Taking The Stress Out Of Webex Meetings
> Web conferencing tools can be stressful to use for meetings
Why isn’t this fucking online web conferencing thing working?!
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, right?
Well, it’s not panning out that way today.
You’re leading a conference call and you need to use the web conferencing tool to share your presentation in real-time with all the attendees.
But, your computer, the internet connection, the software or something is not working and you just can’t seem to get it to work.
As the minutes are ticking by, people on the call are waiting to “see” the Powerpoint presentation online.
There are a few folks on the call that are also having trouble getting set up too. Some are needing to download and install software while others are still trying to login.
It’s been over 15 minutes since the meeting has officially started and nothing’s working right.
Why is this so damn difficult?
As a last-ditch measure, you end up just emailing the presentation to the group and then having everyone just follow along manually as they listen in on the call.
You barely saved the meeting.
But, it was such a disastrous start. And so fucking stressful.
You vow to never use another web conferencing tool again and just stick with emailing Powerpoint decks ahead of time and sticking with audio calls only.
This is the sentiment that a lot of us have gone through and it’s what keeps many of us from using web conferencing tools again.
Truth is that these conferencing tools that are meant to boost collaboration and communication don’t always seem to work out that way - at least at the start.
But, the good news is that you can make it work and it does get easier.
Why Web Conferencing Has So Many Problems & Issues
Have you ever really given much thought to how cell phone calls are made?
Yeah, us too.
But, in reality, it’s quite an amazing engineering feat.
Somehow the sounds coming out of our mouths are digitized by our cell phones and turned into invisible radio frequencies and instantly sent over a network of computers, switches and routers to miraculously be converted back to sounds on another person’s cell phone on the other side of the planet.
This is an over-simplified explanation. The point is that a simple cell phone call requires a lot of technology to make it work.
And still, to this day, this most basic fundamental feature of making cell phone calls still has hiccups every once in awhile. Maybe, like 1 out of every 10 calls, you may experience issues like garbled sounds, dropped calls, etc. That’s a 10% chance that some issue will happen.
Now, if you add another layer on top of that, like say video for sharing presentations, it adds another set of probabilities that something can go wrong.
And when you group together events that each have a certain probability of errors, you end up increasing the overall odds of something going wrong.
Web conferencing has so much tech involved that it’s more likely that you’ll have issues than not.
There are so many different variables that also contribute to things not going right.
Some folks use Safari or Microsoft Internet Explorer over Google Chrome for their browser. Some have the latest versions and others haven’t updated since Windows 95.
Some are on a wired high-speed office internet connection while others are on a weak-ass Wifi signal at a coffee shop.
Some call in on a regular good ol’ reliable landline at the office while others are calling in on a 1G spotty cell connection from the outback.
And of course, there are potential issues on your side with your computer. The Powerpoint or Excel file is corrupted and won’t open. The display format is all messed up. Or, your computer just plain gives up and decides to check out for the day.
Each of these variables increases the odds of something not working.
Honestly, it’s amazing that we can even manage to have any kind of collaboration over the internet.
However, when it works, we don’t celebrate to ourselves, “this tech is amazing!”
We all take it for granted.
When we get used to having tech work as it should, without any issues, our tolerance level for issues gets really low.
And when tech continually goes wrong, we pull our hair out and start screaming. We get so fed up that we all fall back to what is most reliable and easiest - the basic audio-only conference call.
Why? Because audio-only conference calls works like 99.99% of the time without issue and that’s key.
However, with a bit of effort, practice and planning, you can take your boring audio-only conference call up another level with web-based presentations and really make a bigger impact.
Using Webex Is Stressful AF (If You’re A Newb)
Chances are pretty good that either your company uses Cisco Webex for conferencing or you’ve at least joined a meeting that was hosted on one.
In fact, Webex is the current market leader in terms of business web conferencing software with about a 50% overall market share.
Within the Fortune 500 segment, their market share is a whopping 95%. Nobody else comes close. So, if you work for a large Fortune 500 company, you’ve definitely been part of a Webex meeting.
Even joining a Webex meeting can be stressful if you’re not prepared.
Sometimes, you need to download software to your computer or update or add-in some browser programs and other bullshit to be able to join the meeting. You end up joining late because of all the downloading, installing and running of programs.
