Just for fun a few months back I wrote a blog on what I listed as the 5 worst inventions in last 10 years. I looked over that list today and was astonished to find out that I did not list the Web-based meeting as one of these inventions. Those who have known me for years know that I really despise non-value added work and over the last 5 years according to my calculations I have wasted a full 6 months of time attending web meetings. Time that could have been spent working on great idea or invention the entire world has been waiting for while I was listening to someone read through a list of agenda items that could have been sent in an email.
The result however is a blog post on the 5 critical mistakes of Web Meetings! (Please be sure to read on for my 5 rules for web-based meetings!)
- Your Web Meeting covers something that could be accomplished in a single email – This has to be the most commonly abused mistake there is. It’s quite simple really, I get that we are a team and we all work in different parts of the world and we all have to work at a common goal but please don’t waste people’s time by reading items off an agenda and asking 1 of the 40 people on the call if they have completed their action item. Simply send the agenda and ask people to respond where applicable, collect the information and send the note to the team when the information is complete or the communication deadline has been reached. Send us all the note, we can read it and see who is on track and who the slackers are. This takes 5 minutes to read instead of listening to an hour or longer Web Meeting. Please be considerate of people’s time when you set up a web-meeting. The first question one should ask yourself if you are considering a web meeting is; can we use a quicker and more effective form of communication to accomplish the same result?
- You waste 10 to 20 minutes trying to figure out who has joined the conference and on introductions – Again the introductions can be accomplished in a single email before the meeting, please note who has been invited to attend the meeting and what your role/responsibilities are regarding the meeting. In regard to the confusion regarding who has joined the meeting, in most cases this comes from people who call in via phone and are not required to input their name. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “who is caller number 6 that just joined the meeting.” Folks the meeting is supposed to be web-based if you can’t get on with your computer what is the point of calling in where you can’t see the presentation or information being reviewed.
- Your meeting doesn’t start on time – Year to date I have attended 413 web-based meetings and a whopping 6 of these started on time. Of the 405 that started late (late is 1 minute or more passed the scheduled start time) 72% were more than 5 minutes late, the record goes to the call I attended on July 31st that started 34 minutes late because of some “technical issues”; I remember the date because it’s my wedding anniversary. “No worries love, this call should go quick 20 minutes and we can be on our way.” Famous last words!
- Those who feel compelled to use the entire allotted time – You all know who you are, that same kid that when the teacher in school used to say; “If there are no more questions I guess we can go to recess!” You were the kid who very quickly shot your hand in the air and rattled off 4 or 5 questions in a row! This guy was on my conference call last week. Twenty minutes after we started the leader made the statement; “well it looks like we accomplished what we set out to do so if nobody has anything else to cover….” This is when that guy speaks up and say’s how are we doing on action items to date this year, who has past due action items and do we have any action items that are not assigned??? Thirty minutes later I was still listening to a list of items that could have been sent out in an email! Maybe it’s just me but I think the best and most productive web-meetings I have ever attended were completed in less than 20 minutes, we only had people invited to the meeting that needed to be on the list and we used the technology to assess or make decisions that could not be accomplished without the visual tools that make these meetings useful.
- Your meeting does not make use of the technologies that make web meetings a valuable tool – I wish I could say that 100% of the web based meetings I attend use the technology to display information that is critical to the meeting. The reality is when you consider item number 1 on this list less than 10% of web based meetings actually use the technology as designed. To show something on someone’s computer screen to a group of people who have to make a decision on that information be it a spread sheet, drawing or photograph. All of the others could have been an attachment in an email or a simple conference call. I pointed this out to one of my friends recently as we shared my computer for a web meeting we both were invited to. When I went to put my name in before entering the meeting he said; “Make sure you put Doug & Fred, I know this guy uses Webex so he can see who actually is attending the meetings.” As expected not one bit of information was ever shared on the screen but we all could see the 23 attendees and that each had their microphone muted all listening as the meeting organizer read from a script for the next 45 minutes.
As the meeting drags along my colleague and I discuss the wonders of technology, how we now live in the world of George Jetson and Captain Kirk communicating over a wireless electronic signal able to view people, places and things live in real time. We then looked at each other and begin laughing as my friend says “funny they never showed Captain Kirk hanging up on one of those calls and saying what a complete and utter waste of time that was! I guess they never expected that when we finally got here we would screw it up and use it to waste people’s time.
My Rules for Great Web-Based Meetings
- Only invite people who will be making decisions or must see relevant information.
- Make sure that the information you are about to communicate requires live information sharing technology.
- Send an agenda out that details what will be covered in the meeting as well as the roles and responsibilities for each attendee.
- Start your meeting on time and record the meeting, if people elect to come in late they can then view the recording. Remind people in your invite that if the meeting is scheduled for 10 am they should be on the call prior to 10 am so the meeting can start on time.
- Be considerate of everyone’s time, how long do you really need to communicate the information and make decisions.
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