Being the host or moderator of an online conference with a business video conferencing solution such as BlueJeans is very different from hosting a traditional meeting. While it is more convenient, it can still throw a person off if they aren’t used to it. When people aren’t in the same room together, it is easy for them to assume they can get away with things they couldn’t do in-person, which is not only bad manners but holds up a discussion, and it is up to the moderator to take care of this. Use these tips the next time you need to host an online conference of any size and it will go smoothly and effectively:
- Make it Accessible
While new conferencing systems are designed to be as accessible as possible, you do still need to invite others to the scheduled appointment before they can join in. This is a security measure to keep uninvited guests out, but it can catch out some people. Double check before you start to make sure everyone has the access codes or e-mails they need and that their security system or firewall has been configured to allow them to access the software. Scheduling a few minutes in the beginning to wait for latecomers can prevent these mishaps from holding up the rest of the discussion.
Even with versatile and easy to use technology, technical errors can still happen to the most computer literate person. Most of these are the result of outside forces that are beyond your control, but they can still hold up talks if they aren’t fixed in time. The Real Time Report says that a slow or unreliable internet connection makes up the majority of conferencing issues so take a few moments before each appointment starts to test the strength of your connection. Test and adjust your video and audio settings too, and double check you have your video clips, slides, and any other materials prepared and encourage others to do the same. If extreme weather conditions or maintenance in your building or area are scheduled, then you will most likely have to reschedule the discussion as these could knock out your internet connection. Put a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting agenda to allow for technical support so that you can get it out the way and prevent it from holding up the rest of the conference.
- Get There Early
You wouldn’t expect the host of a board room conference to turn up late and unprepared as it is highly unprofessional. So if you are hosting an online conference or seminar, be ready in good time to ensure you can fix technical glitches, prepare all of your materials, and oversee that everyone else is on time and organized too.
- Make Introductions
If you are working with a remote team or outside collaborators, it can be awkward for them at first, even when meeting through a webcam. You can prevent some of this awkwardness and ensure that everybody at least knows each other’s first names by taking a few moments at the beginning of each appointment for introductions and ice breakers. You may even schedule some social time for people to chat about their lives so that it won’t get in the way of the meeting itself. There is no need for embarrassing ‘getting to know you exercises’, simply letting everyone share their first name and position is enough. This will get the talks off to a good start and go a long way to building working relationships even across a distance.
- Keep it Brief
Nobody likes a meeting that goes on for too long. It is not only boring but keeps people from their more important jobs or personal commitments. One important task for the host is to keep the discussion moving along and sticking to the schedule as much as possible. Fast Company recommends achieving this by using short sentences and keeping everything as brief as possible. You can cover all the bases and allow everyone to make their individual points without the need to argue back and forth for hours on end. You might want to prepare a video clip a few minutes in length to make your statement, rather than bore everyone else with a half hour speech or a lengthy slideshow. If you feel that somebody, yourself included, has been going on for too long or is going off schedule, bring the point home and keep the conference going to schedule.
Much of the etiquette for hosting an online conference is much the same as it would be for a regular meeting – Be on time, be prepared, and stick to the agenda. But by taking the additional steps of becoming familiar with the software, making use of the mute button, and troubleshooting, you may well find your online conferences are better and more efficient than the board room ever was.