Sitting in a boardroom and having a conference with other executive personnel is not a new concept. With the invention of the telephone, it became possible to have teleconferences with businesspeople from distant locations. Now in the digital age, the internet can be used to simulate conferences of people presenting in real time. However, the proper preparation is necessary in order for the conference to run smoothly. In order maintain professionalism it is vital for business professionals to research, prepare, practice, and reflect on the impending web conference in order for it to bode well for both sides participating.
It is important to be prepared for a web conference. Dedicate time during the week preceding the conference to gather resources and to practice. If the conference is comprised mostly of new participants, consider an icebreaker activity. Be sure that these participants have all of the necessary literature at least twenty-four hours ahead of time, so they may also be able to prepare. In the literature, suggest to the participants that they use headsets as opposed to standalone microphones because they there is less unwanted feedback. Finally, think about all the possible questions that may be asked during the presentation.
Make sure to run through the presentation a few times for better personal communication and to also test the electronics. When practicing, use the exact room and computer that will be used during the conference. Having to fix the the computer or any of the components for the presentation could potentially take hours, and even prevent the session from happening altogether. Part of the practice session should also consist of informing the other participants their possible roles during the conference, like using the computer or working a slideshow. Use the time during the practice session to proofread the presentation and determine if it will be easy to read, if the bulleted points are effective at conveying the message, and if the graphs are basic enough for the expected audience to understand. Typically, each slide should cover only a single point. If there is an abundance of white space, use a relevant visual.
Prepare an agenda for the day of the session. The agenda should be used as a guide so the presentation does not get off track or too far off topic. The agenda is useless however, if the computer and its components fail. The computer and its components should be ready to go thirty minutes prior to the scheduled start of the conference. The presentation slides should be open in addition to any extra documents or sources that will be used. The moderator should be able to access any of these resources with a single mouse click. Other applications such as instant messengers should be closed. Also, if password protected sites should be logged into ahead of time so participants don’t view any personal information. Finally, turn off any personal electronic devices and close the door to prevent potential interruption.
It is recommended to stay away from wireless internet as it can be unreliable and cause additional issues. Before the presentation initially starts be sure to do a quick sound check. After the sound check, an icebreaker activity may be needed to start the conference. If the participants are recurring from previous sessions, skip ahead to the most recent and new items on the agenda. Introduce the moderators and other speakers and inform participants of when they will be able to ask questions. In proceeding to the “meat and potatoes” of the presentation, speak clearly and have enthusiasm. No one wants to listen to a dry speech. However, be sure not to rush or participants will not be able to take in all of the information effectively. If possible, try to include some audience interaction. Keep the participants focused and engaged by asking them to raise their hand in a poll. Microphones not in use should be turned off so they do not pick up any whispers, coughs or other noises. The agenda should be available for consultation throughout the presentation.
If the session was recorded for others to view at a later date, be sure to review it yourself. Make note of the improvements that could be made with future sessions. The opinions of the participants also provide valuable feedback. Their responses may be gathered in the form of a poll, group e-mail or individual dialogue.