Trello, Basecamp, Harvest, Float, the list of tools for a Project Manager goes on. But, one of the most frequently used tools is still the humble telephone and anything that assists with making and receiving conference calls gets a big tick in the book from me!
For those not in the know, GoToMeeting is a paid for web conferencing tool and one that we've used at Distinction since before I joined the team. Week on week I find it invaluable for communicating with clients and showcasing the work we're creating throughout the agency.
With GoToMeeting you can:
Be it a spreadsheet, PowerPoint, Gantt charts, even a Statement of Work. You can present your ideas to the client in real time so they're seeing exactly what you want to show them.
Perfect for when you're getting to the stage in a project where you want to walk the client through the initial look and feel of the site you're creating, you can show how a site and its features function.
Share the screen with the client so they can take control and annotate what you're both seeing on the screen. The annotation tools on GoToMeeting are extremely useful for being clear about a specific point. There's also inbuilt chat functionality allowing you to take and confirm notes as the call goes along as well as interacting with individuals or the group whilst others are presenting - I've found this particularly useful when wanting to ask questions without interrupting the presenter.
Answer questions, review documents and even send through a recording of the meeting once it has finished to close off the meeting.
Yet, the invaluable and sometimes forgotten side to web conference calls is that:
- They remove any need for travel time and travel costs to your team and the client.
- It increases productivity - getting quick answers to questions so you can keep up the momentum going on projects and move on to the next phase faster than waiting for a reply to an email.
- It means better communication - talking two, three, five or more times a week with the client builds a great working relationship and understanding of what is required.
- Higher attention span - did you know the average attention span for a video call is 35 minutes and for a regular call is 23 minutes? If you have video content as part of the call then the audience will stay focused for longer.
It's key to remember that web conference calls do not have to be a long arduous process, quick and direct ensuring all parties are happy and all questions have been resolved. I've had calls last no longer then 10 minutes which over email could have taken days.
Today alone for example, I've had four calls using GoToMeeting, all of varying length with audiences ranging from one to one to a meeting with ten listening in and commenting on what was being displayed. In fact if there was ever the necessity, you can have up to 25 people on a call at once - not something I've yet experienced!
I recently read one of the useful blogs on the GoToMeeting website that pointed out some useful tips when starting a web conference that I thought would be useful to share:
Before the meeting starts
- Turn off any instant-messaging applications, notification software or other programs that may interrupt or distract from the meeting, i.e slack or even email.
- Turn off any applications that may be draining your laptop or computer causing the tool to run slowly.
- Have the documents you wish to share to hand in one or two clicks, or better still saved out on your desktop.
- For large meetings or presentations with a lot of attendees, run a trial meeting with a friend to anticipate questions and to familiarise yourself with the format of your presentation and the controls.
Managing the meeting
- Arrive a few minutes early to greet the attendees as they arrive and start the meeting on time.
- Provide an agenda at the start of the meeting on the screen for everyone to follow and see what the purpose and goal is.
- Nominate a co-presenter to monitor and respond to the chat log when someone is presenting.
- End the meeting clearly but stay on the line right to the end to address any last questions.
Managing the call
- Call in to the meeting from a location where there is little background noise.
- Consider globally muting participants at the start of the meeting to avoid noise issues.
- Avoid putting your phone on hold during a teleconference. You need to know that your hold music won't play into the conference call, and make it impossible for the other attendees to continue the meeting. I've been there before when this has happened!
Don't be afraid to take control and lead the call, I've found in my experience that clients as well as members of your own team rely on a leader in conference calls to direct the conversations and keep the agenda to schedule.
I'm hoping I've demonstrated the real benefit of using web conferencing calls and how it can save agencies and clients immeasurable amounts of time and money every week. I really believe it's saved a lot of time and headaches in decision making and demonstrating and I'd highly recommend it as part of the Project Management arsenal of daily tools.