Getting ready to host an online meeting for 100+ IT professionals sounds a lot like this commercial looks. You can be forgiven for feeling a little dread and uncertainty as you contemplate the prospect of having 100 or more highly opinionated professionals in the same virtual room. Whether it is for training, or an all hands meeting, you need to stop the chaos before it can start. You need a solution before the problem. In this article you will find tips to help you heard those cats.
Ideally your preparation for this type of meeting should begin some days before you intend to convene. You need to lay the groundwork for the meeting, which includes setting an agenda of proposed objectives, inviting to attend, distributing the agenda, and allowing a short comment period before the agenda is finalized and distributed. You also need to appoint a meeting facilitator and designate a moderator. Think of it as a courtesy to the people who will need to rearrange their work schedules and workflows to accommodate and attend this meeting. It can also help stave off utter chaos and result in something actually getting done. Houston Chronicle identifies a four-point process to creating an agenda; which is determining the issues, sorting them by importance, identifying needed actions, and arranging time within the meeting for questions and answers, and non-agenda items.
Check Your App
If you are new to using BlueJeans for corporate videoconferencing for IT, you will want to familiarize yourself with the application and its features. If you have remote staff that will be attending via their own devices, request that they download the application to their computer, tablet, or smart phone in order to attend. However, modern cloud-based apps can also sync with room-based systems such as MS office 365, Lync with Cisco, and Polycom. Your meeting facilitator should also be familiar with the applications features and moderation tools.
The Harvard Business Review notes that in order for a meeting to be effective, a basic social etiquette needs to be followed. While it is courteous to mute one’s mic in order not to disturb the speaker with background noise, it is most definitely discourteous to hit mute in order to make a phone call, multitask, or get up and leave the room to do something else entirely. Requiring everyone to be on camera can largely eliminate rude behavior.
Also make it clear that people will have a chance to speak, but that presenters must not be interrupted. If possible, have each attending team appoint a spokesperson who will carry that part of the agenda. It’s also important that in a large multi-location meeting that speakers identify themselves by location, department, and name. For example, “This is Jane Smith with Digital Marketing in Boulder.”
Take a Tip from TED
TED talks are one of the most effective mediums when it comes to communication. Everyone has had a meeting the ground on and on, with flowcharts from hell, and pie charts until you were pie eyed. Keep presentation short, to a maximum 20 minutes. Speakers should not just create, but rehearse their presentations. These talks have been around since the early 80s, but they truly began to trend in the age of broadband and YouTube. Think of it as the adult version of show and tell. Use visual aids, but bring your story with you, and use it to engage the at attendees’ interest, and afterwards encourage their input.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything could be covered in one 20 minute meeting followed by a 10 minute question-and-answer period. Unless you have a doorway to an alternate universe, this is not going to happen. If your meeting is going to run beyond 45 minutes, you need to allow people time to rearrange a portion of their day. If your meeting is an all-day affair, with multiple speakers, multiple presentations, panel discussions, or other features, you need to build in time for breaks and meals. Set a definite starting and ending time, and ask that participants from other locations do the same.
Time Zone Zone Out
One of the biggest problems with scheduling meetings across time zones is that one, two, and sometimes three locations can participate, but other locations would have to attend at inconveniently early or late hours. Let’s say for the sake of argument that you need to speak with people in five other locations. You are in Los Angeles, but the teams you need to meet with our in Brisbane, Orlando, Amsterdam, and Chennai. Using a typical meeting time scheduler, you can see that you are not going to get a fully green line between any of these locations. Using the meeting software’s archive, it is possible to have other locations pick up the meeting during their business hours, hold their own meeting, and then have other teams review during their business hours.
With worldwide meetings for worldwide business, software and common sense will be your best problem solvers. Gather your teams and start working on your agenda, and get ready for action.