Web Conferencing Gone Wrong

Web conferencing software enhances communication by allowing members from both sides of a conversation to be located in different arenas around the world. Whether through audio or video, the platform gives professionals the freedom to remain connected regardless of their location.

One monkey wrench thrown into web conferencing software—and any digital meeting environment—is the opportunity for interference. I’ve sat through many a phone interview on the floor of my grandma’s closet, hoping and praying my niece wouldn’t burst through the door to tell me she had to potty.

Luckily, no one is alone in these quandaries. Everyone who deals with digital meetings and virtual communications has at least one embarrassing anecdote of interruption. My phone interview with G2 Crowd featured a horde of pre-schoolers stampeding out of class in the background (and yet here I am). Read on for more embarrassing meeting mishaps, as well as ways they could have been avoided.

Video Violation

By now, you’ve likely heard the story of the live BBC interview where Robert E. Kelly digitally called in from home to discuss his thoughts on the political state of South Korea. His toddler waddles in the room, closely followed by her baby sibling in a walker. Their flustered mother bursts onto the scene and desperately tries to get everyone out without being noticed. Everyone was noticed.

Although hilarious for onlookers, this kind of interruption is not ideal for a live broadcast. Many web conferencing tools provide users the option to turn off their camera, switching them to audio mode only. In a situation such as this, it could be helpful to disable video and give yourself a chance to rectify a situation without the pressure of having it documented for millions to go back and view.

Screen Sharing Gone Wrong

Some of G2’s own have been lured into false web conferencing confidence. During a product demo held via GoToMeeting and which featured G2’s entire sales team, an employee, who we’ll call Sam, was asked to share his screen for the purpose of a walkthrough.

“Everyone can see what you’re typing.”

At the end of the demo, sales employees had the opportunity to ask questions. A fellow coworker asked a question that Sam considered facepalm-worthy, which Sam communicated to another coworker with a GIF on Slack. He promptly received a message from our chief marketing officer that simply read, “Everyone can see what you’re typing.”

Despite the embarrassing moment, it should be noted that Sam is still around. More importantly, the relationship between he and the coworker he was face-palming has fully recovered.

In this situation, Sam could have solved the issue by choosing to share his browser only instead of his entire desktop. This would have given visibility to his Chrome windows without revealing what he was up to in Slack. We live, and we learn.

Audio Don’ts

Audio conferences are helpful for groups of more than two, or when sides of the conversation are held in different countries. Employees at G2 use a tool called Zoom, wherein contacts call a number from their phone, computer or other internet-enabled device to be linked into a hangout. It’s the digital version of, “Hey, let’s meet at Starbucks at 9:30.”

The situation can get messy, however, when meetings run long. A business development representative at G2 experienced this while on a Zoom call with a prospect in the UK. He had another call immediately following, and in what could be classified as a business meet-cute, the calls overlapped when the second contact called in to the first call. Separate contacts found themselves in the same hangout, laughing but confused as to where to go next.

The issue lied in the host’s inability to approve or deny incoming calls. Had his audio conferencing tool supplied this option, he would have had control over whether the meeting was crashed.

The moral of these stories is not to be perfect. Embarrassing moments are the building blocks of life, and it’d be no fun to eradicate them entirely. The lesson is to understand the features offered by various web conferencing tools before landing on a decision, so as to be better prepared when these situations arise.

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