5 tips for a better online meeting

If you've participated in more than a few online meetings, then you know that sometimes it's like watching an old Japanese monster movie where the audio is out of sync.

Whether it's a free tool like DimDim or a more full featured paid product like Adobe Connect or WebEx, the issue here is often just presenter awareness.

These five tips will make your meetings more effective:

1. Click first. Unlike meetings where you are all in the same room, online attendees don't see everything instantaneously. If you are showing a presentation, you need to move to your slide (or web page or document) before you actually start talking about it. That way it has a chance to refresh on the attendees' screens at about the same time you start talking about it. If you start talking and move to that slide at the same time, you will be way ahead of what your attendees can see. Give it a 10-count and you'll be good. You might have to practice these timings to get comfortable but they will make a difference.

2. Practice economy of movement. The screen sharing will capture every click of your mouse and key on your keyboard. And that all takes more time to refresh and redisplay for attendees than it does for you as the presenter. If you are typing, making a mistake and backspacing, the website will send every keystroke. The more refreshing and redisplaying, the greater the potential for your attendees to fall behind. Practice getting places efficiently.

3. Check in. In many presentations, especially if there's a large group, presenters will mute all the attendees (see #4). That is a good meeting practice, but also means they lose the ability to tell you if there's something wrong or if they don't see what you think you're showing. Build in places in your presentation where you stop and confirm that your group is still with you. If you have muted their phones, don't ask them if they are all with you since if they're not, they might not even realize it. Be specific. And also ask only for those who might not be with you - that way everyone doesn't feel obligated to unmute and answer. For example: "Is there anyone who doesn't see our registration form on the screen?".

4. Mute me. If your vendor supports it use the mute button. In a lot of calls, even if you want to have discussion, you want to minimize the normal office background noise. Not everyone's office phones have a mute capability so if you can do that from the presenter dashboard, take control of it. But remember to unmute for discussion.

5. Keep it simple. Powerpoint presentations are very useful tools in web meetings. But too often they are laden with type flying in, photos fading in and out, animated gifs and even video. Many web meeting vendors have methods to show video. But the bells and whistles of the Powerpoint may often be more of a drain than an advantage. Not everyone is sitting on a T-1 or a LAN and you should plan to make your presentation workable for the lowest connection speed possible in your meeting.

6. Polling. OK, I know I said 5, but this is a good one. Many systems will give you the ability to poll attendees before the end of the meeting. This is a great way to get feedback, either on a presentation or a product, or just even to gather information for a follow up call.

Web meeting vendors differ but some of these gadgets and options do make a difference in the overall meeting experience as well as the information and takeaways - for both the presenter and the attendees.