Web Conferencing Tips From a Pro

Whether you call it a virtual meeting, a Web conference, or simply a meeting held via the Internet, the steady improvement of the technology that supports this type of meeting makes it an increasingly viable option for planners.

But despite the Internet's emergence as a mainstream business tool, Web conferencing can still be a daunting experience for first-timers. Even seasoned presenters might feel uncomfortable. Most often it's not the technology that makes today's business professional apprehensive, but the knowledge that the familiar ways of presenting are inadequate to execute an effective Web conference. Provide that same executive with some useful information and a little preparation, however, and she can host an effective, efficient Web conference.

Here are some practical techniques to help sail through that first Web conference.

1. Keep it short. Put a time limit on the presentation. Somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes is the most a speaker on a Webcast can expect to hold attendees' attention. It is important to have a clear agenda and stay on schedule.

2. Plan ahead. Set up both the Web and audio portions of the conference well in advance. Make sure that the audience has the proper hardware and software before the event. Be sure to communicate all relevant conference information to the audience, including an agenda, date, time, phone number, and Web login details.

3. It is best to schedule some practice sessions before the conference, so that you can use this new tool confidently during the actual conference. Use simple slides that contain very few graphics or complicated diagrams, but remember that lag times are a consideration in Web conferencing.

4. To keep the audience from losing interest, let them interact with the presentation often (every five to ten minutes is best). Give them a polling question and encourage them to ask questions. The presenter should make sure she saves time at the end of the conference for questions as well.

5. The audience will lose interest if the presenter sounds flustered or has difficulty remembering her content. It is always a good idea for her to have a script and other information pertinent to the conference handy at all times to ensure that she remains confident.

6. Use good audio etiquette. The presenter should always introduce herself. It is also a good idea to ask participants to identify themselves when they speak. This also helps the presenter address participants by name, fostering a more personal meeting and helping maintain listeners' attention.

7. Be enthusiastic. In a Web conference, there are no nonverbal cues or chances to establish eye contact with the audience. Therefore, it is very important for the presenter to exploit the power of her voice. An upbeat, enthusiastic, and strong voice will go a long way to keep the attention of the audience.

8. Request that the conference provider create an archive of the conference. It is a great tool for those audience members who missed part of the conference or for those who couldn't attend at all. It's also an excellent opportunity to "rerun" the presentation for a new audience at a later date.