Some Ways to Make WebEx Meetings a Little Better

As WebEx adoption grows on campus, we now have over 5,200 users, I am spending more time using the technology to get groups from across campus together. Without using the technology we have at our fingertips, we spend way too much time getting from our “edge of campus” locations to more convenient meeting spaces at the center. Using WebEx well can save the University money in the form of less wasted time moving around … clearly that enhances productivity. The down side of using WebEx or a similar technology to conduct meetings is that we don’t always do it really well. I was thinking about that issue the other day as I listened to people talk over each other, come into a WebEx meeting room late and interrupt, and fumble with technology. The technology can support very effective meetings, but we need to use it better. I thought it might be worth throwing out some ideas on how to make the meetings more effective. Some of this isn’t rocket science, but good to think about. I’m curious if others have thoughts.

If you are the host or a participant of a WebEx or virtual meeting, think about doing these things to make the meeting more effective:

  • Email an agenda in advance of the meeting. It is always a good idea to send an agenda in advance, but particularly important to send one for a virtual meeting. Do everyone a favor and email one as well as attach it to the calendar invite as many people don’t see attachments when we accept calendar invites on mobile devices.
  • Start the WebEx on time and before you start ensure that the physical room has any necessary conference phone, projectors, and equipment before the start of the meeting.
  • Let the meeting attendees know which WebEx functions you intend to use. Audio only, screen sharing, video. It is a bummer to decide to do a meeting while in the car only to find out that screensharing will be a big part of the meeting.
  • If you have a large number of attendees, conduct a roll call at the start. This is most effectively done with the host reading out the list of attendees and asking if they are on the call.I don’t know about you, but I find it very ineffective on a large meeting to ask everyone on the phone to randomly announce themselves.
  • If key participants are missing at the start of a meeting, ask the group what they wish to do. In other words, wait for them, proceed without them, or reschedule the meeting.
  • Again, just good meeting practice, but particularly important with WebEx meetings, at the end of the meeting, summarize what was discussed, what was decided and what are the next steps. As a host you can work with the people on the call to decide who will send out a meeting summary.
  • Have one conversation at a time to respect the team members on the phone. Actively stop side conversations. It’s very difficult to be on the phone and hear multiple conversations going on in the meeting room.
  • If additional participants join a meeting in progress, it is generally not necessary to immediately stop the proceedings to ask who joined and recap for them. I typically wait for a logical break, then ask who joined and recap as appropriate.

I think the most important thing you can do is work to make sure you join on time and mute your microphone when you aren’t talking. You milage may vary with these ideas … anyone have other things they do to make virtual meetings less frustrating?

Toward IT@UChicago

About 12 months ago (on 9/28/2015), I sat down with the IT Leaders from across campus for the first time ever to talk about the environment we all work in. It was an interesting first meeting in that when we talked about the kinds of things they would like to see IT Services do better and things we should tackle together. I wrote down what everyone in the room said and have looked at that list over and over again during my first year to drive my thinking as we keep making progress as a campus. What struck me was the consistency with which the IT Leaders listed the things they thought we could all do together and do better — campus-wide ticketing, campus-wide email, classroom standards, and so on … a picture of my notes from that day are below.

itleaders

Interestingly enough, one year later most of that list is what we are thinking about as areas of focus in the IT Rationalization program we kicked off at the start of August. The items that aren’t part of IT Rationalization are mainly enabling processes (SLAs) that are being addressed in our current work at redeveloping ServiceNow. It makes me really excited to think we are pointing in the right direction as an IT community.

That leads me to introduce an important initiative that I have been talking about for almost as long as I have been here, IT@UChicago. A simple observation I made upon arrival is that we do not have a structural way to make large decisions together as an IT community. At the end of the day ITS is a service provider, we should be more engaged with the larger IT community to better understand the needs of those we provide services to and for. Crafting a vision for how we come together and do that is at the heart of IT@UChicago. The initiative will be built on four core programs …

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-11-14-13-am

Each of the four build on and support the others. We have kicked off the IT Rationalization, starting with data collection with ITS already. We will be asking all of our campus IT counterparts to do the same thing starting this week. The IT Leadership Council will be formed over the next few months and will bring together the senior most IT leaders from across the campus to form an ongoing shared decision making group. The IT Academy will be formed out of the ITLC to help level the knowledge about core IT for our larger community. IT Events will be planned together to share knowledge, grow community, and highlight the work we are doing collectively and individually.

We have built a new website that I invite you to look at and react to. I felt creating a site that laid out this vision would help not only make people aware of what we are doing, but to also help hold us accountable for doing what we’ve been talking about over the last 12 months. The community was clear with me during my first year, they want to be a part of the future of IT at UChicago and I feel building this initiative this way will allow us to achieve that vision.