What you’ll learn to do: Use web sharing tools effectively in a business context
Next we’re going to talk about what to do when it’s more important that people can see your computer screen than your face. This includes sharing videos, presentations, and documents. This is a powerful capability, but it’s also important to be cautious: you don’t want to accidentally share either confidential materials or personal communications.
- Explain when to use web sharing tools in a business context
- Identify strategies for effective use of web sharing in a one-on-one setting
- Identify strategies for effective use of web sharing in a group setting
- Participate in a meeting with web sharing components
Using Web Sharing in Business
Web sharing, or screen sharing, is appropriate when it’s more important for people to see documents, videos, or other kinds of files than it is for them to see each other’s faces or surroundings. Here are a few specific examples:
- Delivering PowerPoint or Prezi presentations to remote colleagues
- Sharing spreadsheet data
- Showing videos
- Editing or marking up documents or graphics
Usually, screen sharing happens in conjunction with an audio call. In environments like Google Hangouts or Amazon Chime, where it’s easy to switch from a video feed to a screen share and where you can have audio, video, and screen sharing going on simultaneously, but this does take some practice.
To share your screen and talk about it at the same time, you can establish a separate dial-in number for the call and log in for the screensharing on a site such as Join.Me, WebEx, or GoToMeeting. You can also use the audio function that comes with those sites; the benefit of doing this is having a single login. However, the potential drawback is that the VOIP signal can, on occasion, get choppy if the Wi-Fi___33 network is overloaded.
Troubleshooting a web sharing call can involve any of the audio issues we’ve already discussed. In addition, the following solutions may be helpful:
- If someone has not downloaded the app but is joining the meeting through the host platform’s website, they should be aware that not all sites work with all browsers, and some are fully functional only with the app.
- If you are the presenter or host, have the files you’ll be talking about ready to attach to an email and send just in case you can’t get the web sharing to work for one or more people.
- If this happens, remind them to stay on the audio part of the call.
- Add the slide number or page number to your navigation language since they will be advancing the slides or pages themselves.
One-on-One Web Sharing Calls
In a planned call with a specific agenda, you will know in advance whether you want to share your screen with your colleague, so you can prepare for it by sending them connection information and making sure they have the right app at the ready. However, once you and your team are comfortable with your web sharing app of choice, it’s pretty easy to share your screen, even during calls when you hadn’t planned to.
When you’re screen sharing, there are some etiquette tips you should follow:
- Make sure you have the correct file or site open before the call starts. It’s impolite to keep your teammate waiting while your Excel or PowerPoint revs up.
- Close any unnecessary tabs in your browser and tidy up your desktop. Remember that the people sharing your screen can see your whole screen, including that sensitive email—or the fact that you have Facebook and OKCupid tabs open and your desktop image is you in a gorilla costume.
A major challenge with screensharing is that the person you’re sharing with can’t see your physical gestures. In person, you would simply point at the things on your screen that you want your colleague to focus on. When you’re screensharing, you have to do a lot more talking. Let’s look at a typical PowerPoint slide.
As you are talking through this very busy slide, you really need to narrate the navigation of the slide out loud. You might take your listener through it like this:
|Tell them what the slide is about overall. Make sure you have a slide title that means something.||“This slide is a summary of the second quarter, breaking out sales in a couple of different ways.|
|Help them navigate around the slide by using directional language.||“Let’s look at the pie chart on the left first. This chart shows the breakout in sales by category. As you can see, the green slice, Sportswear, is still our biggest-selling category, but Shoes, the yellow piece, is way up, and Accessories, in dark green on the left side of the chart, is holding steady.”|
|If the content is complicated, you may want to pause for questions before moving on, but be specific that you’re just taking questions on one area.||“Any questions about the pie chart or what it means before I move on?”|
|Clearly signal when you’ve moved on to another part of the slide.||“Now let’s look at the graph at the top right. This shows quarterly sales in millions by store type. As you can see, all our channels are on an uptick for Q2. A stores and B stores—the orange and gray lines—did pretty well, especially at the holidays. There was a little dip after the post-Christmas sales, but they’re back up again in Q2. Online sales—the yellow line—were reliable, but they’re really taking off with the new spring and summer offerings.”|
|Signal when you’re wrapping up.||“Let’s look at the bullet points on the bottom right where I’ve summarized some of the key factors affecting sales in Q2. . .”|
If you’re sharing a spreadsheet . . .
