Tips for Successful Web Conferences

By Christine Neuberger

Are you a newcomer to the brave new frontier of virtual meetings? Communicast Inc., a company that helps clients assess and use Web conferencing, offers 10 tips for successful programs over the Internet.

Keep it short. Live meetings lasting between 60 and 90 minutes work best. Does your event need more time? Consider breaking it into 60- to 90-minute segments and delivering them over a period of days or weeks.

Keep it simple. Enter into this new arena with a basic program and a simple format. Why? You have to walk before you can run. Master the basics – slide control, polling, messaging. Then you can conquer more sophisticated features.

Line up a specialist. Will your live event draw more than 30 attendees? Consider using an online specialist to help answer the audience’s questions. That way questions fetch immediate responses.

Ask all participants to run preflight checks. This ensures everyone can fully participate in the event. Before your program, the event service provider typically supplies preflight checks in the form of Web pages that confirm that a person’s computer can successfully participate.

Use the phone. For newcomers to the technology, a familiar medium can help smooth the way. Let audioconferencing provide the program’s audio. Let the Web conference provide visual content and allow participants to chat and ask questions without interrupting the program.

Don’t overdo it. What are the key messages you want to impart to attendees? Structure the presentation exclusively around no more than four basic points. A 90-minute program built around just a few messages will still leave you time for give-and-take with the audience.

Keep slides simple. Slides formatted with flat colors and simple designs will display quickly on your attendees’ browser. Full-screen photos take too long to display. Avoid them.

Rent an emcee. How important is your event? If the event could make or break things – careers, for example – consider hiring an e-facilitator. A professional moderator will keep an online program humming along, permitting speakers to concentrate on their message instead of the controls.

Ask good questions. When you create the program, know what you most want to get from it. Your goals can guide you as you decide what to ask the participants.

Test. Once the event is ready to go, test the links you send to attendees. If the link is wrong, the audience can’t show up. Web-event producers often fail to check links, making an avoidable mistake.

To reach Communicast, email or call 301/762-1235.