Using webex for fun and profit…

Here I share my tips for using @webex on customer business calls…

People seem to really struggle with webex. I love the thing, but then again I know how to use it.

I have been using it for… for… hmmm could it really be 11 years? Too long to remember anyway!

It is frankly an amazing service. If you struggle, then you need to take the next 10 minutes and read this blog post!

Note: It’s not webex’s fault if you struggle! It’s necessarily sophisticated, and only takes 10 minutes to learn to use it effectively.

Here are my tips for using webex effectively on customer and business meetings.

Use meetings, not personal meeting spaces

Personal spaces provide very little ability to customise settings or invites. They are effectively a URL and a meeting number. If you’re lucky.

They’re also wide open to anybody to drop in on – past attendees from previous meetings perhaps! It’s the same URL and meting number for all meetings if you use a personal space.

When sending instructions to customers they want more information, including audio options (webex audio, call back, and dial in), agenda, and so on.

In addition, a meeting will allow you to join and if the organiser drops, those remaining will still be able to continue their meeting, with one of them becoming ‘lead presenter’ whilst you rejoin.

With a personal room everyone is kicked out on the leader dropping.

This is particularly frustrating and not professional looking if they have to dial back in on a desk phone.

This is even worse if they have to log back in to webex on one device, and then hunt for the audio settings within that interface, rather than simply open a calendar invite. (As they do for all other types of meeting!)

Send out full and meaningful invites

A scheduled meeting’s Advanced Scheduler allows you to create a template that includes several things:-

  • Meeting title, so you can see all your upcoming meetings in the webex web interface, and they make sense (this is also used for the email invite subject line, so should include your company’s name)
  • Password protection, rather than a totally open URL anyone can enter
  • A different meeting number and url per meeting, preventing unexpected drop ins/interception
  • Dial in numbers, including a tick box for showing a link to all international dial in numbers (an absolute MUST – I’m looking at you American webex-ers!)
  • Provide default invitees, useful if the same sales team members are on most calls
  • Send an invite to all attendees that includes ALL meeting information, and optionally send an exact copy to yourself too, so you see what they receive. Webex will send you a leader’s invite too, with links and information, so you never miss a webex again.
  • Require attendee registration, so you get their names and email addresses afterwards (requires password protection)
  • Share a powerpoint presentation in advance, rather than use presentation-over-video, saving bandwidth, whilst still preventing them from keeping a copy afterwards
  • Set meeting options, such as enabling/disabling chat, whiteboard, webcam video, file transfers
  • Set attendee privileges, perhaps hiding other invitees or their ability to chat or control the presentation

Even better – this all gets included in the email calendar invite for you by the advanced scheduler – no further leg work required!

It actually takes less time to create an advanced scheduled meeting, than create the meeting invite manually in Outlook and paste in your personal meeting URL.

It’s a no-brainer.

Include an agenda

You absolutely, positively, should include this in all invites. Missing dial-in information, agenda topics, or background reading for attendees prior to the meeting makes the start of the meeting very difficult and confusing for customers.

It also leads to more people than are required being invited, as every man and his dog are invited ‘just in case’ rather than ‘because they are needed’.

This causes frustration and confusion in your own team. Never good for a busy sales team.

Agenda’s also show who has what responsibility in the meeting, enabling effective planning and preparation.

A sales manager I know says a 1 hour customer meeting should require 1 day’s worth of preparation, because that time is golden. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

It sounds like a lot, but actually it’s spot on.

Starting a meeting 7 minutes late or overrunning causing the key customer attendee to rush off to the next meeting means the meeting often becomes much less valuable than it should have been.

A missed customer opportunity ain’t golden.

So include a detailed agenda with personnel names and timings to see the quality of your meetings improve.

Use webex call back, NOT the webex voice-over-IP app

Do not, for the love of all that is holy, use the webex app when you’re out and about.

It will eat bandwidth, your audio quality will be poor, and you will drop from the call repeatedly.

Well, in the UK’s wonderful green and cell-tower-less countryside (read: anywhere outside central London) anyway!

Especially true of Leicestershire – the black hole of all cell phone reception.

That’s if you manage to connect. 100% of my calls where someone has used the app to start the call have resulted in the start of the meeting being delayed by between 7 and 17 minutes.

Yes – that long.

If you had used a scheduled meeting and sent yourself a full agenda and dial in instructions, you can click the link on your phone in the calendar.

Alternatively, the webex app can dial you back rather than use VoIP! So use that! Much less bandwidth!!!

This makes for better phone quality, and thus more fulfilling meetings.

And cheaper corporate phone bills… You’re welcome IT.

It also looks a damned site more professional and organised.

Test and connect head sets before joining the call

On the mac we’re spoiled because the mac will auto switch your audio settings when you plug in a headset.

Unfortunately on Windows, or on the mac after you’ve already started webex, this doesn’t happen.

So plug in your headset on the mac first, leave it a few seconds, then click on your webex meeting link.

On windows, plug it in, go to audio settings at the bottom-right of your start bar to test it (right click the volume control), then click the webex link.

Voila! Instantly, the audio will work perfectly in webex.

It also prevents you accidentally kicking attendees off as you faff around sorting your own audio out!

Encourage customers to test webex in advance

At the top of your invites / welcome message in the advanced scheduler, encourage your customers to test the technology of webex a minimum of 15 minutes in advance.

They will need to download a package if your corporate system is more up to date than there’s – this varies per customer using webex, so be warned!

Happily, this link is included in the invites sent out by the advanced scheduler – yet more reasons not to use a personal meeting room!

Schedule for exactly the time you need

Webex will NOT kick you or your customer off if a meeting overruns.

It’s a good idea to schedule the webex for the same amount of time as you actually need for the meeting.

There’s a temptation to block out the day/afternoon or accept the default 1 hour.

Customers take meeting invites as written in stone. If you schedule the webex for an hour and your agenda actually takes 90 minutes, then they’ll leave after 60 minutes.

You have been warned!

Turn up on time

Of even better, 5 minutes in advance.

Over 80% of my meetings organised by sales people involve them joining the call after the scheduled start.

Approximately 30% of these are over 5 minutes after the start time!

This is a massive pet peeve of mine.

I believe in turning up 15 minutes early minimum for physical meetings. I have a physical reaction if I cannot make this happen. It offends my sense of professionalism to be late.

5 minutes early for a virtual meeting is not a big ask.

Customers are busy. If you get an hour and waste 5 minutes of this, that’s 8.3% of the time wasted instantly!

Do you want to achieve 8.3% below your sales target? I thought not!

Even better, if you turn up 5 minutes early and so does the customer, you get an additional 8.3% of the time to talk to your important customer.

Yummy… more gold … err I mean quote achieved, for you!

There really is no excuse for turning up late to a properly scheduled webex.

This of course assumes the invite was sent out with links, agenda, and international dial in numbers included… So include them!

Record personal presentations

If you’re giving an internal demo, especially to internationally located co-workers, recording is your best friend.

You can review your own performance to improve over time.

You can also download the video for posterity, and save the video on dropbox/sugarsync so it doesn’t get deleted.

You can send a link to the video to co-workers who couldn’t be there. Useful if your company spans all time zones.

Don’t do this on customer calls though, as they get a bit freaked out by recordings, and will be much less open in their responses to your questions.

Remember – all webex participants see if a call is being recorded.

In summary

I have been using webex effectively for years. The above simple tips help me be more productive and have very fulfilling meetings.

Learning these tips didn’t take long. I just played with webex and invited people to a couple of test meetings. Easy!

I promise you you’ll get that time back in spades in more effective customer meetings!


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