Productive phone conferences

phone conferenceIn these times of coronainduced travel restrictions, I expect that remote meetings will surge. And that many will feel inexperienced and uncertain on how to make those meetings productive and positive, as participant or as host or presenter.

With fifteen years under my belt in international and global roles in one of the world’s most internationally integrated corporations (IBM), and most of those years as an expert consultant on remote work, I have participated or led thousands of remote meetings.

In a quick series of blog posts, I’d like to share some advise and good practices, split by type of remote meeting:

  • Phone conferences
  • Video conferences
  • Web meetings (i.e. presentation on screen and audio conversation either via device or phone conference)
  • Webinars (as web meetings but only one way audio – usually lectures for large groups)

Your reflections, objections and suggestions are very welcome!

Would you like more hands-on consulting support with remote collaboration you’re very welcome to get in touch, of course.


Productive phone conferences

These pointers are intended for meetings with too many participants to handle with the in-built features of mobile phones to patch calls with three or maybe four participants. When you need a phone conferencing service, in other words.


Participants

  1. Prepare in time. The number to call? And the code? Headset if you’re attending among other people? Some phone conferencing services take a while to connect to. Make sure to find a sufficiently calm environment ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute. Latecomers are just as annoying in remote meetings as live, as are interruptions.
  2. There are usually two options to call into the phone conference: Direct (the cost hits your subscription) or call-back from the conference provider. Call-back is often rather expensive for the host, so if the webinar is internal and your employer pays for your phone anyway, they usually prefer that you call in yourself.
  3. Use a local number if you choose to call in.
  4. MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE WHEN NOT SPEAKING! The most common gaffe is to forget your mic on and to have a side conversation, yell at pets or kids or yawn loudly (as I did once – only). This is especially important if you fail to find a silent environment as your background sounds can get very annoying for other participants.
  5. UN-MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE WHEN SPEAKING! The second most common gaffe is to forget to put your mic back on again when supposed or wanting to speak.
  6. Say your name when speaking, at least in the beginning of the meeting. Everyone might not recognise your voice. Especially if you’re unfamiliar to some participants
  7. Focus on the phone conference. Skip those side activities (very tempting to do). Multi tasking is a myth. It’s awfully embarrassing when the host has to shout your name several times to get your attention back from that side thing you got engulfed in.

Host/Presenter

  1. Consider using a video conference instead. It’s not only more personal but it also makes it much harder for participants to do other things at the side of the meeting as they are visible all the time and therefore need to stay attentive (see #7 above)
  2. Alternatively: Consider supplementing the phone conference with a web meeting. Then presentations can be displayed and screens shared, and – not to be despised – meeting minutes can be taken live during the meeting, visible for all to clarify or object to. Both decisions, reasons and to do’s will be more clear for everybody – there and then.
  3. Invitation: Make it ridiculously easy to find the number(s) to call (and the code). Don’t just link to the suppliers page listing call-in numbers all over the world. Instead, copy the relevant numbers from that list into your invitation (but still provide the link (someone might call in from somewhere unexpected). In certain calendar software, you can prepare standard texts for this.
  4. Start with a rollcall to make sure you know who is in attendance.
  5. Don’t bother re-starting for latecomers. 1) It’s annoying for those who did join in time and 2) If they miss the start, they might get the pointer and join in time in the future.
  6. Consider starting 15 minutes past the hour instead to allow people with back-to-back meetings some air, to end the previous meeting a bit late, a coffee or to “wash their hands”
  7. If you, as is often the case, are a bigger group in the office with a speaker phone while others join individually, it’s easy in the big group to forget the remote participants, start small talking, speak too far away from the mic and the remote participants feel forgotten (rightly so):
    • Move the mic close to whoever speaks, as needed and as possible
    • Or have the host/presenter repeat questions or comments from the group to make sure remote participants get them
    • Check in regularly with remote participants to ensure that they hear and are attentive
  8. Open a chat for participants (and maybe separate chats for presenters) using your chat service of choice. Participants can ask and comment without having to interrupt the presenter’s flow. Presenters can be told to get ready; “You’re on in two”.
  9. Delegate moderation of chat(s) to someone in the same location as you, to respond to questions as much as possible by chat and to collect and pass on selected questions to presenters when suitable.
  10. Presenters have to prune and clarify their message much more than they are used to as there will be no visuals to help them get it through to attendees. Only a few points!
  11. If decisions are made and tasks distributed during the meeting, make sure to be explicit and clear about it – as there’s an elevated risk of people not paying full attention.
  12. For the same reason: be quick to distribute the meeting minutes and to do’s after the meeting.
  13. If inviting participants across time zones, I recommend using World Time Buddy, a wonderful little online service that makes it very easy to realise what time the session will be in different time zones. (three zones included in the free version)

