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Like many people, I think I learn best by having face-to-face educational experiences, which is one reason why the ASUG Annual Conference is so important to me.  There are visual clues and social clues aplenty, which help in understanding the sometimes oblique Powerpoint presentations.  I mean, have you ever really just looked at any Powerpoint, no matter how fine (and there are some fine presos out there) and totally understood what it meant?  Maybe it's just me...but I need the voice and the interaction to make the presentations materials truly meaningful.

However, Webcasts and webinars will not only save our companies those precious dollars (or euros, or whatever) but offer the opportunity to learn on a wide variety of topics in a wide variety of times.  I mean, take a look at some upcoming SAP Customer Call Series webcasts - listed here.  You have the chance to learn from the inimitable Ginger Gatling on the topic of Universal WorkList, or Uddhav Gupta on SAP Netweaver Enterprise Search. Or, check out the ones you've *missed* here!

BUT, and here it's a big one, attending Webcasts is hard.  It requires a different set of talents and protocols than attending a classroom lecture.  What follows are some of my basic tips on how to make this an effective learning experience.

  1. Sign up!  The meeting planners need to know how many people are going to be attending so that phone lines can handle the load.  Plus, you might receive a 'meeting invitation' or confirmation, which will enable you to:
  2. Schedule it on your calendar, right away.  Don't wait and do it later.  
  3. Think: Logistics.  No, not in the Materials Management kind of way.  Think about where you will be and what the conditions in your space will be when the webcast takes place.  If you are normally in an open workspace, see if you can grab a quiet room for the call.  Perhaps you can reserve a conference room, and share the session with your colleagues - but only if they won't be too distracting.
  4. Get a headset.  Beg, borrow, or steal (not really).  It's not fun to realize that after cradling your phone between your shoulder and your ear for one hour, that you can no longer turn your head, plus, that makes for hazardous driving conditions.
  5. Prepare.  Make sure you can access the web sites, materials, etcetera.  Don't wait until the minute before the webcast to find out that you don't have access to Webex.  
  6. Treat this as a face-to-face meeting.  Don't blow it off or show up late.  
  7. Again, logistics.  If you were unable to get some real solitude, create virtual solitude - block your cubicle entrance with a chair, put a sign on your 'door' letting co-workers know you are attending a call.  When you get right into the really interesting stuff,  you don't need a colleague coming and and telling you what happened last night on American Idol. Check out this link about boosting memory, and the ways it is impaired. 
  8. Have paper and pen ready, as well as any pre-distributed handouts.  Plan on taking notes (yes, this is old fashioned, but it works!)
  9. Five to ten minutes before the webcast, clear your 'to-dos', or resolve to let them wait for one hour.  

So now you have done some of the groundwork to make this effective.  You have tried to minimize your external distractions and are ready to go!  Once you get 'there', try keeping these tips in mind:

  1. After you call in and announce your name, mute your phone. When you join the meeting, you will get instructions on how to mute your phone.  It's something like #6 to mute, and *6 to un-mute.   Nobody wants to hear your sneezes, sniffles, or even, your guffaws (hey, it happens)
  2. Make a note of the host/speakers name and email address.  May come in handy someday.
  3. It may seem like fun to sign in using some snappy screen name.  Maybe try using your real name.  What have you got to hide?
  4. Do not try to check your Facebook account during the webcast.  When the speaker 'takes control' of the meeting, allow them to do just that.  You may just click away from the webcast during something important, and then you will be saying 'What ? Huh? I missed that' (into a muted phone, of course)
  5. Do not try to control the cursor on the Webex screen, for example.  You can't do it.  And it might be fun to try for minute or two, it is distracting (to you, nobody else can see it).
  6. Chats.  Limit your onscreen chatting.  Really.  I mean it.  Yes, it's great that all these folks you know are signed up, but are you there to chat with them, or to learn?  Make a note of who was there, and catch up with them later.  And remember, if you *do* chat to someone, make sure you have selected the right person and that they are still on the call. If you send out a chat to someone who has logged off, everyone will see your message.  Think of it as the IM equivalent to 'Reply-all'. 
  7. Take notes.  Some speakers like to have questions posed during the webcast; some prefer to take them all at the end. Have pity on the poor speaker (they are often in as much of a vaccuum as you are) and don't interrupt - either vocally or via Chat unless they specifically said they would take questions during the presentation. 
  8. But DO ask questions!  *6 to un-mute, state your name, and ask your question clearly and concisely.  Then, remember to mute your phone again (cough, guffaw)
  9. Usually, there will be a 'feedback' request, and here you can be honest, but not brutal.  Remember what mother always said?  'If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all' ?  Well, that's not entirely true - we can all use constructive criticism.  So if the presentation did not cover an area, let the hosts know - it may be material for future learning.  If there was key information left off the material, ask that it be redistributed.  I always like feedback, even when it means I have to try to do something better, or differently, the next time.  Of course, in my case, gratuitous compliments are also always welcome.
  10. Thank the speaker/hosts.  Even if your voice is just one in dozens.  It means something, it really does.
  11. Oh, and did I caution you about on-screen chatting ? Towards the end of the call, your long-lost buddy may have logged off.  Do you really want everyone else to see that message about how your co-worker is an idiot?  It bears repeating.
  12. Take a few minutes after the call to finalize any note-taking, and review.  Jot down some questions you didn't get a chance to ask.  Maybe you want to email them to the host or speakers to get clarification.
  13. Share the information with your co-workers unless they were in the room with you.  Knowledge is like fertilizer?? 
  14. Reflect.  Think about all the cool stuff you know how to do.  Wouldn't it be great to share some of that knowledge with others?  Sign up to do your own webcast!

Now, go sign up for that webcast - You know how to do it, and you'll be a better person for it.


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