• The presenter is repeatedly interrupted by questions from participants about how to connect to the tool.
  • The presenter is informed by one or more participants that the tool is not working for them (e.g., Skype for Business is not working on my Mac).
  • The presenter has technical problems with the slides or with sharing the desktop or an application.
  • The screens don’t refresh or are slow to refresh.
  • Presenters or participants become disconnected or lose control of the tool.
  • The audio degrades, breaks up, fades in and out, or drops out altogether.
  • Multiple attendees ask “will the slides be made available?”


Here are some actual examples.

  • In a recurring Google Hangout for community managers, the audio frequently breaks up, one or more of the presenters can’t be easily heard due to low volume, participants are dropped, and the presenters are not sure who is supposed to speak next. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of the event.
  • Group calls using Skype have to endure the inability of some participants to connect, video that is dropped during the call, and differing user experiences for the mobile and laptop versions. At any given time, one or more participants is typically trying to connect, being dropped, or struggling to get their video to work.
  • A social media marketing webinar that used WebEx totally failed due to severe technical problems. The event had to be canceled.
  • An all-hands call using Skype for Business was plagued by numerous interruptions, including voicemail messages, loud feedback noise, and participants who could not be heard. The first 30 minutes of a 90-minute call were wasted in dealing with these problems.


Many of these problems are humorously depicted in these videos:

Low-Tech Webinars are the Most Reliable

Low-tech approaches can prevent most of the potential problems that arise when using virtual collaboration tools. Using a combination of slides posted to a collaboration space, a conference call line, a simple recording process, and a threaded discussion board with email capability, effective webinars can be conducted with a minimum of problems. No one will ask if the slides will be available, because they will already have them in advance of the call.

  • Inside an organization, use a tool such as SharePoint.
  • Across organizations, use a tool such as Google Sites.
  • You can use SlideShare as a way of sharing presentations more broadly and to reach members whose organizations have blocked access to Groups.io or other sites. If SlideShare is blocked for some people, post in multiple places, e.g., Groups.io and SlideShare.
  • Turn off all entry and exit tones and announcements to prevent disruptions to the presenter.
  • Create a set of slides in PDF or PowerPoint format.
  • Capture screen shots to use instead of attempting to share your desktop or an application in a live setting.
  • Post the file to the collaborative team space in an area that is well-known to the participants (e.g., the meeting agenda site, the main site under announcements, or in the files folder) on in an easily-accessible site such as SlideShare. For SlideShare, the well-known place can be a specific SlideShare account, or the favorites of a specific account.
  • Using the team’s threaded discussion board, send out a reminder message to all participants with the conference call details and a link to the slides. Do this far enough in advance so that those who will be unable to connect online during the call will be able to download or print the slides so they can follow along during the call.
  • Before the speaker begins, turn off entry and exit tones to avoid disruptions when people enter late or leave early.
  • Remind everyone of the keys to mute and unmute lines.
  1. If available, use the option to mute all lines except for presenters, or mute all lines and then ask presenters to unmute their lines.
  2. When questions need to be asked, participants can unmute their lines, or all lines can be unmuted by the moderator.
  3. If there is a disruption during the call, and you are using a conference call line with operator assistance, signal the operator to mute the offending line. Otherwise, if you have a dashboard that shows which lines have active sound, mute the ones other than the presenter(s).
  • Ask the presenters to mention the number of the slide they are currently presenting so that participants can follow along.
  • Verify that the recording is working, and post the link or the actual file to the collaborative team space or to a file sharing site such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive if it is too large to post directly.
  • If you had a group chat or Twitter chat during the call, copy the group chat text, or use Wakelet to publish the Twitter chat transcript.
  • Add an entry to a list or database with details on each call — the date, subject, presenter(s), link to the slides, link to the recording, and group chat text or link to the Wakelet transcript.
  • Using the team’s threaded discussion board, send out a summary message to all participants with links to the slides, recording and chat transcript. Encourage follow-on discussion by replying to the same thread.


Team spaces can be used effectively for typical presentations by posting slides in the meeting space prior to the conference call, asking participants to download the files, and having presenters regularly refer to the current slide number. This avoids the need for a virtual meeting room.



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Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/