If you have questions, comments or thoughts on the subject, please don’t hesitate to comment or to reach out.

Think of that online collaboration is much more than remote meetings only, which require that all participants are available simultaneously, sometimes across distant time zones. If you are serious about online collaboration across geographical and organisational boundaries you need to supplement such synchronous collaboration with asynchronous, like file sharing, blogs, communities, forums and more that offer fantastic possibilities to collaborate transparently, boosting agility, sharing of experience, inspiration, innovation and broader horizons.

If you’re lucky, you have access to HCL Connections offering all these kinds of features in one solution – together with services for video and online meetings. A bit like combining LinkedIn, Dropbox, Zoom, WordPress and more in one comprehensive package – inside the firewall – and with the same filter bubble-logic as on Facebook and LinkedIn; you get more of what you’ve shown interest in, but for work that is positive.

Productive video conferences

videomöteIn these times of coronainduced travel restrictions, I expect that remote meetings will surge. And that many will feel inexperienced and uncertain on how to make those meetings productive and positive, as participant or as host or presenter.

With fifteen years under my belt in international and global roles in one of the world’s most internationally integrated corporations (IBM), and most of those years as an expert consultant on remote work, I have participated or led thousands of remote meetings.

In a quick series of blog posts, I’d like to share some advise and good practices, split by type of remote meeting:

  • Phone conferences
  • Video conferences
  • Web meetings (i.e. presentation on screen and audio conversation either via device or phone conference)
  • Webinars (as web meetings but only one way audio – usually lectures for large groups)

Your reflections, objections and suggestions are very welcome!

Would you like more hands-on consulting support with remote collaboration you’re very welcome to get in touch, of course.


Productive video conferences

These pointers are intended for meetings with more than two participants but still not too many for all to be able to actively participate in the dialogue.


Participants

  1. Prepare in time. Do you have the meeting URL? The number to the phone conference service? Headset if you’re attending among other people? Have you installed and tested the app or plug-in you might need? Have you checked at all if you need any app or plug-in? Make sure to find a sufficiently calm environment  ahead of time – preferably with a background that doesn’t distract. Don’t wait until the last minute. Latecomers are just as annoying in remote meetings as live, as are interruptions.
  2. Are you presentable? No stains on the collar? No spinach between the teeth? Also if you have to rise to answer the door or chase the dog out of the room?
  3. What does your background look like? Is it distracting? MS Teams offers a very practical feature to blur the background. Clever! And nothing I have seen yet from the other suppliers of video conferencing software.
  4. Is your device sufficiently charged to last through the conference? Or do you have charger or power cord easily available. Some video conferencing software drain your battery quickly.
  5. MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE WHEN NOT SPEAKING! The most common gaffe is to forget your mic on and to have a side conversation, yell at pets or kids or yawn loudly (as I did once – only). This is especially important if you fail to find a silent environment as your background sounds can get very annoying for other participants.
  6. UN-MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE WHEN SPEAKING! The second most common gaffe is to forget to put your mic back on again when supposed or wanting to speak.
  7. You are visible! It’s the point of the whole thing. But also the challenge.
  8. Where is your camera? Usually just above your screen (or on the side if you use a tablet or phone in landscape mode). If you really want to see eye to eye with other participants you must focus on the lens, not the face. I find this very hard to do more than momentarily. The eyes automatically turn to the face(s) on the screen. (When I recorded using my iPad I actually attached some paper around the lens to make it easier to focus on. It worked better, but not all the way.)
  9. If you use an external monitor (as I prefer working), video conferences can get complicated, especially if the external monitor has a camera. Pointer #8 might then become even more challenging. Or, the conference window might open on the side monitor making you look that way and turning your ear to the cameras – which may make other participants suspect that you’re actually doing something else. Sometimes it’s just easier to disconnect the external monitor.
  10. If the video meeting platform has a chat option – use it. A great possibility to comment or ask questions discreetly, without interrupting. The speaker or a helper can look occasionally in the chat and answer questions directly.

