A cartoon in which one of three people at a conference table under the banner "International Human Rights Conference"  says "I think it's time we added web conferences to our list of acts of torture."


Congrats to Mary Ann from Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, the final winner of our blog comments contest and of a 1 GB USB drive.  Look for fun, future Bayer Center blog contests to come!  (If you have a great idea for a blog contest, we’d love to hear your ideas!)

We’re hearing more and more about online meetings.  Travel can become the first budget casualty in budgets hit by the economic downturn, and conference calls and webinars can bring us together on the cheap.

Thanks to Andy Goodman, who helped us understand why do-gooder presentations so often bore in Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, we’re learning about social sector teleconferences and web conferences.  Although the full survey report has not yet been published [Editor’s note: the full report is now published here], Andy sneak previews the results with some alarming statistics in his May Free Range Thinking newsletter.

A disappointing pair of statistics combines the high prevalence of these meeting formats with a low rate of training on effective remote meetings.  In short, more than half of us participate in phone conferences; half of us think their use is going to grow in our work; and three quarters of us have had no training on how to make this kind of meeting work well.


The numbers are similar for web conferences and video conferences, although only 8% of Goodman’s respondents report attending a video conference frequently.  On the other hand, a quarter of people have attended a webinar, and a larger number of people see webinars increasing than phone conferences.  The training rate is similarly, low, though, at 72%.


Of course, training on effective meetings is rare in general.  It’s become clear, though, that there are some ways to make these new meeting forms better than dreadful.  Goodman, for one, runs a great webinar.  One of his small secrets: put up a picture of the person speaking on the screen.  It’s a small human touch that makes a big difference to the audience’s attention and participation.

Have a webinar or conference call horror story to share?  Have a tip that has helped your remote conferences work?  Share it in the comments.