Let technology work for youRoger Quinn ▼ | Sunday October 3, 2010 6:01PM ET
You know how unproductive meetings can be if you don't set firm rules. Now, if you need to cooperate with people from other cities or countries, be aware that the web meeting can turn to real horror if you don't prepare it well.
Everybody has a computer these days, right? Yes, but that doesn't mean that you need to invite anybody to that strategic high-tech meeting. Web meeting is useful when it gives you some additional audio and visual information.
So, if you just need an information, it's faster and less painful to call somebody, talk with him and leave him to do what he has to do. In the other hand, if there is some visual that carries an important information, or you need to meet another employee in another city, then a web meeting is the real deal.
Then, make a proper preparations and the first step is to explain to everybody why you are scheduling a web meeting. Your employees are busy and you interfere with their usual duties. So, don't just send them time information, use e-mail and your web meeting platform to send links and always send the audio information even if you think they should have it. Then let them know what are you expecting and how you predict the meeting will last.
Now, turn to good old wire and use landline phones or maybe headsets. Nothing makes web meetings or conference calls more stressful than background noise and bad connections. Remember that internet connections are different around the world, so don't expect the studio-quality connection and be prepared for some noise in the background.
If you expect your employees to participate, they should know what they will be asked. You can't hold people accountable for their contributions to the team if they don't know what they are supposed to contribute. If you expect interaction, let them know that you'll be asking for their input. Send them anything they need to know in advance or better yet send them the link to the latest version on the shared site so they get used to using it.
If you want people to be really ready to contribute, send the agenda in advance, and we don't mean a few minutes earlier, make it a few days. Busy employees need some time to prepare and to study materials you provided for them. Also, if there are important decisions to be made, they are hard to prepare for in airport lounge or in the restaurant.
So, give them time to go back to work or home or wherever and to study your demands. Catch them off guard and you will get anything but not what you want.
The longer your team is together, the less preparation you'll need and your meetings will be faster and more productive. And your employees happy because you don't waste their precious time. ■