Keeping your Meeting Afloat When Your Technology Takes a Dive
By Editor

Posted October 02, 2010

Whether it’s video conferencing, web conferencing or tele-conferencing, most meeting leaders today use technology to enable conversations and collaboration outside of the conference room. So what can you do when you run into a technology glitch during your meeting? First, let’s consider a situation where the technology is simply not working, for anyone. Here are some pointers:

  1. Always, always have a back-up plan based on the particular technology and audience. Know what quick questions you will ask (about the connection or other technical issues), then what steps you will take (for example, email or download presentation) and finally, what follow-up you will propose (reschedule the meeting, do some work offline?)
  2. Work in pairs. One keeps the conversation going. The other deals with the technology issue or transitions to the back-up plan (P.S. always have one). If you are facilitating solo, ask a “power user” to help.
  3. Create a back-up agenda to accomplish what is possible without technology, then schedule a follow-on session for the rest.
  4. For meetings crossing time zones, make sure that the technology provider is not planning maintenance.
  5. Build in some pre-work, for example viewing a video presentation or contributing to an online discussion topic. This allows your participants to test their access to the technology and familiarize themselves with the navigation before the live meeting.
  6. Be aware that technology that requires downloading something adds complexity, especially if people are signing on at the last minute. Make sure your participants sign in early, and/or complete assigned pre-work.
  7. Focus on keeping the experience positive for everyone. Don’t apologize and keep struggling with the technology. People want to feel that their time is valued. Accomplish what can be done given the situation and propose another venue and time to finish the rest.

Now, what if most of your group is doing just fine, but one or two are experiencing technical difficulties?

  1. First and foremost, don’t take up the meeting solving one person’s technical problem! It may be possible to keep that person partially connected, for example via telephone, and then follow up with them individually after the meeting.
  2. Give someone the role of help desk and refer people to them for help off-line.
  3. Contact participants individually who are new to the technology to make sure they are ready.
  4. Depending on the objectives of the meeting, offer to collect this individual’s input another way, for example in a separate phone call or via email.

Posted by Editor