Host/Presenter

  1. Invitation: Include the link to your video meeting and urge participants to test ahead of time so their device is ready in time.
  2. Can you share your screen or show slides in the video meeting? (I’m not certain that all video meetings services have this capability). It can be very practical to be able to do so; do show slides, to demo, or – a bit unusual but practical – to take meeting minutes live during the meeting, ensuring all get a chance to ask for clarifications or corrections in the meeting and the minutes being final and agreed to as you close.
  3. Don’t bother re-starting for latecomers. 1) It’s annoying for those who did join in time and 2) If they miss the start, they might get the pointer and join in time in the future.
  4. Consider starting 15 minutes past the hour instead to allow people with back-to-back meetings some air, to end the previous meeting a bit late, a coffee or to “wash their hands”
  5. If you, as is often the case, are a bigger group in the office with a big screen, camera and a speaker phone while others join individually, it’s easy in the big group to forget the remote participants, start small talking, speak too far away from the mic and the remote participants feel forgotten (rightly so):
    • Move the mic close to whoever speaks, as needed and as possible
    • Or have the host/presenter repeat questions or comments from the group to make sure remote participants get them
    • Check in regularly with remote participants to ensure that they hear and are attentive
  6. Open a chat for participants (and maybe separate chats for presenters) within the web meeting service (maybe separate for presenters). Participants can ask and comment without having to interrupt the presenter’s flow. Presenters can be told to get ready; “You’re on in two”.
  7. Delegate moderation of chat(s) to someone in the same location as you, to respond to questions as much as possible by chat and to collect and pass on selected questions to presenters when suitable.
  8. If you, as a remote presenter, want to have a chat going to communicate with the host, it’s often a good idea to have that chat on a separate device or – if you dare – on a second, external screen.
  9. NO ANIMATIONS in your slide deck. Not all meeting services can handle them. Play it safe. If you want to build your slide gradually, make the final slide, duplicate it and remove elements (in reverse order) to mimic the animation, but on separate slides.
  10. Some meeting services allow you to upload your deck beforehand. Often a good way to speed up slide progress for the audience.
  11. If you share your screen, shut off as much as possible of other software to avoid slowing down your computer. And – definitely – shut off all notifications! They will show for everyone.
  12. If inviting participants across time zones, I recommend using World Time Buddy, a wonderful little online service that makes it very easy to realise what time the session will be in different time zones. (three zones included in the free version)

If you have questions, comments or thoughts on the subject, please don’t hesitate to comment or to reach out.

Think of that online collaboration is much more than remote meetings only, which require that all participants are available simultaneously, sometimes across distant time zones. If you are serious about online collaboration across geographical and organisational boundaries you need to supplement such synchronous collaboration with asynchronous, like file sharing, blogs, communities, forums and more that offer fantastic possibilities to collaborate transparently, boosting agility, sharing of experience, inspiration, innovation and broader horizons.

If you’re lucky, you have access to HCL Connections offering all these kinds of features in one solution – together with services for video and online meetings. A bit like combining LinkedIn, Dropbox, Zoom, WordPress and more in one comprehensive package – inside the firewall – and with the same filter bubble-logic as on Facebook and LinkedIn; you get more of what you’ve shown interest in, but for work that is positive

Productive web meetings

thesocialswede mobileIn these times of coronainduced travel restrictions, I expect that remote meetings will surge. And that many will feel inexperienced and uncertain on how to make those meetings productive and positive, as participant or as host or presenter.

With fifteen years under my belt in international and global roles in one of the world’s most internationally integrated corporations (IBM), and most of those years as an expert consultant on remote work, I have participated or led thousands of remote meetings.

