The success of a meeting can hinge in great part on the reliability of the tech tools you use. A little extra preparation can make the difference between a seamless experience and a full-blown disaster.
Try these five tips to prevent technological troubles from derailing your agenda:
1. Test equipment thoroughly.
This piece of advice may sound obvious. Yet hiccups can result from running through this process too quickly or assuming that certain necessities will be in place. Along with checking the technology you'll need, be sure that any needed cables are available and power outlets are working. Test computer microphones and cameras to ensure good sound and video quality — more than a quarter of administrative professionals recently polled by Staples Business Advantage called poor sound and video quality their most frequent meeting-related challenge.
2. Distribute presentations in advance.
Taking this step can help keep things on track should your technology falter, and it can allow for a more fruitful discussion. In your test run of computers and projectors, pay close attention to how presentations render — what looks beautiful on your screen may look different on another device. Usually a large, simple font and spare illustration tends to work best.
3. Provide explicit dial-in instructions.
Double-check dial-in numbers, and give attendees more detailed instruction than you think you might need to. If they'll need an access code to enter a meeting, be sure to make this clear. If you're using a virtual conferencing tool like WebEx or GoToMeeting, encourage participants to test the service beforehand. You might even consider sending step-by-step instructions for joining a call, since lack of familiarity with these tools can result in log-on delays.
4. Have help at the ready.
Keep extensions or cell phone numbers of anyone who could offer technical support if you run into trouble. This simple act can alleviate stress and save time should a piece of equipment fail. Know who is the best person to help with certain types of technology, or who could troubleshoot a spotty web connection. For offsite gatherings, find out who on the premises you should call if technical issues arise.
5. Devise a backup plan.
Preparing a few contingency measures can help you head off catastrophe — especially if you're talking with an important client or partner. If your meeting is web-based, consider appointing someone as a backup host who could lead the discussion should the host's computer crash or freeze. If you're unsure about the quality of your internet connection, consider using an Ethernet cable, as this is typically more reliable than Wi-Fi. If you need a conference line, have an alternate number at the ready should the connection falter. Take note of any other key things that could go wrong, so you can plan to work around them.