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One of the biggest drivers of efficiency (and cost-savings) over the last decade has been the growth of virtual team meetings. Who hasn’t received a request to join one, using a technology from Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or one of the dozens of other systems that allow remote connection, screen sharing, and video.

Yet, despite their promise, virtual meetings do have their problems:

  • Disengagement:  Attendees are often distracted, splitting their attention with other activities while pretending to be present at the meeting. (Have you ever heard the click-click-click of others typing during the meeting?)
  • Technology gets in the way: Poor sound, plugins that don’t work, too-slow internet connections, and corporate firewalls can distract from the meeting itself.  (Or maybe everything was working, but the presenter was unfamiliar with the platform.)
  • Remote noise:  Often attendees “participate” remotely themselves… from Starbucks, while driving, walking the dog, etc. Beyond the issues of noise, many of these venues are not conducive to real participation as attention is divided, or they can’t refer to their notes.
  • Used for wrong purpose:  There are times when in-person meetings are better than their virtual cousins; examples include new staff orientation, project kick-offs, interactive workshops, and strategic planning meetings. Generally speaking, when the meeting objectives include building new relationships, require significant interaction, or are just too long, in-person is more effective.

With this as backdrop, here are 20 ways to improve the effectiveness of your virtual meetings:

  1. Put the meeting login information within the calendar and your meeting request.
  2. If a person is unfamiliar with the meeting platform, use the platform to have a one-on-one meeting with them beforehand, to make sure they are ready.
  3. If you aren’t that familiar with the technology yourself, do a dry run.
  4. Record the meeting if it is for training-oriented sessions, but be mindful that recording other types of meetings may stifle open conversation.
  5. Send out an agenda that requires each attendee to “own” a section.
  6. Require participants to do some preparation.
  7. Let participants know the materials they should have with them during the meeting.
  8. Speak to key participants about your expectations re participation.
  9. Share a Google document so that everyone can see the minutes and add back-channel comments live.
  10. Ask one of the participants to take minutes. They can even do it within the shared Google Doc.
  11. Start the meeting early, both to iron out the technology, and to allow for any pre-meeting conversations to take place.
  12. Use video so attendees can see each other.
  13. If you are using video conferencing, zoom in to the speaker so that that remote attendees can see who is actually speaking.
  14. Actively facilitate the meeting by pulling feedback from those who are quieter.
  15. Use a headset so that your hands can be free.
  16. If one participant’s line contains background noise, ask them to mute themselves when they are listening, and un-mute while talking.  If they can’t do this, do it for them.
  17. Use the chat functionality to encourage back-channel conversations.
  18. As the moderator, use chat functionality to prompt specific attendees to address an issue that is being discussed.
  19. Use online polling for straw polls and increased interactivity.
  20. Summarize the action points and next steps, gaining agreement.

Great virtual meetings are just like great in-person meetings – they only are effective if planned and executed well.

This week’s action plan:  While being “virtually effective” doesn’t sound like a compliment, it is.  At your next virtual meeting, choose 2-3 items from the above list; when you do, you will be more successful changing your attendees to participants.

Meetings Insight:  These tips aren’t just for virtual meetings: how many do you incorporate into EVERY one of your meetings?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Do you generate content (or training materials) for staff, prospects, clients, and other third parties?  If so, you probably know that doing it right is not easy-  and often is hit or miss.  In a previous post, we explored the business rationale and the alternatives for monetizing this knowledge via eLearning; in this post, we describe how it can be implemented.

Here are the 19 steps to a successful eLearning initiative:

1. Determine your goals. What is the underlying rationale for the initiative? Is it to reduce support costs? Develop a community? Increase retention? Provide just-in-time training? Or start a new revenue stream? Whatever the goal, defining it lays the groundwork for evaluating the success – and ultimately determining the ROI.

