logoA friend asked me what was the best way to conduct online meetings.  He asked whether Skype was the way to go.  I told him that Skype was O.K., when it worked, but I hadn’t found it very reliable, and besides, it’s no longer free for multiple party conferencing.  My advice to him was:  Use appropriate technology, meaning, don’t assume that the latest and greatest technology is necessarily going to serve your needs best.  Think about the phone and computer equipment your members use, and go with a solution that takes those into account.  The latest and greatest technology is probably not going to work with a motley assortment of hardware.

Here are some things to think about:

  • If your meeting members have already met each other, there is no need, really, for them to see each other.  The only critical need is for the leader to be able to visually share his or her Desktop with others.
  • On the other hand, a stable and clear audio connection is absolutely necessary for everyone.  You can get quite a lot done without visuals, but not without reliable audio.  So the first priority is to establish a good audio connection with all your callers.  In my experience, multiple party VOIP audio conferencing is not reliable.  It’s a great free way to talk, but you can’t always depend on it.  It’s better to spend a little money and set up a telephone conference to establish a reliable audio connection.

For low-budget, reliable teleconferencing I don’t think you can beat using Join.Me for sharing the leader’s Desktop, plus a telephone conference to establish a reliable audio connection.  Here are suggested steps for that procedure:

  • First, well ahead of time, send an email to all participants.  (It may help to have them organized in an email group, so that you can send a message to all by way of a group address.)  In that email tell them to be at their computers at a stipulated time, with a telephone nearby.  It’s best to use a telephone that has speaker-phone capability, which frees both hands for using a keyboard.
  • Also in that email–this is very important–tell them that they will receive a link in a subsequent email, a link inviting them to join the meeting.  Tell them that when they click on that link they will immediately and automatically have visual connection to the meeting, but that in order to establish an audio connection they must first click on the telephone button in the green control panel on their Desktop.  When they do that they will receive a telephone number to call, and an access code for entering via their touch-tone keypad.  Once they call that number and enter the access code they will then have audio connection to the meeting.

Meeting convener, here are the remaining steps to convene a telephone meeting:

  • Visit and click on “Share,” download and install the temporary software. (This takes just a second.)
  • Right click on the red lettered link in the control panel and copy that link to your clipboard.
  • Paste the link into a group email note and send it out to all participants.
  • When they receive that note, participants will click on the link to establish visual contact with the meeting, and then, following your prior email instructions they will call the given telephone number and enter the access code, thus gaining audio access to the meeting.

If you simply can’t resist the allure of the latest and greatest technology, you could get all your callers to register with Google and then use their multiple party teleconferencing tool called Hangout.  It’s free for up to 9 parties.  Hangouts probably work great if everyone has a fast computer and internet connection; but otherwise I have my doubts.

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