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Teleconferencing: How To Keep 'Em Engaged

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Dec 10, 2007 |
As teams find out quickly enough, Agile work shifts emphasis to different skills than they may have valued before. For example - when realtime communication is preferred over heavy documents, the ability to facilitate effective team meetings with teleconferencing tools becomes much more critical. In this InfoQ article, Pete Johnson, HP.com's chief architect, has written a list of recommendations for those wanting to improve these skills. And he knows whereof he speaks - he's been teleworking in various forms for a decade.

Some of his key points include:

  • Distribute a numbered agenda before the meeting.
  • Be sure to communicate the reason for the meeting and why people are invited.
  • Put a system in place for making sure everyone gets a chance to speak.
  • Be clear about your desktop sharing connection logistics in advance.
  • Don't share your entire desktop if you can at all avoid it !
  • Be a good participant by being engaged and using your own tools well.
Johnson includes practical tips for using MS-Meeting and IM.

Read the InfoQ article: Offer People Reasons to Love Your Remote Meetings, and share your own stories or tips as well!

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Whiteboards by Deborah Hartmann

You know, I still have not had the chance to test out any of the many whiteboard apps for a real meeting. Does anyone have favourites?

This is an important topic by Amr Elssamadisy

Thanks for the article.

Unfortunately, these meeting tools annoy me much more than regular meetings do. There has to be a better way.

I don't have one. But I do notice when I run video conferences via Skype/IChat there is something less frustrating about it (when bandwidth permits). But even those don't really help with meetings much. I want to be able to see the white-board.

Has anybody used a low-tech solution for distributed meetings? (In my mind I can see a small plastic tower with 4 different screen-cams, each pointing in a different direction so that the remote attendees can see what's happening....)

yes, important topic by Yim Carfield

might be it is better to organize the article is [issue , solution] pair?

Re: This is an important topic by Deborah Hartmann

Amr, I wonder why the kind of solution you suggest isn't here already. We have had cheap hardware for this kind of thing for a while. Or maybe it's here, but we're not aware of it?

I'd love to get rid of the polycom phone... and get visual communication going. In one place I worked recently, we couldn't even run MS-Meeting! We had just the phone... we were in a locked-down environment and unable to install Meeting on the relevant PC, too much of a perceived risk. We ended up mailing pdfs and using those as visual aids.

Please, send me your articles! by Deborah Hartmann

I'd love to run an article on visual aids for remote meetings! Please, send me your abstracts, folks!
:-)
deb

Re: This is an important topic by Pete Johnson

@ Amr - Something like your "4-way cam on a cone" idea would work great as a low tech solution if there's only one person not in the room, but once you change from broadcast to multicast video, it gets pretty expensive, unfortunately.

@ Deb - I've done customer visits where environments were that restrictive, it certainly feels a lot different.

There are good solutions, but they are not cheap at all by Alexey Verkhovsky

CISCO has a product like that, for boardrooms (don't remember the name). A couple of people told me it was awesome, but for the price somewhere in 5 or 6 digits range... justified by savings in business-class travel and executive time.

Re: There are good solutions, but they are not cheap at all by Deborah Hartmann

> somewhere in 5 or 6 digits range...
> justified by savings...

Yes, Alexey, you are right: Expensive? Yes.

Less expensive than the cost of finding and resolving miscommunicated requirements? Some organizations say "Yes".

Re: Whiteboards by Kevin Tronkowski

My partners and I have to participate in a lot of ad-hoc remote meetings for both product development and support. Since we were not happy with the setup, voice integration, and desktop sharing experience with many of the free and commercial apps, we built our own called Yakkle.

Since part of the reason we created it was to eliminate many of the "Logistical Challenges" that were mentioned in Pete's post, it has allowed us to have more short, focused remote meetings with other developers and customers.

We recently released a free Beta version of Yakkle (www.yakkle.com) and hope that it can help someone to enhance their remote meeting experience.

Re: Whiteboards by Deborah Hartmann

Thanks, Ron. Who else has found a good solution to visual teleconferencing?

Re: There are good solutions, but they are not cheap at all by Pete Johnson

We (HP) actually have one too:

www.hp.com/halo/

I've used the ones we have set up at various sites and it's pretty slick. One screen for the presentation and up to 3 more for the video feed and the system is smart enough to toggle to the person who is speaking automatically.

Re: There are good solutions, but they are not cheap at all by Vikas Hazrati

We just use Skype video and audio for doing remote calls. We have LCD screen in the conference room connected to the resident desktop. We have a good mic and great speakers attached to this desktop. The other side has the same set up. This works well for distributed team meetings and iteration planning sessions. For developer to developer chat we use laptop webcams and headset mic.
The underlying carrier remains skype. Works well for us. Of course you need to have a good(~2Mbps) net bandwidth.

created a milestone. by Carl Dweller

There are a variety of good meeting out there that has created a milestone.

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