It’s a pain in the ass.
On the other hand, hosting one is an even bigger stress bomb.
When you’re face-to-face with an unfamiliar and complex looking user interface, it can be a real scary and frustrating thing to learn how to use.
And when you see the main Webex interface as a beginner, it’s intimidating.
It’s hard to know where to start, which menu tab to select, which button to press, etc.
In a way, you kinda feel like you’ve been dropped into an airplane cockpit with all sorts of buttons, switches, displays, levers, etc all over the place. One wrong button press, lever pull or knob twist and you just might bring the plane down.
That’s what trying to use Webex is like for newbies.
It’s not fun.
It’s stressful as fuck.
Whenever there’s technology involved, there is always a chance that things will crap out on you. And as the saying goes, “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.”
Well, we’re here to help you defy the odds and overcome the beginner challenges and get you to the point where you become comfortable with using it.
This isn’t about turning you into a Webex wizard - no way.
This is about getting you to the point where you can comfortably host a simple Webex meeting to share a presentation in real-time with a small group. That’s it.
Simple Step-By-Step Process For Using Webex
For a large majority of Webex meetings, it’s a Powerpoint presentation that’s being shared in real-time along with live group discussion.
So, it’s basically two parts: a visual portion and an audio portion.
There are two scenarios for Webex for meetings.
The first is joining one as an attendee. This is the easier one.
The other is hosting a Webex meeting. This is the more complicated one and the one that stresses out a lot of people.
We’re going to go over both with more emphasis on the hosting one.
Joining A Webex Meeting
Joining a Webex meeting is a fairly straightforward affair - most of the time.
The host will include a web link to the virtual meeting room on the invite. All you need to do is to click on the web link to join the meeting for the visual portion. Then, dial into the audio portion using your phone or your computer, not both.
If you use both your PC and phone for the audio portion of the call, you’ll create all sorts of echoes and feedback sounds. So, please don’t be that idiot.
Check out this 3-minute video clip on joining a Webex meeting.
VIDEO: How to Join a Cisco Webex Meeting
> Join a Webex by simply clicking on the Webex link
> Download and install software (if new to Webex)
> Join the audio portion via phone and mute yourself
As you can see, joining a Webex meeting is a fairly straightforward affair.
If you haven’t joined a Webex session before or if it’s been awhile, your browser will probably need to download and install the latest software, so be sure to get set up 5-10 minutes before the Webex meeting starts. This will allow enough time for any software to be downloaded, installed and started.
Once that’s done, it’s pretty much a 5-step process:
1) Open the meeting invite and click on Webex link
2) Enter your name and email
3) Click on “Join”
4) For audio call-in options, select “I will call in”
5) Use your desk phone to call into the audio portion
The last one is important.
You want to use your desk phone to call into the Webex meeting and NOT your computer.
First, traditional landlines are far more reliable than web-based phone calls or using cell phones with spotty or inconsistent service.
Second, and this is a big one, using your desk phone allows you to easily control when others hear you. It’s far easier to hit the mute button on your desk phone than trying to click/unclick the various mic options on your computer.
By keeping the audio portion separate from your computer and easily mutable, you can do other things while being “present” on the Webex meeting. It’s a great way to make boring calls more fun or productive.
You can be replying to emails, working on a Powerpoint presentation, analyzing an excel workbook...or, ahem, browsing the web. And, nobody will know because you’ve wisely used the desk phone as your audio connection and muted it.
If you use your computer as the audio connection, then you run the risk of people hearing you type, click or worse, hearing you watch another cat video clip on YouTube.
Hosting A Webex Meeting
For most people, joining a Webex meeting isn’t such a big deal. However, hosting one can be a huge nerve wracking experience, especially if it’s your first time.
Even folks that have used Webex many times over will get frustrated and stressed out with Webex due to technical issues. So, it’s not just you. Everyone has at some point experienced problems with web conferencing tech.
In the early days of Webex conferencing, you had to download and install some complicated software that didn’t always go smoothly. You almost always had to get your IT helpdesk to sort it out for you.
Once you got through the battle of installing it and running it, you then had to figure out how to use it. And back then, you really had to go through a tutorial or class to figure that shit out.
Things have gotten a lot better and easier now.
