GoToMeeting & AnyMeeting
FNPS and The Council are using two applications for conference calls, GoToMeeting and AnyMeeting (see below).
GoToMeeting was the first to be used by FNPS. It requires an agency subscription and can only accommodate one conference at a time. Only the Council Chair (or FNPS Officer or Administration) has the password to set up a GoToMeeting, so we won't explain setup here. If you want to host GoToMeeting, you need to have the Council Chair set it up and open the meeting for you.
To join a GoToMeeting call, you have to receive an invitation through email. Then just click on the link and wait for the host to "open" the meeting. Alternatively you can call the number (shown in the invitation email) and enter the code when prompted, so you do not need to be at a computer to participate.
If this is the first time you have used GoToMeeting from your computer, when you recieve the invitation email and click on the meeting link, you will be prompted to download the GoToMeeting software to make it work. Just follow the prompts. Sometimes GoToMeeting asks you to again download the software because there is an update. If you are nervous about being able to connect, you can do this well in advance of the meeting, even days before. Just like going early to an empty meeting room, if you arrive before others arrive, you will be alone in the room, can wait, or quit and come back later (using the email link to connect).
AnyMeeting is a great alternative to GoToMeeting because anyone can go to AnyMeeting.com, sign up for the FREE service (not the pay ones) and thereafter initiate a meeting for any group. Create a meeting and invite others via email. Because AnyMeeting is independent of the FNPS GoToMeeting subscription, you can schedule a meeting at any time and you don't need to get the Council Chair or anyone else involved to do it. It's great for any Council committee or workgroup. You will also find that these smaller conference calls are so much easier and more pleasant than large meetings. The software downloads are just as easy as GoToMeeting; you will always be prompted when an install or update is needed.
The awkwarness of conference calling is evident, especially with a large group:
The MUTE Problem: Everyone except the person talking needs to MUTE (click the mic icon). The host should force MUTE on everyone at the beginning of the meeting. If too many mics are open, very weird and unplesant noises make it hard to hear. Most of these noises are NOT actually coming from noises in the room as they seem, but are some sort of strange digital feedback that sounds as it someone were taking bath with floating tin cans or whatever. If everyone learns to MUTE their mic when they are not speaking, the conference call is normal and not irritating.
The SILENCE Problem: Ironically, the fact that everyone is MUTED creates another problem. For the host and anyone else who speaks, there is absolutely no "support". You speak to "a blank wall" and no one utters a peep. Socially, this is what happens when people don't like what you say: they are still and silent. So to the speaker, it feels very lonely. Surprisingly perhaps, that little "Ah-huh" meaning, "Yes, I understand you," is very comforting to most speakers. Or we look at the speaker or nod ever-so-slightly.
None of this happens in a audio conference call with MUTE. The host and other speakers can get used to this, or the listeners can make an effort to UNMUTE, say, "Yes" or "OK" or "Thank you" or "I didn't understand the last thing you said" or "I think...". Someone or many need to UNMUTE, say something, and then MUTE again to have a real conversation online. Don't stay muted throughout the call. Participation makes meetings work well. Dissent and saying the wrong thing are human and actually help all of us get on the page together.