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5 features you aren’t using in Microsoft Lync

With the way things are these days, it’s very rare to have everyone sitting in one room during a meeting. Due to factors such as globalization and increased costs in office space, the online meeting has become paramount to collaboration. This cost-effective solution also has several drawbacks – one being the loss of any social pressure to PAY ATTENTION. I admit that I incessantly multi-task by answering other emails or even complete some of my online shopping during online meetings when the discussion doesn’t include me.

One way to combat the issue of distraction is to use features included in Microsoft Lync (or other communications software) to increase interactivity in meetings. People learn more when they’re asked to participate. Try these 5 tips and see if you don’t become known as the person who holds INTERESTING meetings. I’ll use Microsoft Lync in my examples.

  1. Use polls. Microsoft Lync communication software includes a Poll feature which I use often to better understand my audience, especially in a training setting. You can ask questions such as Have you attended an Engineering brownbag before? What is your current discipline? How many years of experience do you have in this field?Or perhaps use a poll at the end of an agenda item or training module to see how everyone’s feeling. Are you ready to move on? Do you feel like your questions were properly answered? There are endless ways to leverage the polling feature to keep participants engaged and learn more about your audience in order to make any needed adjustments.
  2. Leverage checkmarks. Another way to involve participants is to use checkmarks. This only works if you have some sort of document uploaded within Lync. Once uploaded, you will see options on the upper right of the document such as the ability to type directly on the document, highlight, etc.The idea is to have participants use checkmarks to communicate. Display a list of FAQs and have participants place a checkmark next to the FAQ they want you to answer. Then, focus on the FAQs that have the most checkmarks next to them. Or put up a statement and have students check Agree or Disagree. Or encourage participants to place a checkmark on the screen if they have a question instead of verbally interrupting. Again, the possibilities are endless here. People in my work environment really get into this one.
  3. Annotate documents being shared. As mentioned above, annotation only works when a document is uploaded. Use the annotation features to type text on the screen if your meeting will begin later than expected. Highlight key points or the topic you’re currently covering. Allow meeting participants to do the same if they’re speaking or sharing. Even just moving content around on the screen can help keep or draw meeting participants’ eyes to the screen.
  4. Increase the power of IM. Use the layout feature to split your screen so you can see what is being shared as well as the IM window. Then encourage participants to use the IM window to ask questions, share helpful links, and essentially interact with each other during the meeting. You can then export the chat session and send it to attendees as a summary of what was discussed and shared. I like to ask a peer to handle the chat window during a meeting so I can stay focused on the verbal discussion and they can handle what’s happening in IM. You may even consider sending out a summary email that includes a list of those who participated in the meeting by IM or voice.
  5. Whiteboard. I have a whiteboard at home that contains my life. I use whiteboards to teach concepts to my kids at home. I’m sure you have a whiteboard in your office and meeting rooms. Why wouldn’t you use it during your online sessions? Lync makes it easy to open a whiteboard (just click Present > Whiteboard) and write or draw away. Have others add to the ‘board’ as well. Then save it and send out. So easy, yet very few use it.And there you have it. 5 ways to make your meetings more interesting and interactive. Hey, it’s the New Year. Why not try something new in your next online meeting?