Tech Tips: Web-Based Meetings For Productivity

With WebEx Meeting, participants can meet by phone, computer or mobile device

Randy Taylor, an instructional designer and trainer, leads a session on WebEx Meeting for Duke participants Lisa Cunningham Roberts, left, and Jerry Kirchner, right. Photo by Duke University Photography.
Randy Taylor, an instructional designer and trainer, leads a session on WebEx Meeting for Duke participants Lisa Cunningham Roberts, left, and Jerry Kirchner, right. Photo by Duke University Photography.

Randy Taylor saves time every day using WebEx Meeting.

"It's great for one-to-one conversations with peers and co-workers," said Taylor, an instructional designer and trainer with the Duke Clinical Research Institute. "If I'm at my desk talking to someone on the phone, and I want to show them how to do something, before I would have to go to their floor or their building. With one-click meeting, in seconds I can launch a web-based meeting, share my desktop and give step-by-step instructions as if I were standing there with them."

WebEx Meeting allows Duke users to connect as many as 1,000 participants via telephone, computer audio and web videoconferencing. WebEx Meeting is part of a suite of collaboration services, powered by Cisco WebEx technology, that allows participants to meet by telephone, on their computer, or via iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices.

"We had been using a collection of different tools for web conferencing, but now we have one tool that can do everything," said Taylor, who has trained about 250 employees in WebEx Meeting so far.

Here are tips for using WebEx Meeting to improve productivity:Consider WebEx Meeting instead of travel or when traditional scheduling is difficult. "Trying to schedule two or three doctors together is nearly impossible," said Taylor, who estimates that he uses WebEx Meeting for about a third of his meetings. "This tool can help, because now participants can log in from an iPad, iPhone or Android, or you can record the meeting so people can watch later if they can't attend." (Recording is not permitted if sensitive data is going to be discussed.) Get comfortable with the technology before your first meeting. Taylor recommends using a headset with a microphone for best results and to keep from bothering co-workers sitting nearby. Test your microphone and speakers prior to meeting. Additional how-to documentation is available online.

Use screen sharing to facilitate and streamline collaboration. Ginny Cake, the university's assistant chief information officer, uses WebEx Meeting extensively to bring together participants across the campus (and country) while helping to plan Duke's new campus in Kunshan, China. She uses screen sharing so all participants can view and discuss the same documents and to actively take notes during the meeting.

"Sharing my computer screen facilitates the discussion and is especially helpful when reviewing diagrams and construction drawings. I can also pass the screen share to another participant if they have documents to share. At the end, I'll ask, 'Did I capture everything accurately?' and we can all agree on next steps and related timelines," Cake said. "Then it's easy to email to everybody after the meeting."

Learn more about additional features available with WebEx Meeting. The polling feature, for instance, allows the meeting host to create questions and allow participants to "vote." "In the old days, you'd go around the room and vote on what to have for lunch," Taylor said. "WebEx Meeting lets you create questions on the fly or build a poll in advance with dozens of questions."

Other features allow a meeting host to "pass the ball" to another participant so they can share their screen; chat via instant message; or add a participant who wasn't originally invited to the meeting.

"If you haven't used it before, there may be a little apprehension, but it's a great tool with a lot of features, and it's easy to learn," Taylor said. "As more people use it, they find they're relying on the technology because it makes their work easier."