Top ten tips for holding online meetings (using Elluminate) from the University of Huddersfield
- Use software that everyone is comfortable with
If you have a license for an application that no-one has heard of or ever seen then there is going to be a learning curve for all participants upon joining the meeting.
- Being the chair does not mean you have to provide the software
This seems to be an automatic reaction – you are calling the meeting therefore you are responsible for providing the facility to host the meeting. This is not required – you can be granted moderator rights in most meeting software. If someone has a better software option, use it and ask to be granted moderator rights.
- If you are chair, don’t try to moderate large meetings yourself
In a real world meeting, the chairperson does not take minutes, nor are they responsible for ensuring that everyone has the right documents and that presentations are loaded prior to the meeting. The same is also true of virtual meetings. If they are formal or structured, appoint someone else to be moderator or co-moderator.
- Get users to test their connection prior to the meeting
Obviously resolving any potential connection problems is better done before the meeting rather than during.
- Respect people’s privacy (Part 1)
Elluminate has a ‘Supervisor’ mode in which any inter-participant text chat that does not involve the moderator is still transparent to him. Participants are unaware when this mode is switched on (it is off by default). If you are going to activate this mode, ensure your participants know (or at least have some thick skin).
- Respect people’s privacy (Part 2)
Another privacy busting feature of Elluminate is the option to record meetings. This facility may be a little more obvious to users as there is an icon displayed at the bottom of the screen indicating when recording is taking place. However, it is good practice to inform participants prior to the meeting (and not as they join) that you intend to record some or the entire meeting. They may have issues with this or they at least will not make remarks that they would not want repeated outside of the meeting. If the software allows the recording to be exported (Elluminate does not) then users should be informed of where it will be posted and for how long, as well as who will have access to it.
- Add extra time to the meeting
Although a benefit of using online meeting tools is that more efficient use of time can be made, it may not always be beneficial to do so. In real world meetings people do not [aim] to arrive just as the meeting starts, the get there early to network and hang around after to discuss other matters. Buffer times can usually be added to meetings – let your participants know what the buffer times are so they can take advantage of it.
- Have technical support available
Most institutions have an IT Support desk to help with issues. Holding a meeting online can be a technical challenge so ensure support is available and don’t schedule the meeting to occur during any planned system downtimes. Although it would be unlikely to affect the quality of the meeting, it just means that IT support will likely be busy dealing with that and may not be as available.
- Be flexible
If a feature stops working or becomes unusable because of lag, adapt the meeting to get round it rather than postponing. Not everyone is guaranteed to have the same quality connection, so if one person is having problems following a PowerPoint presentation on the server, send them a local copy to use.
Familiarity with the functions and features of Elluminate (or any software) will make meetings run more smoothly and fluidly.