After September 11, 2001, the hassles of travel and the impact of rising fuel prices made it attractive to do more business meetings and presentations by telephone, videoconference, and the rapidly improving technology of the Internet.
One survey reported that only 22 percent of teleconference participants thought their meetings were productive. If you are going to make a formal presentation by phone or be an active respondent, you need to pay some attention to the basics of putting together a telephone meeting to maximize success. These include:
Increase attendance by scheduling at a convenient time for all time zones and making sure notifications go out as far in advance as possible, with a reminder the day before.
Arrive early to be sure the equipment is working properly.
Consider using a wired phone with headsets that have the microphone in front of the mouth, for improved sound quality over speakerphones (do not use cordless or cell phones and turn off call waiting, usually by pushing *70). If you do use speakerphones have participants turn off their mute button until someone wants to speak, to avoid picking up background sounds.
Other tips include:
Turn off cell phones, beepers, and watch alarms.
Ask everyone to call in two minutes before the start time and remind them that they should identify themselves when they speak.
Do not wait more than five minutes to start, and have a firm time to end; otherwise you may lose those that have other things to attend to after the call.
Send out an agenda and stick to it.
Send materials to be referred to during the teleconference by mail or e-mail in advance.
Leave substantial time for discussion after the presentation.
At the end, recap action items, then send out a summary of decisions within twenty-four hours.
Tape-record the conference, in case there are disputes about what was said. You may want to even send out the transcript.
A telephone bridge works like conference calling, but without using a commercial conference service with an operator, thus lowering the cost. These are widely available — just google “telephone bridge” for providers.
Large companies may have permanent videoconferencing rooms at major locations, equipped with very high-quality equipment produced by companies like Polycom and Sony. These are effective not only for internal company meetings, but also for training (as well as communicating with customers who either have their own video facilities or come in to the supplier's conference room).
The tips for teleconferencing apply to videoconferencing as well:
Have the rooms brightly and evenly lit.
Test the equipment and have presenters work with it in advance.
Make sure that everyone who is going to speak can be seen and heard and remind them to look at the camera.
Avoid excessive movements (such as swiveling in your chair), which can be distracting to viewers.
Wear blue or black and avoid bright white, red, or excessively patterned clothing, as well as large or noisy jewelry (see the section on TV appearances in Chapter 12).
Check your appearance before you go on the air.
Use large fonts and pictures for presentation materials (see Chapter 8).
You will probably want to record the conference for future reference. Let everyone know this is being done.
It is easy to forget that everyone can see everyone else. Ask that no one look at their e-mail or incoming cell calls during the discussion, since this would not only be obviously impolite, but would make it clear that this person is not very interested in the objectives of the meeting.
The video-streaming technology of the Net has so rapidly advanced that sites like YouTube have become part of popular culture almost overnight. All one needs is a high-speed connection, a webcam, and the software or use of a site for transmission, making desktop videoconferences and training sessions feasible. That said, the technology is still evolving and quality varies a lot.
The industry leader in Web conferencing and teaching seminars (known as webinars) is WebEx. Other popular hosts are GoToMeeting and
Many videoconferencing services charge a lot per month. However, you can add streaming user-friendly video and video chat to a Web site for a one-time fee using
Wainhouse Research found, in one survey of 116 users of videoconferencing, that generating sales leads was the number one goal and they generated 32 percent more leads this way than through traditional events. Webinars were also used for internal and external training, company announcements, and communicating with partners and customers.
Some recommendations for optimizing Web meetings, in addition to what has been said about teleconferences and videoconferences, include:
Be sure everyone has log-in information and passwords.
Focus the webcam and be sure that you are centered on the screen.
Remove anything in the background that might be embarrassing (like a poster or, if you are at home, a pile of laundry).
Be sure you are not sitting in front of an open window that will light you from behind and put you in a shadow.
Most Web software has a free trial, so take a test run so that you are familiar with how it works.
Ask the audience questions during the presentation to stimulate interaction (it is easy to zone out in front of a screen).
If you have asked the audience to submit questions, they need to be prioritized in advance to decide what to address first, or, if the audience is big and questions can be submitted by e-mail live, you may want to have someone with experience sort them as they come in.
If you want to demonstrate an application, be sure everyone's software will support it. Keep designs simple to speed display.
You may want to hire a professional moderator for an important Web conference, to be sure everything runs smoothly.