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Remote Meetings in a Bizarro World
July 7, 2011 @ 08:36 AM | By Cambria Vaccaro

I dread every Tuesday at 11:00.

At InterCall, we try to practice what we preach and use either InterCall Unified Meeting or another web conferencing tool that we resell in order to have better meetings.

Last week, though, I participated in a meeting that did not use web conferencing, and I was reminded again that not everyone takes advantage of online meetings as automatically as I do. What I experienced was probably what a lot of people go through, and they don’t realize there is an easier way to have more productive meetings.

Here’s the painful way the meetings go:

  • I open up my meeting invitation that contains only audio conference dial-in information. I pick up the phone to dial the number, then enter the passcode. Usually I don’t enter it right, so I either have to enter it again or just hang up and start over.
  • I search my inbox for the email I received that contains an attachment and instructions to have the document open for our meeting.
  • Every time the call starts, we spend at least five minutes with the host asking, “Who just joined?” after every beep she hears. Once the flurry of beeps subsides, the host asks us to recap who is on the call. This usually begins with silence because no one knows who is going to go first, then at least three people all try to speak at the same time. I usually wait until it seems like everyone must have had a turn; sometimes I’m fast enough and can announce my name, but more often than not, I miss my chance. Only later, when the host says, “I guess Cambria couldn’t make it” do I get in my “No, Cambria’s here.”
  • Next we’re instructed to refer to the attachment in the email. This also takes some time because people can’t find the email and need to ask who sent it and when or they realize they’ve deleted it and ask for it to be resent. Once everyone has opened the document to review, we spent more time talking about what page we are on or which chart is being referenced.

Sound familiar?

In a bizarro world (ever seen ‘The Bizarro Jerry’ episode on Seinfeld?), here’s the way this meeting would run with web conferencing:

  • I open up my meeting invitation that contains a link for the web conferencing and audio meeting combined. I click the link to open the online meeting tool, confirm the phone number where I should be dialed and pick up the phone when it begins to ring.
  • As I enter the web meeting, the document we need to review is already open on the host’s desktop for all participants to see.
  • As participants join, the host can see their name and know who’s on and who’s missing.
  • Once we’re ready to begin, the host walks everyone through the document—that we all see at the same time—and directs our attention to certain sections and charts.

Sound better? Even writing this second scenario is easier.

If you’re over wasting time with the “Who’s on the call?” and “Where are you in the document?” questions, you should give web conferencing a try. Your bizarro world might not make your topics more enjoyable, but most likely you'll want to make web conferencing—and easier meetings—part of your reality.

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