Backup plans are the secret to a successful event, and an e-meeting is no exception. George Bernard Shaw once said, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience.” I've learned many e-conferencing lessons the hard way, and here's a rundown of some I wouldn't want to repeat.

How solvent is your supplier? — Imagine your meeting room burning down the week before your event. This virtually happened to me. My webconferencing company filed for bankruptcy a week before an event I was producing. Fortunately, I had evaluated other vendors and could turn to them for help. We reissued the confirmation notes and were able to produce the event successfully. Without a contingency plan, I would have been forced to cancel.

Back up your backups — I strongly recommend having speakers on high-speed connections, having extra computers on hand to access the presentation if your speaker's computer freezes, finding a modem line for dial-up in case company servers go down, and having someone off-site dialed in as a backup. Also, speakers should always print out a copy of their presentation. This allows them to have someone in another location advance their e-slides as they present over a phone line and refer to their printouts. Although a technology failure may throw your speakers off for a moment, a backup plan will enable them to quickly recover, often without the audience even realizing there was a problem.

Check in ahead — Schedule a “touch-base” call about two hours before the event. Such a call once saved me when my key speaker didn't show up for it. I tracked him down and learned that the event was on his calendar for the next day!

Quiet Signs — Imagine a random person walking onstage and talking to your speaker about something that has nothing to do with your meeting. That's the anxiety you will feel when an unknowing employee steps into your e-speaker's office while he or she is presenting. Avoid this potential interruption by taking a few minutes to post “Quiet — Webinar in Session” signs.

Arm the Front Desk — Even though you send multiple, detailed confirmation notes, there will always be confused people. They usually call your company's main number instead of calling the technical support number you have supplied. Provide the front desk staff with a Q&A sheet listing the event time, dial-in instructions, and tech support numbers.

Contact Information — Ask key participants to send you all their contact information (cell, office, home, assistant, etc.). Believe me, the one time you don't ask for this will be the time your speaker is MIA five minutes before the event.




Stephanie Franks-Downs (sfranks@conferzone.com) is president of MarKomm Consulting, Denver, and founder of www.conferzone.com, an e-conferencing resource site.