In a quick series of blog posts, I’d like to share some advise and good practices, split by type of remote meeting:

  • Phone conferences
  • Video conferences
  • Web meetings (i.e. presentation on screen and audio conversation either via device or phone conference)
  • Webinars (as web meetings but only one way audio – usually lectures for large groups)

Your reflections, objections and suggestions are very welcome!

Would you like more hands-on consulting support with remote collaboration you’re very welcome to get in touch, of course.


Productive web meetings

These pointers are intended for online meetings with two-way audio (and chat, usually) where a host/presenter can share their screen or show an uploaded presentation deck. Other features, like polls, are often available. Audio might either be via your device (IP) or via phone conference.


Participants

  1. Prepare in time. Do you have the meeting URL? The number to the phone conference service? Headset if you’re attending among other people? Have you installed and tested the app or plug-in you might need? Have you checked at all if you need any app or plug-in? Make sure to find a sufficiently calm environment ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute. Latecomers are just as annoying in remote meetings as live, as are interruptions.
  2. Using the IP sound via your device or calling in to the phone conference is often just a matter of preference, but depending on your wifi connection or the capacity/power of your device it might be safer to choose calling in to the phone conference.
  3. If you can’t or don’t want use audio via IP, there are usually two options to call into the phone conference: Direct (the cost hits your subscription) or call-back from the conference provider. Call-back is often rather expensive for the host, so if the webinar is internal and your employer pays for your phone anyway, they usually prefer that you call in yourself.
  4. Use a local number if you choose to call in.
  5. Is your device sufficiently charged to last through the conference? Or do you have charger or power cord easily available. Some webinar software drain your battery quickly.
  6. MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE WHEN NOT SPEAKING! The most common gaffe is to forget your mic on and to have a side conversation, yell at pets or kids or yawn loudly (as I did once – only). This is especially important if you fail to find a silent environment as your background sounds can get very annoying for other participants.
  7. UN-MUTE YOUR MICROPHONE WHEN SPEAKING! The second most common gaffe is to forget to put your mic back on again when supposed or wanting to speak.
  8. Say your name when speaking, at least in the beginning of the meeting. Everyone might not recognise your voice. Especially if you’re unfamiliar to some participants
  9. Focus on the webinar. Skip those side activities (very tempting to do). Multi tasking is a myth. It’s awfully embarrassing when the host has to shout your name several times to get your attention back from that side thing you got engulfed in.
  10. If the webinar has a chat option – use it. A great possibility to comment or ask questions discreetly, without interrupting. The speaker or a helper can look occasionally in the chat and answer questions directly.

Host/Presenter

  1. Invitation: Include the URL to your web meeting and urge participants to test ahead of time so their device is ready in time.
  2. Why not display a welcome page as participants gradually join? Not only will it confirm that they have joined the right meeting but you could also:
    • Show images of the presenter(s) or even participants (as there is no video)
    • Introduce presenter(s) and the topic
    • Orient participants about meeting features, by arrows and explanations pointing to the chat feature, for example
  3. Don’t bother re-starting for latecomers. 1) It’s annoying for those who did join in time and 2) If they miss the start, they might get the pointer and join in time in the future.
  4. Consider starting 15 minutes past the hour instead to allow people with back-to-back meetings some air, to end the previous meeting a bit late, a coffee or to “wash their hands”
  5. If you, as is often the case, are a bigger group in the office with a big screen and a speaker phone while others join individually, it’s easy in the big group to forget the remote participants, start small talking, speak too far away from the mic and the remote participants feel forgotten (rightly so):
    • Move the mic close to whoever speaks, as needed and as possible
    • Or have the host/presenter repeat questions or comments from the group to make sure remote participants get them
    • Check in regularly with remote participants to ensure that they hear and are attentive
  6. Open a chat for participants (and maybe separate chats for presenters) within the web meeting service (maybe separate for presenters). Participants can ask and comment without having to interrupt the presenter’s flow. Presenters can be told to get ready; “You’re on in two”.
  7. Delegate moderation of chat(s) to someone in the same location as you, to respond to questions as much as possible by chat and to collect and pass on selected questions to presenters when suitable.
  8. Help participants to find the chat feature early by writing some kind of greeting in the chat, something they can respond to. “Hi from Malmö. We have horizontal rain (as usual) but indoors it’s warm and cozy. How about at your place? Where are you?”
  9. If you, as a remote presenter, want to have a chat going to communicate with the host, it’s often a good idea to have that chat on a separate device or – if you dare – on a second, external screen.
  10. NO ANIMATIONS in your slide deck. Not all web meeting services can handle them. Play it safe. If you want to build your slide gradually, make the final slide, duplicate it and remove elements (in reverse order) to mimic the animation, but on separate slides.
  11. Some web meeting services allow you to upload your deck beforehand. Often a good way to speed up slide progress for the audience.
  12. If you share your screen, shut off as much as possible of other software to avoid slowing down your computer. And – definitely – shut off all notifications! They will show for everyone.
  13. Using screen sharing, someone can take meeting minutes live, for all to see, object to, clarify and agree on during the meeting. Less confusion. Less to do post meeting.
  14. If decisions are made and tasks distributed during the meeting, make sure to be explicit and clear about it – as there’s an elevated risk of people not paying full attention.
  15. For the same reason: be quick to distribute the meeting minutes and to do’s after the meeting.
  16. If inviting participants across time zones, I recommend using World Time Buddy, a wonderful little online service that makes it very easy to realise what time the session will be in different time zones. (three zones included in the free version)