1) Get Set Up With A Webex Account
If you don’t have a Webex account already, reach out to your IT helpdesk and ask them to set you up with an account.
And like we mentioned earlier, if you work at a Fortune 500 company, they’ll definitely have Webex accounts for employee use.
Each Webex account will have a unique “personal meeting room” for web meetings.
This personal meeting room has a unique web address that is dedicated to you and doesn’t change. This is the web address that you include in your meeting invitation.
It’s also the web address that you’ll use to login to Webex to start your meetings.
It’ll look something like this:
The exact web address is dictated by your IT department and how they have your username set up as part of the web address.
Watch this short 2-minute blurb on Webex personal meeting rooms.
VIDEO: How To Use Your Webex Meetings Personal Room
> Your personal meeting room is always available 24x7
> Your meeting room web address is always the same
> Just share your personal room weblink to host a web meeting
2) Send Out Your Personal Meeting Room Web Address
When you’re scheduling a Webex meeting, include your personal meeting room web address as part of the meeting invite along with the audio call-in details.
The audio conferencing dial-in phone numbers will be provided by whomever your company decided to use for phone service. Sometimes, it’s integrated with the Webex account and other times, it’s totally separate.
In either case, there’s usually a toll-free number, conference code (for attendees) and a leader/host passcode.
Then, it’s a waiting game until the scheduled meeting day/time arrives.
3) Login & Get Set Up 15-Minutes Early
When it’s getting close to your meeting start time, like 15 minutes beforehand, you’ll want to get set up and ready.
Open the Powerpoint presentation or whatever document that you plan to visually share with the team and then, minimize it on your desktop.
Next, click on your own meeting room web address from the meeting invite and then, enter your username and passcode and login to your online meeting room.
Once you’re at your virtual meeting room website, you can select the options for audio (use the separate phone dial-in like we mentioned above) and video if you plan on having a video call.
Call into the audio portion of the meeting as a host and get that ready.
Once you have the presentation/docs opened and ready and the audio connection set up, now all you have to do is share the visual portion of the meeting.
4) Start The Meeting & Share The Presentation Or Document
When you’re ready to kick things off, just click on the “Start Meeting” button in your personal meeting room.
Once you do this, it will launch the presentation mode on your computer and your meeting is now officially live.
The next thing you need to do is share your content with the group.
All you need to do is click on the up arrow “share” button. This will trigger two main options:
A) Share your screen (our recommendation)
This is the easiest way. Just simply share your screen. Then, anything you see on your screen can be seen by others in the meeting room. It allows for quick view sharing of your presentation and anything else on the fly as you go.
Be sure to close out any potentially embarrassing photos, social media, emails, etc. and anything that’s on your desktop too ‘cause that could be seen as well. Remember, what you see on your screen is what others can see too.
B) Share specific applications
If you want to limit what is shared, you can select the specific application like Powerpoint, Excel, Word or whatever application. This way even if you inadvertently open/view another application, the meeting attendees can’t see it.
This option ensures that the attendees only see the specific thing you’re showing and nothing else. The problem with this is that when you need to show a different document, you need to go back and select that specific application.
Since this is the trickiest part of a Webex meeting, take two minutes and watch this short video.
VIDEO: How To Share Content During a Cisco Webex Meeting
> Open the presentation docs before you start the meeting
> Login to your personal room, start the meeting and “share” your screen
> Click “stop sharing” to go close out the meeting
5) End The Meeting & Celebrate
When you’re done with your meeting, all you need to do is click on the “stop sharing” button and hang up the audio conference line.
The last step is to click on “End Meeting” to close out the session.
When you’re all closed out, give yourself a little mental high-five and celebrate a successful web meeting.
Tips For Minimizing Webex Stress
Hosting and leading a Webex call can be super stressful. Maybe you worked on a presentation for weeks and it’s all leading up to this moment. The last thing you need is more stress on top of what you already have.
So, to minimize any excess stress, here are a few tips to make your Webex experience a bit more relaxed, productive and effective.
1) Practice, Practice, Practice
Don’t try to start using Webex for the first time on an actual meeting you’re hosting. You will fail, big time. It’s waaay too intimidating to just jump in and start using it right away.
You need time to familiarize yourself with how it works and learn how to use it. So, do some test meetings to get yourself familiar with how things work.
