- Web conferencing technology gives organizations the benefit of meeting remotely. Virtual meetings are budget-friendly and also save time and resources.
- You should have an agenda when you set up a virtual meeting. Share the agenda with all participants ahead of time to help them prepare for the meeting.
- You can use virtual meeting features such as muting and recording to move the meeting along and to keep everyone focused and engaged.
We've all been there: You attend a virtual meeting, webinar, training session or conference, and it starts off reasonably well but quickly degenerates. There's no obvious agenda, the host pauses frequently, the technology lets you down, and there's little cooperation between parties. Everybody leaves with very little achieved, and you all feel annoyed at the lack of organization and the waste of your valuable time.
Despite the number of unsuccessful virtual meetings you've attended, a successful one is easy to achieve with a little preparation. Done right, virtual meetings have a number of benefits:
- They are budget-friendly. You don't have to spend a huge chunk of your budget on travel and accommodation arrangements for attendees, and they don't have to make and pay for arrangements themselves.
- They save time. Most attendees will appreciate how much time they save by attending a meeting virtually. They no longer have to take three days off from work to travel to another branch or company in another country, nor will they have to spend hours traveling between cities to get to meetings.
- They save space. Not every business has a large conference room, and many don't have the budget to book an adequate venue for a large meeting. But it's pretty embarrassing when you're squeezing clients and potential customers into a space that's just too small; it isn't likely to impress them. A virtual meeting eliminates this issue.
- They offer more networking opportunities. Not every potential client can travel across the country – or the world – to get to your meeting. By sending out invitations for a virtual meeting, you have the opportunity to build networks and relationships with more individuals and businesses.
So, how can you ensure your virtual meeting is a success?
1. Plan your agenda.
It's crucial to carefully plan your meeting. Every attendee should have a copy of the final agenda so that they have time to prepare. To prevent their attention from wandering during the meeting, break the content up into short chunks and create detailed mini agendas for each segment. You can open up the virtual floor to questions and informal discussion or general attendee participation between segments to keep everyone energized and engaged. You don't have to stick to the agenda completely, but use it as a guideline to get as much accomplished as possible during the meeting.
2. Make effective use of technology.
If you're running a virtual meeting, you've got to have a firm grasp of the technology you're using. Firstly, get everyone in the right time and place with the right documentation in their hands by sending out comprehensive emails with all the paperwork, agendas and joining instructions your guests need. Make sure your internet connection is stable. If in doubt, use a wired connection rather than wireless, as it's more reliable and generally faster.
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Whether you're using a slide-sharing program, sharing your screen, incorporating instant messaging or just doing a straightforward audio conference, you need to practice before you launch into the real deal. Get comfortable with all the technology, software and programs you'll be using to conduct your meeting. Find your way around all the platform's elements, learning their capabilities and quirks so there'll be no embarrassing and time-consuming surprises or bloopers on the day of the meeting.
3. Prepare participants.
So many people are used to just showing up at an appointed time, giving the meeting half of their attention, then rushing out the door to the next meeting. But if you get them engaged and invested before they join your virtual meeting, you'll have attentive attendees. When you send out your agendas, ask participants to email you any questions they particularly want answered, anything they'd like to see added to the agenda and any comments they may have. Alternatively, ask them to prepare a set of questions or a statement to be read, answered or discussed at the event.
4. Keep them focused.
Along with breaking the meeting up into manageable chunks, you'll need a few other tricks up your sleeve to keep people awake, focused and attentive. When you're planning your event, try to inject some kind of interactive activity roughly every 10 to 15 minutes. If they go any longer than that without a change of pace, attendees start to lose focus.
It can also be a major distraction if too many people are talking at once. Many video meeting programs permit you to mute participants. You can use this function as needed to keep the meeting flowing. One possible setup is to have an open discussion at the beginning and end of each meeting. During the main segment, use the mute button as necessary. You may want to disable chat features too if they prove to be a distraction during the meeting.
5. Create a safe environment.
Your participants should trust you and each other. You want to create a welcoming environment where attendees feel they can ask for help, raise concerns, and talk and collaborate with one another. You can encourage and foster virtual relationships by setting small group activities that encourage people to engage with one another. This is particularly useful if you're creating an ongoing virtual team that will need to meet and communicate regularly.
Keep meetings secure by using features like password protection. Ask participants not to share meeting links or passwords. For transparency purposes, you may want to use the recording function and share the meeting file with all those who attended.