When sharing a spreadsheet, you should be sure to do the following:
- Take some time before the call to highlight key cells with color to help with navigation. That way, you can say things like, “We’re done with the yellow rows now, and if no one has any questions, we’ll turn to the green rows,” or “I can send you the full spreadsheet later, but what’s important for now are the cells outlined in red.”
- Be sure to establish what the rows and columns represent, as in, “The rows are the weeks in the fiscal year. The pink columns represent sales by category in dollars. The blue columns represent sales by category in units. Column J is the total of all categories in dollars, and Column K is the total units.”
- Use the numbers and letters for rows and columns to help with navigation.
- During the call, use your screen Zoom function to zero in on the areas that are relevant to the conversation.
If you are sharing a Word document . . .
When sharing a Word document, you should be sure to do the following:
- In many ways, this is the trickiest, so ask yourself whether a screen sharing call is really the way to do it. Word documents are hard because they’re usually just text with no particular landmarks to help with navigation.
- If you absolutely must go over a Word doc using screen sharing, prep the document beforehand with color or section headers to make navigation easier.
These tips may seem exhausting or elementary, but remember how distracted people can be in remote meetings. If someone zones out for even a minute, they can get seriously lost and confused about what you’re discussing. Thus whatever navigation signposts you can use will be helpful to both of you.
Additional features you can use in screen sharing apps really depend on the individual app.
Most allow you to switch among the screens of the people on the call, so if Lanie needs to see Dave’s screen for a minute and then switch back to her own, just a couple of clicks can make that happen. In more sophisticated virtual environments like Amazon Chime and Slack, it’s possible to mark up or edit the screen you see, even if it isn’t your own. A touchscreen may be required for some of these functions.
Group Web Sharing Calls
The main difference between one-on-one web-sharing calls and group web sharing is that distraction and inattention increase exponentially with each person on the call. In a one-on-one situation, if the person you’re talking to gets lost or needs more explanation, they’ll just ask. In a group situation, they may be too embarrassed, or they may ask long after you’ve moved on. Thus, it is essential that as a presenter you do the following:
- Use navigation language. It becomes even more important with more distractions on the call.
- Regulate your pace so you don’t speed through your information.
- Pause briefly between slides, worksheets, sections, or pages to help people recognize that you’re moving on.
If you are sharing PowerPoint slides, animations can help people stay engaged. This is not to say that you should have text or images swooping in and dancing on the page. Rather, making your bullet points appear one at a time or having a piece of your pie chart flash when you start to talk about it can help your listeners re-engage with the slides.
Most web-sharing platforms have a chat function that you can choose to use. If you do, it’s good to set some ground rules about how participants should engage with the chat. The chat typically appears as a running bar along the side of the screen that looks a bit like an IM thread. Participants can post questions or comments there. Think about using the chat if you are in any of these situations:
- You are anticipating a lot of questions, and you want to be sure to get through all your content. Having participants post their comments in the chat rather than asking out loud, can help a presenter accomplish the following:
- Delay answering questions you know will be addressed later in the conversation.
- Weed out duplicate questions.
- Table off-topic questions so you can discuss them with the individual at a later time.
- You have a large group on the call, so even one question per person could really derail the rhythm of the meeting.
- You might want to ask poll-type questions of the group. For example, you might say, “Type in the chat area the number of loss-prevention reports you’ve filed so far this year.” Knowing the answer to a question like this might help you shape and prioritize the rest of the meeting.
Skip the chat if you feel it might invite unwanted comments or side conversations, if the group is too small to need it, or if the purpose of the meeting is to have a discussion equally among all participants.
Web Sharing Meetings
In a meeting where some people are together in a room viewing documents or a presentation while others are on sharing apps, the standard guidelines for hybrid meetings all apply.
In particular, since the people in the room won’t see the remote participants while the presenter is sharing their screen, be sure to appoint an advocate for them and build in reminders to address them and include them in the conversation. This can sometimes be done with someone keeping an eye on a secondary app acting as the backchannel chat.
If the main speaker or presenter is remote from the group, the main challenge is to prevent side conversations from taking place while that person is speaking. It’s really easy to ignore the disembodied voice on the speaker in favor of the live person next to you.