.

Views from Chicago

Having the students back reminds me of how important it is that we recognize the need to always focus energy on delivering services that work to delight them as they do their work. Being a student is hard and I think being a student in today’s World is perhaps even more demanding then it was when I was in college. Students are juggling demands that rival the rigor of the most intense jobs and many are doing it with the added pressure of being away from home for the first time. I want to make sure that while we are focusing intensely on replacing many of our enterprise systems, managing high performance computing environments, creating interfaces to data that drive administrative work, and developing new ways to protect Institutional assets that we keep part of our attention on the students walking around our campus. They are what should make us smile on days when smiles are tough to come by. The students love being here and we need to continue to pour energy into making sure we make this the best experience that we can. For them … and for us.

I have always found that focusing my energy on creating a great environment for students can in fact make the campus a much better place. These students come with intense expectations. Expectations that are born out of living digital from the time they were very young. Many of them only know a world where online experiences look more like the effortless stream of a television and are not plagued with waiting for connections, plugging into a network, or, in some cases, logging into spaces via a browser. I want to make sure we are challenging ourselves to look at the work they need to do through their eyes. I want to work together to understand their needs and deliver experiences that live up to those expectations. Simply, I want to make sure we are doing what we can to make them smile.