If you have questions, comments or thoughts on the subject, please don’t hesitate to comment or to reach out.

Think of that online collaboration is much more than remote meetings only, which require that all participants are available simultaneously, sometimes across distant time zones. If you are serious about online collaboration across geographical and organisational boundaries you need to supplement such synchronous collaboration with asynchronous, like file sharing, blogs, communities, forums and more that offer fantastic possibilities to collaborate transparently, boosting agility, sharing of experience, inspiration, innovation and broader horizons.

If you’re lucky, you have access to HCL Connections offering all these kinds of features in one solution – together with services for video and online meetings. A bit like combining LinkedIn, Dropbox, Zoom, WordPress and more in one comprehensive package – inside the firewall – and with the same filter bubble-logic as on Facebook and LinkedIn; you get more of what you’ve shown interest in, but for work that is positive.

Effective webinars

konferensIn these times of coronainduced travel restrictions, I expect that remote meetings will surge. And that many will feel inexperienced and uncertain on how to make those meetings productive and positive, as participant or as host or presenter.

With fifteen years under my belt in international and global roles in one of the world’s most internationally integrated corporations (IBM), and most of those years as an expert consultant on remote work, I have participated or led thousands of remote meetings.

In a quick series of blog posts, I’d like to share some advise and good practices, split by type of remote meeting:

Your reflections, objections and suggestions are very welcome!

Would you like more hands-on consulting support with remote collaboration you’re very welcome to get in touch, of course.


Effective webinars

These pointers are intended for meetings with audio (and chat, usually) where a host/presenter can share their screen or show an uploaded presentation deck. But, unlike web meetings, the audio communication is only broadcast from the presenter. Typically for larger meetings, all-hands with at least 50 participants. Other features, like polls, are often available. Audio might either be via your device (IP) or via phone conference.


Participants

  1. Prepare in time. Do you have the meeting URL? The number to the phone conference service? Headset if you’re attending among other people? Have you installed and tested the app or plug-in you might need? Have you checked at all if you need any app or plug-in? An upside of webinars is that you don’t need a silent environment as you’re neither on audio or camera.
  2. Using the IP sound via your device or calling in to the phone conference is often just a matter of preference, but depending on your wifi connection or the capacity/power of your device it might be safer to choose calling in to the phone conference.
  3. If you can’t or don’t want use audio via IP, there are usually two options to call into the phone conference: Direct (the cost hits your subscription) or call-back from the conference provider. Call-back is often rather expensive for the host, so if the webinar is internal and your employer pays for your phone anyway, they usually prefer that you call in yourself.
  4. Use a local number if you choose to call in.
  5. Is your device sufficiently charged to last through the conference? Or do you have charger or power cord easily available. Some webinar software drain your battery quickly.
  6. Focus on the webinar. Skip those side activities (very tempting to do). Multi tasking is a myth.
  7. If the webinar has a chat option – use it. A great possibility to comment or ask questions discreetly, without interrupting. The speaker or a helper can look occasionally in the chat and answer questions directly.
  8. Stay aware if your questions and comments are sent only to moderators and panel or to all attendees.