It’s far better to experience the hiccups, challenges, problems and issues when it’s a test rather than the real thing. If you fuck up, who cares? There’s nothing at stake.
Ask your work BFF to be your guinea pig test subject.
Host a Webex session from a small conference room and ask your work BFF to join from his/her desk.
Go through the entire process of sending out the invite with all the details, logging in, starting the meeting, sharing your screen, going through a presentation and closing it out.
Do it as many times as you can until you are comfortable with the process.
2) Set-Up 15 Minutes Prior To Scheduled Start
Like we mentioned earlier, “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” So, setting up 15 minutes before the meeting begins gives you enough time to sort out and fix any technical issues.
If you really want to play it safe, start getting set up 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. This will leave you with plenty of time to sort out any tech issues with your IT helpdesk.
Because you know...shit happens at the worst times.
It’s amazing that your computer is all fine and good all week long and then, just as you’re about to give a presentation, things start going haywire. It’s Murphy’s Law.
3) Send Out The Presentation Ahead Of Time As Backup
Since most people are going to ask for a copy of the presentation deck, why not just send it ahead of time?
Most people will still follow along on the live presentation, even though they’ve got the deck already.
It’s just a good idea to do this so that if disaster strikes at the last minute, you can instantly tell everyone to revert to the copy that was sent out.
The key here is to always reference what slide page you’re on as you move through the presentation. So, be sure to put page numbers on each of your pages so that you can call it out during the meeting and people can easily follow along.
4) Close All Other Non-Essential Programs
When you have multiple applications and programs running simultaneously, there’s a high probability that something is gonna freeze or lock-up your computer.
So, to minimize the chances of this happening during your meeting, don’t have any other programs or applications running that are not going to be used in the meeting.
Keep it simple and don’t make your computer work any harder than it needs to.
5) Go To The Bathroom Before The Meeting
There’s nothing worse than starting a meeting you’re leading and then 5-10 minutes into the session, all of a sudden, you need to take a monster piss.
That’s when the excuse comes out, “Sorry, I’ve got to get one of the printouts from the copier...I’ll be right back.” Uh-huh, sure.
So, stay one step ahead of nature and go to the bathroom before you kick things off.
6) Ask Someone To Take Meeting Minutes
It’s really hard to lead a presentation and take notes at the same time. If possible, ask one of the attendees to be a meeting scribe to capture all the key comments, requests and action items.
Having some extra help will go a long way in ensuring that the main part of the meeting, your presentation, goes smoothly.
If it helps, here’s an article about taking notes that they can check out.
7) Record The Call With Your Smartphone
If there isn’t anyone that can take meeting minutes for you, you can record the audio call using your smartphone so that you can re-listen after the meeting to catch all the details, action items, etc.
There’s a way to record the call using some built-in features within Webex or your conference call provider. However, we wanted to keep this uber-simple. So, just use your smartphone. Besides, it’ll be easier for playback later on.
Just be sure to let people know on the call that it’s being recorded so that you can re-listen after the call.
8) Do A Short Breathing Meditation Before The Start
When you’ve got a big presentation that you’re about to present, be it via Webex or in person, it’s always good to take a minute or two before the meeting starts to calm your nerves down a bit.
You don’t want to start the meeting all tense and wound up. The audience will definitely notice that.
You don’t need to go into some long, deep meditative state. All you need to do is a minute of simple and slow breathing. These one-minute meditations will work wonders on your pre-meeting jitters.
Step Up Your Presentation Game - You Can Do This
Hosting and leading a Webex call can be super stressful, especially if you’ve never hosted one before or if you’re still a newbie.
Yes, the old standby of just sending the presentation or pdf ahead of time and just using an audio conference works just fine. And, there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s just that everyone does that. It’s nothing special.
We want to take your presentation skills up a level. We’re not saying that you need to be a Webex wizard - that’s too much.
All we want to do is add that extra little Webex skill that not many people in your organization may have. And Webex skills are a fantastic way to showcase your presentation abilities.
It’s quick to learn and doesn’t take long to master the fundamental Webex features. Stick to the simple stuff. Don’t worry about the fancier features.
Once you've mastered this new skill and use it often, people will start to notice and it will bring big returns for your personal brand at work.
So, set up a Webex practice meeting with your work BFF and get going.
You can do this.