Question: "Are Web Meetings Collaborative?"

Question: "Are Web Meetings Collaborative?"
October 26, 2011

I often have conversations with clients about the benefits of live web meetings versus presenting information in an on-demand format that incorporates voice and video. The conversations typically revolve around one word, “collaboration”. Being able to interact throughout a presentation of material is key to many of my clients and always dominates the discussion on this point. But this beckons the question: are web meetings collaborative?

I would say yes and no. A web meeting with a dozen or fewer attendees can be comfortably collaborative, but how about meetings of twenty, or fifty, or hundreds of attendees?

In practice, it turns out, not so much. Leaving the phone lines open can be disastrous, especially when there is a fair amount of material to be presented and discussed in a given amount of time. So as a result, phone lines are often muted by attendees and the “collaborative” web meeting quickly gets converted into a one-way conversation. Most Web presenters will open up the floor for questions at the end of the presentation, but does that justify forcing attendees to spend a prime hour of their work day attending it? Ask any sales manager who wants the team out selling, or the manager who needs a fully staffed call center or help desk. 

Many on-demand platforms have met the “collaboration challenge” by incorporating capabilities such as “ask a question” by email or ”real-time polls” which provide instant results to the on-demand viewer, or “presence awareness” that facilitates transition from on-demand to a phone call or a live chat session. This way, collaboration is maintained without stifling productivity and progress.

Web meetings have their place and can be very valuable and effective. But before scheduling one, ask yourself this question, “Could this material be presented in an on-demand format?”

Is this a typical web meeting experience for you? I welcome your comments below: