A few weeks ago, a graduate student in my online class sent this email:
“I’m really not getting anything out of these online meetings with my group. It feels like we just sit around and look at each other. Want to make it more interesting? Give us free pizza, beer, and play some techno music in the background. Even then I’m not sure it would be as good as an in-person face-to-face meeting.”
Interacting with real people online to accomplish some goal is a tricky business. Although these meetings are synchronous (i.e., happening in real time), and we can collaborate with people scattered all over the world, something is missing.
Don’t fear. Whether you run a nonprofit or you own a Fortune 500 company, web meetings can work.
Start by finding the right service.
Some of the top-tier paid services such as GoToMeeting and WebEx offer many bells and whistles, and they do their best to mirror a face-to-face meeting environment.
If your budget is tight, free and low-cost services such as Google Hangouts, ooVoo and Skype can connect your group with video and sound from various locations at the same time.
I mention “low cost” only as a reminder that you still need A) a computer, B) with a webcam and C) access to the Internet.
Here are some basic strategies for conducting a virtual meeting:
When all else fails, take my student’s advice and play techno music in the background.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor of communication studies the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on social media and society.