WebEx and Larger Group Meetings — How to be Successful

Photo by Stem List on Unsplash

We’ve gotten a few questions from our clients about using Cisco WebEx to hold all-hands online meetings, either for their employees or customers.

Here’s a quick primer on how to ensure that your meetings run smoothly and without interruption, as well as answer some frequently asked questions we get.

Let’s jump right in, but before we do, keep this in mind. If you haven’t used online meetings before, PRACTICE BEFORE THE REAL MEETING! Do a dry run, get a few people online. Have someone show up in their bathrobe on video. Kick them out.

There are multiple options?

WebEx has two “products” that are often used for online meetings, Meeting Center and Event Center.

  • Meeting Center is the default meeting experience for WebEx users. Personal rooms and all standard scheduled meetings both use Meeting Center. Meeting Center is simple and easy, but that comes at the expense of tight control.
  • Event Center is oriented towards webinars. It has a much higher attendee capacity, and it’s geared towards meetings where you might have an variety of people or organizations attending. Often, Event Center meetings are pre-recorded with a live Q&A at the end, so that a minimal amount of things can go wrong. Event Center is more complicated, but it comes with great control.

When do I use Meeting Center and when do I use Event Center?

Here’s my rule of thumb. If your online audience would fit into a conference room and you trust them to not show up in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers and start yelling about who-knows-what, use Meeting Center.

If you’re bringing people with no accountability together, use Event Center. You can prevent people from doing virtually everything, so all they can do is attend your meeting.

The scope of this document is Meeting Center.

How many people can attend my WebEx meeting?

Unfortunately, the answer is, “it depends”. If you’re on the Meeting Center SMB packages that are listed on the WebEx site, it shows you. Right now, the free tier is limited to 100 attendees.

https://www.webex.com/pricing.html (3/18/2020)

If you are on a commercial plan, including a Cisco Enterprise Agreement, Active User, or Collaboration Flex Plan your user limits are probably 1000 attendees per Meeting Center meeting. If you are on an Named User license, your limit is probably 200 attendees per session

Each Event Center event can accommodate up to 3000 attendees, but your site may be limited to either 100, 500 or 1000. Odds are, your limit is 1000 attendees.

How do I know?

If you log into your Administration Portal, you can click on Users, select your user, click on Meeting, choose the site and it’ll show you the limits.

admin.webex.com portal

If your screen doesn’t look like this, I’d open a case for WebEx to tell you your limits.

What are some best practices for setting up a Meeting Center meeting?

I’ll separate tips for Event Center into a separate article, but here are some tips to ensure things go smoothly.

Above all, don’t use your Personal Room for large meetings. Manually schedule a meeting. Let’s walk through it.

First, log into your WebEx site. My site is https://the.webex.com. I’ve signed in with my username and password. To schedule a meeting, click the Schedule button.

That will bring up the meeting scheduler. From here, we setup a few basic things, including the meeting type, a topic, password (this may be optional for you), date/time and attendees.

If you know who you’re going to invite, you can add their names into the attendees box, and they’ll receive an email calendar invite.

However, if you’re inviting a diverse group of people, you might not have everyone’s name, so you can leave it blank. But, the real controls are in the Advanced Options tab. Click on the Show advanced options to see what’s available.

Advanced Options

Under Advanced Options, there are three options — audio, agenda and scheduling.

If you can, encourage all your users to join via VoIP. If you have a computer headset (or even a speaker on your computer), you can still listen to the audio. If you have a USB or Bluetooth headset paired to your computer, you can fully participate. By doing this, you can decreased the load on the already-stressed telecom infrastructure.

If you have a lot of people joining, make sure you set the Entry and Exit Tone to No Tone. This will keep the beeps to a minimum.

Under the agenda tab, you can add an agenda if you want, but the other options are under Scheduling Options.

If you want to have an internal-only meeting, and you know that everyone already has a WebEx host account, you can select Require Account. This will prevent anyone from attending unless they’re already setup on WebEx, so use caution before sending out a meeting with this set.

If you’d like to have people register, you can select Require Attendee Registration, and the host will have to approve all attendees first. You can also automatically select them.

Finally, under Meeting Options and Attendee Privileges, here are the settings we recommend for a larger gathering.

These setting disable virtually everything, however note that Video can not be disabled from this panel.
Once again, everything is limited except chat with the host or presenter.

Sending the Invite

Once scheduled, you’ll get a calendar invite in your inbox, as well as an entry in your scheduler.

Each meeting has something called a Host Key. That allows anyone with that number to take full control over the meeting.

It is imperative that you don’t distribute the host key with your meeting invite!

Don’t send out the host key!

Just send the meeting link (and password, if you set one) in your calendar invite and you’ll be good to go.

In the Meeting

We recommend that the host joins the meeting a few minutes before the actual start time. There are a couple of settings to consider, the first being under the Participants menu. We recommend that Mute on Entry is checked, and Anyone Can Share is unchecked.

Under the Meeting menu, select Meeting Options. Disable “Allow all participants to turn on video”.

There’s a lobby?

Yes! If your meeting is locked, people trying to join will wait in the lobby until you admit them. The host will see this notification:

If there are more than one waiting, you can pick and choose from a list.

Once your meeting gets underway, lock it!

When your attendees join, they’ll join the audio muted. If someone isn’t muted, you can mute them, kick them out or move them to the lobby.

Summary

These tips should have you running your Cisco WebEx Meeting Center meetings like an absolute pro. Remember-above all — PRACTICE FIRST!

Happy meetings!

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