Host/Presenter

  1. Invitation: Include the URL to your web meeting and urge participants to test ahead of time so their device is ready in time.
  2. Why not display a welcome page as participants gradually join? Not only will it confirm that they have joined the right meeting but you could also:
    • Show images of the presenter(s) or even participants (as there is no video)
    • Introduce presenter(s) and the topic
    • Orient participants about meeting features, by arrows and explanations pointing to the chat feature, for example
  3. Don’t wait too long for late comers
  4. Consider starting 15 minutes past the hour instead to allow people with back-to-back meetings some air, to end the previous meeting a bit late, a coffee or to “wash their hands”
  5. If you broadcast a big gathering with a substantial live audience:
    • Consider setting up viewing parties at other offices where those employees can attend together by a big screen
    • Consider presenting to the local audience from the presenter’s computer and for the online audience from another. It should work anyway, but better safe than sorry.
    • Use LAN for the computer for the remote audience. Better safe than sorry, also in this regard.
    • If you have several speakers, it might be easier to equip each one with a small microphone connected to their mobile phone (which should be in flight mode to avoid disturbing incoming calls) and connect them via IP sound. Instead of doing a microphone relay, which often turns amateurish.
    • Why not record the scene using a separate camera for broadcasting in the web meeting?
    • Maybe even sharing video from the viewing parties to display the participation at satellite offices.
  6. Open a chat for participants (and maybe separate chats for presenters) within the web meeting service (maybe separate for presenters). Participants can ask and comment without having to interrupt the presenter’s flow. Presenters can be told to get ready; “You’re on in two”.
  7. Delegate moderation of chat(s) to someone in the same location as you, to respond to questions as much as possible by chat and to collect and pass on selected questions to presenters when suitable.
  8. Help participants to find the chat feature early by writing some kind of greeting in the chat, something they can respond to. “Hi from Malmö. We have horizontal rain (as usual) but indoors it’s warm and cozy. How about at your place? Where are you?”
  9. If you, as a remote presenter, want to have a chat going to communicate with the host, it’s often a good idea to have that chat on a separate device or – if you dare – on a second, external screen.
  10. NO ANIMATIONS in your slide deck. Not all web meeting services can handle them. Play it safe. If you want to build your slide gradually, make the final slide, duplicate it and remove elements (in reverse order) to mimic the animation, but on separate slides.
  11. Some web meeting services allow you to upload your deck beforehand. Often a good way to speed up slide progress for the audience.
  12. If you share your screen, shut off as much as possible of other software to avoid slowing down your computer. And – definitely – shut off all notifications! They will show for everyone.
  13. If the live audience ask questions, make sure to repeat them for the online audience. The person asking was probably waaay to far from the microphone.
  14. If inviting participants across time zones, I recommend using World Time Buddy, a wonderful little online service that makes it very easy to realise what time the session will be in different time zones. (three zones included in the free version)

If you have questions, comments or thoughts on the subject, please don’t hesitate to comment or to reach out.

Think of that online collaboration is much more than remote meetings only, which require that all participants are available simultaneously, sometimes across distant time zones. If you are serious about online collaboration across geographical and organisational boundaries you need to supplement such synchronous collaboration with asynchronous, like file sharing, blogs, communities, forums and more that offer fantastic possibilities to collaborate transparently, boosting agility, sharing of experience, inspiration, innovation and broader horizons.

If you’re lucky, you have access to HCL Connections offering all these kinds of features in one solution – together with services for video and online meetings. A bit like combining LinkedIn, Dropbox, Zoom, WordPress and more in one comprehensive package – inside the firewall – and with the same filter bubble-logic as on Facebook and LinkedIn; you get more of what you’ve shown interest in, but for work that is positive.