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Communication & Collaboration Resources: Virtual meeting best practices

Introduction

As we expand our geographical footprint on campus and more staff have Flex Work arrangements in place, virtual meetings will become commonplace.  The supported tool for virtual meetings is MIT's WebEx - https://mit.webex.com/. As with any new tool, regular use and practice will build the skills and comfort level needed to host or attend a virtual meeting. Below are some useful best practices to follow.

1. Preparations – before hosting or attending a virtual meeting

1a. Familiarize yourself with the audio/video features of your computer

  • Desktop computers need additional equipment for audio, such as headset (headphones and microphone combined in a single device), and a USB-connected webcam for video.
    • If you don’t yet have a headset, you can use a phone for audio. 
    • A webcam is only necessary if you wish to be seen during a virtual meeting.
  • Laptop computers have built-in webcams. You may still want to use a phone or headset instead of laptop speakers/mic. 
  • If you need any equipment, email techpurchases-lib@mit.edu and they will order it for you.

1b. Familiarize yourself with WebEx

  • Setup WebEx on your primary computer so you can ensure the audio and video devices/connections manage audio devices and video connections before you need them to ensure they work properly.
  • You can practice connecting to your personal room to go through all the steps needed in any type of meeting.
  • You can practice alone or with a coworker
  • WebEx Basics documentation should enable you to successfully host or join a WebEx meeting. Or check out Renee Hellenbrecht's WebEx Practical Tips & Tricks.

1c. If hosting - familiarize yourself with the physical meeting room

  • Different rooms have different equipment – see Library Conference and Meeting Rooms for complete inventory.
  • Most Libraries conference rooms have an HDMI connection to the LED monitor, a conference phone, and a USB connected webcam. 
  • A small subset of the rooms have computers with a keyboard and mouse, in these you can simply open a browser and login to WebEx. 
  • The DIRC has unique connection requirements. If using, please refer to the LIRS documentation for using WebEx in the DIRC (LIRS maintains the documentation since it is a teaching and learning space, and the WebEx equipment is supported by MIT's AV Services).
  • Practice!  If you are using an unfamiliar room, find time for a test run to familiarize yourself with the room’s setup before your meeting. 

2. Hosting a meeting

  • Schedule the WebEx ahead of time so you can attach those details to the meeting invite.
  • Depending on your workspace (do you have a private office?) and size of meeting, you may need to book a room for noise concerns, even if attendees are all remote.
  • Reserve the room for 10-15 minutes before your scheduled start time to give yourself time to get the in-room equipment ready and log in to WebEx to be ready for your remote attendees.
  • Use the meeting room’s phone for audio – it is very hard for others to hear if you use your laptop, and if you are typing during the meeting, it is impossible.
  • When taking questions from the group, pass a microphone or repeat questions so remote participants can hear.
  • Remember your remote participants
    • If doing introductions, don’t forget them.
    • Check in with them during discussions, and periodically ask if they have any additional questions or comments.
    • Have someone serve as the chat screen watcher – to alert the meeting host of problems or questions.
  • If needed, make alternate arrangements to allow remote participants to take part in certain exercises.
    • We do not have recommended tools for this yet, so be creative.
    •  In some cases, in person attendance may still be required.

3. Attending and participating in a virtual meeting

Each team or group should develop their own set of practices to make sure all voices are heard. It is up to the meeting host to make sure there is a plan in place for their meeting. Some ideas to consider:
  • Use the WebEx chat feature (or Slack) and assign someone to watch for questions
  • Decide on a group interrupt phrase like “excuse me”
  • Periodically poll remote attendees for input or feedback

4. Remote participant etiquette

As a remote participant, do your part to make the virtual meeting work smoothly.
  • Log in to WebEx to manage the audio connection – it can then identify who is speaking.
  • If you will attend as an audio only participant via a mobile device, download and use the Cisco WebEx Mobile app. This handles the audio connection for you.
  • Mute your phone/audio when you connect and unmute only when you need to speak.

5. Getting help

  • If you are having problems connecting to a virtual meeting using WebEx and need immediate help, please call the MIT Help Desk at x3-1101 or 617-253-1101.
  • If you need additional advice, please send an email to fix-lib@mit.edu

6. Some helpful links