Web conferencing is a great way to make meetings easy for anyone in the world to join. Whether you use them to avoid travel and other material costs, or you simply want to take meetings online and make them simple, web conferences can be easy, efficient, and highly productive form of collaboration for your business.
What are the things you need to do before any successful meeting via web conference? Here’s a handy checklist to get you started on all the steps to keep in mind.
#1. Decide what service to use
Do your research into all the available web conferencing services out there. Find something that will truly fit the needs and budget of your company, with all the features you need and none of the ones you don’t. Even if you think now that you will only need the service once or a handful of times, chances are you will end up finding more occasions to use it, so it’s best to pick a reliable provider from the get-go.
Take a look at web conference services that have been established in the industry for several years as a sign of reliability and stability. While free conference software may be appealing, it often doesn’t come with the quality or breadth of features that you might need. You can ask yourself questions of each service you come across, such as, “How many video conference feeds can I have?” “Do they allow for phone conferencing integration?” etc.
#2. Choose your audio capabilities
While web conferencing typically features at least one video feed, screen sharing, and other online tools, the basic audio quality is just as important, if not more so. Look for services that feature quality audio, and test it out if you can.
One thing to consider is to integrate traditional phone conferencing into the web conferencing service for the best possible audio. In this way, you can bypass the built-in VoIP audio that comes with many services, which many people encounter problems with due to changes in internet connectivity. Tying in a phone service means that attendees have a dedicated line to hear audio more clearly without anyone cutting out.
You might also think to encourage attendees of your web conference to listen in with a quality headset or other external speakers and microphone for the best audio experience.
#3. Create and send invites
Whether you create an invitation manually, or you have a service built in to your web conference platform for filling out a basic invite, make sure you spell out all the details of your event clearly. Decide who you’ll target your invite to, be it a small team collaborating on a project or Web-wide public presentation.
Consider including the following information in your invitation:
- A clear title and purpose
- Exact time and date (including time zone)
- Access information, unique to specific devices or operating systems
- An agenda, at least in outline, that tells attendees what to expect and when
Send this invitation by email to a handful of guests or an entire email list. Make the title, date, and time the subject line of the email so recipients see and find it easily. Depending on your target audience and intent for the conference, you might also advertise larger events with a landing page on your website, or accompanying content on your social media pages.
#4. Be diligent with reminders
Don’t stop at just the invitation. Remember that people have busy lives and full inboxes, and provide them with several reminders leading up to the conference so they can be adequately prepared and on time. No matter when you send out the initial invitation, you should distribute three reminder emails:
- The first a week in advance of the conference
- The second a day in advance of the conference
- The third the morning of the conference
It’s essential to reiterate the exact date and time, time zone, title, purpose, instructions, and agenda, in case attendees need a reminder or missed a previous email with more information. Depending on your web conferencing service or your preferences, you might also send them a calendar invitation through Google Calendar, iCal, or another service (or several) so that one can easily add it to one’s own schedule and get reminders that way.
#5. Join the meeting early
Always log in and begin the conference early so you can be prepared to work out any kinks and test out any features or your own hardware. Make sure you also have a phone conference set up if you are tying in telephone audio.
Also remember to encourage your attendees to “show up” early as well, as they may need to log in or make any initial adjustments when joining and using the software for the first time. They should be prepared to have downloaded an app on mobile devices, if applicable, and test out their hardware and other features.
You can even let attendees know that they will not be able to access the conference if they attempt to join late. Also tell them what to expect when they join early while they wait for the conference to begin, whether it’s a welcome slide of a presentation, hold music on a phone conference, or a live or automated greeting.
#6. Prepare your materials
Make sure you have any hardware you’re using in place, turned on, and calibrated in preparation for the call. Test microphones, speakers, and webcams for video conferencing through your software before the call begins to ensure that everything is working properly. Dial into an integrated phone conference, if applicable, to set up your audio.
Also prepare anything else you will use during the conference, including your computer or device screen. Open up every window you’ll be displaying during screen sharing, so that any images, videos, presentations, and applications can fully load and be ready to be shown right when you need to. Exit out of all other items not applicable to the conference.
Prepare notes or a script so that there are minimal pauses or audible shuffling between parts of the conference. Make sure you have applicable files available and easily labeled for sharing or markup. Prep any other live speakers or contributors with key information or instructions.
#7. Introduce attendees to the features available
Enter some welcome text into the chat box of your web conference to invite attendees to ask questions or provide comments there, when they don’t want to or can’t interrupt the live presentation or current speaker. Inform them of any other feedback features available, like polling or a “raise hand” button for when they want to indicate basic interest or participation.
Tell collaborators where and how to access markup tools available for annotating or editing files shared with the group. Explain how anyone can receive help if they encounter any questions or difficulties related to accessing or using the conference and individual features. It’s also a good idea to verbally lay out the agenda at the beginning to remind people what to expect and how long each item of the meeting should take.
#8. Record the meeting
Use available recording features for your web conference if you would like to save the content for later review, either personally or for offering to your attendees or anyone who missed the live conference. Become familiar with the process required to record, and remember to start the recording before you begin.
Ensure that audio and video are at their highest quality for the best conference recordings. Use dedicated phone lines with high-quality equipment for better audio, ensure that background noises are at a minimum, and facilitate the transitions between the parts of your conference smoothly. Use a quality webcam for your live video, and use clear and relevant slides, images, and videos that will make sense to anyone who doesn’t have the option to ask live questions.
After the conference is done and the recording stopped, convert the recording file at the highest quality, allowing the extra processing time it takes for a full-sized file if given the choice. Do this right away so you can offer the recording the next day after the live conference, ideally.
#9. Ask for feedback
Request that your web conference attendees provide feedback in whatever way you need it, whether related to the content of the meeting or regarding the conference itself. Prepare for at least one question-and-answer session at the end of the call, and organize polling if applicable and useful. These tools can not only be used to get valuable feedback, but also to encourage engagement and attention throughout longer speaking portions when listeners don’t have the opportunity to contribute verbally.
Depending on the software, your web conferencing service may also provide built-in post-conference surveys automatically distributed to attendees after the conference. These and other built-in analytics on your conferences can help you to get a more complete picture of feedback and engagement so you can improve your conferences over time.
#10. Deal with problems gracefully
No matter how much you prepare, there can still be unforeseen problems that arise during a live conference of any kind. Whether technical or otherwise, get familiar to the best of your ability with the troubleshooting steps you can take for common issues, or other information from your individual conferencing service, like customer service phone numbers to have on hand or the option for live operator support.
Move on as quickly as possible after resolving an issue or any other unexpected pause or deviation from the agenda. Apologize genuinely for inconvenience caused to attendees. If an issue cannot be solved after several minutes—like the dreaded disruptive background noise that you cannot control—politely apologize and offer to reschedule the conference for a later date. Show your attendees you value their time, and take any steps necessary to ensure that the same issue doesn’t happen again.
And there you have it! Your ultimate checklist for sailing through any web conference with ease. Learn more about web conferencing solutions and start your own online meeting today by contacting us at Conference Calls Unlimited.