Online Meetings Guide [2020]

Web-based software makes it easy to set-up and conduct online meetings.  The process is similar to making advance arrangements for a telephone conference call through an Internet service provider.  Charges will be based on the type of services you request for collaborative sessions and if you prefer to have online tech support during the meeting to monitor and troubleshoot.  

Software applications for online meetings are typically designed to accommodate up to 25 attendees who can sign-in from separate locations to an “online meeting room.”  Packages for the service will vary, but most will provide capabilities for two-way voice interaction between all participants as they view the same content.  Add-on features allow editing of shared documents or whiteboards from their own desktops or wireless devices for all to see in real time during the online session.  Most online meetings can be recorded for later, on-demand viewing.   

An “online meeting room” can be scheduled once a monthly or annual plan is confirmed with a service provider.  It may be possible to arrange one-time-only sessions if you sign up for a monthly plan then deactivate automatic renewals after each session.  Unless you select a plan that guarantees availability of the meeting room on short notice or whenever you need it, there may be times when a meeting room will not be available on the day and time you want to schedule it.  

Cost-effective plans are available for online meetings that can accommodate up to 15 participants. 

Advantages –  

  • Cost effective
  • Convenient and easy to set up
  • No long distance travel required
  • No specialized equipment required
  • Can be set-up with little advance notice based on availability of online meeting room
  • Easy to set-up electronically to host or conduct
  • On-site tech support optional
  • Easy access from most desktops, laptops and some mobile devices
  • Numerous features available to select for the level of collaboration preferred
  • Meetings can be recorded for on-demand viewing 

Disadvantages –

  • Internet speed must be adequate on all computers to avoid lag time or distortion
  • The number of participants who can be seen as well as heard will be limited
  • Long distance telephone charges may be incurred if Internet calling unavailable
  • An annual plan necessary to guarantee unlimited access to online meeting rooms
  • Not all web browsers will work the same
  • Materials may not display accurately on all computers
  • Not all applications will accommodate Mac computers or mobile devices

You will need to –

  • Make reservations through an online service provider
  • Determine in advance the collaboration tools needed for each session (EX: document-sharing)
  • Make adjustments electronically to add or change features to be used
  • Provide webcam if streaming video from originating location is to be included
  • Provide a link to a web-based application or a software download for all participants
  • Provide telephone or computer microphone for audio input
  • Determine registration, payment and confirmation procedures if not included in package
  • Verify that detailed instructions and contact info for questions are distributed in advance to all participants
  • Develop your own detailed checklist using Planning Helper’s free sample as guideline

The checklist samples provided by Planning Helper are incomplete and meant for use as guidelines to help you create checklists of your own that will apply to the unique needs of your meeting, event or function. 

About the Author

Susan has managed high-profile events for IBM, GE, and other Fortune 500 companies. She has organized fundraisers, large festivals, and promotional events. Now, she is a blogger and speaks about event planning topics

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