Many businesses work on long-distance collaboration, and up until recently that meant lots of conference calls for some people.
Now, however, the world is moving at a totally new pace, as internet technologies develop and broadband speeds increase.
You’re as likely to find yourself sat in front of a webcam as you are to be put on the end of a phone line – and that means there’s a whole new set of skills to learn, in order to make your web conference work for the best.
While there’s no substitute for experience, there are some useful starting points that can make your first web conferences get off to a good start.
Like a face-to-face meeting, the first impressions can really set the tone for a web conference, so make sure you get the energy levels high from the outset so nobody expects what follows to be boring.
Make sure everybody is in on the conference, and greet everybody individually and enthusiastically – they’ll be more ‘tuned in’ if they actually believe you want them there.
It can often be worth setting out an agenda for the call, so everybody knows what to expect, and when the end is in sight.
This way, if you need to talk for quite some time, people can at least appreciate that there’s a clear plan and purpose to what you’re saying, and that you’re not intending to keep talking forever.
Remember, just because you think what you’re saying is important, it doesn’t necessarily mean your audience will agree – which means you need to do all you can to win them over.
Just because it’s a business call, it doesn’t mean you have to be totally formal – and a bit of humour can help to keep things interesting for your audience.
You don’t have to break into a total stand-up routine by any means, but some unusual analogies can not only help to shake things up a bit, but can even get your message across more clearly.
Different kinds of media, from web pages to text documents, and multimedia such as audio, video and images, can all help to add interest to your presentation – we’ll take a closer look at this below.
A good way to keep the conference entertaining is to get the other participants involved – but you’ll need to be sure of your audience before you try this.
There’s nothing worse than a schoolroom-style sea of blank faces when you’ve just asked a question, so shy away from asking anything that needs a specific response.
Instead, simply welcome questions and comments from the other participants, or brainstorm for ideas on a particular topic, and it can help to drive the discussion forwards in an organic way.
The more you get people involved, the more they’ll feel like they’re part of an actual discussion – which can be hard when you’re sat alone at a computer screen.
Multimedia can help to provide some variety so your web conference doesn’t feel too much like a lecture.
Some modern-day web conferencing platforms are specifically designed to make collaboration easier, so if you’re interested, look out for these.
They can allow you to share documents and even multimedia such as pictures, sounds and video, making your presentation a much richer experience for your audience.
Where appropriate, consider directing your viewers to a particular website that can help to expand on the issue at hand, while again providing them with a little variety.
In general, you’re only limited in part by your choice of web conferencing platform – and then it’s just a case of using your imagination to keep things interesting.