2. Test drive the ideas. This may mean formal market research, informal discussions, or just using your “gut”. Before spending any further time or money, it is important to see if there is a market for your content, and if there is, the format preference. Test-driving will also give you a better understanding of the appetite for different pricing models.

3. Determine your approach. At the intersection of your goals and your market is your implementation approach: Learning Management System or Membership Site? Do-it-yourself or Pre-packaged Software or Shared Platform?

4. Inventory your content. List all of the content, along with details re: title, medium, readiness to use, etc. Each piece of content might either stand alone as a module, or be grouped with other content into a module.

5. Build a content plan. This identifies gaps in the existing content, old content that may require updating, and future new content that will eventually be developed. The content plan also can function as an editorial calendar.

6. Create a taxonomy. This is the hierarchical organization of all of your content: existing and future.

7. Storyboard individual “courses”. Each course typically will solve a specific problem, and is made up of individual modules.

8. Connect to the web. Most of the time, eLearning is driven from a website. At this point in the process, there are several decisions: Will eLearning be completely integrated with your website, or will it be a “tack-on” that accessed through a link? Is your current technology adequate, or must there be changes? (Or, in fact, might the deployment of eLearning suggest an opportunity to revamp/update the existing website itself?)

9. Build/populate the system. Whatever your approach, this is the stage where the content is actually populated into the system. (And proofread, and tested.)

10. Train your support team. You didn’t think that your learners wouldn’t have questions, both about the platform, and about your content?

11. Create marketing materials. Part of materials required would be for online use, and some would be for offline. If you are more sophisticated, you would also create a number of marketing automation sequences to handle new user intro, customer service, etc.

12. Integrate into existing marketing and operating processes. eLearning doesn’t happen in isolation; it should be integrated into all of your organization’s processes. An example: new clients (or new staff) might access introductory training on your services or products. If you write proposals, then access to the eLearning platform might be given at no charge for a period of time. If you provide support, eLearning might be used to provide self-service.

13. Soft launch: This might mean adding links from your website to the platform, without actively promoting it. A soft launch is the opportunity to work out any previously undiscovered kinks in the system – and flex your support muscles.

14. Launch: At launch there needs to be an outreach and marketing to those groups with the strongest affinity: this is the lowest hanging fruit. Sources would include existing email lists, existing members/clients/partners, volunteers, and employees. As the launch only happens once, it only makes sense to create an event around the launch – or scheduling the launch at a key existing event.

15. Online and offline sales: This would include efforts around Pay-per-click, SEO, real-world advertising, partnership deals, and using existing relationships to sell bulk sales.

16. Upsells / Cross-sells. These are the two perennial ways to increase the average price per sale. Would you like fries with that is an example of a cross-sell. Would you like a large instead for only 50 cents more is an upsell. In the world of eLearning, an upsell might involve letting the user know about your “gold plan”. A cross-sell may be a pre-sale link for related content: “people who liked this course also took this course.”

17. Retention plan: This is a strategy to ensure that the user continuously sees value from their investment; it may encompass marketing automation sequences, gamification within the eLearning platform, or other stimuli. If they don’t see value, they will quit.

18. Rescue plan: It is far easier to keep a user than sell to a completely new one. When a person chooses to end their paid plan, the rescue plan swings into action. It may include sweetening the offer via web-based or email communication, or perhaps providing telephone follow-up. (We would suggest, however, that the more aggressive you are, the more of your goodwill and reputation will be spent. And when there is nothing left, no matter what you do, they will never trust you again.)

19. Quarterly review: Just because the system was perfect when you started, doesn’t mean that it always will be. There will be changes in your target users, changes in your strategy, and of course, more content that you will have developed. Monetizing your content means always keeping it up-to-date.

This week’s action plan: Many organizations have done some of these steps, but often not all. This week, choose the one item that is your weakest link. If you have a mature eLearning system, this might mean numbers 14-19. If you are just considering one for the first time, it may be the items at the top of the list.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


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