Find out how to facilitate a successful virtual meeting of any size.
We've all been there. You attend a virtual meeting, webinar, training session, conference, and it starts off reasonably well. But it quickly degenerates. There's no obvious agenda, the host pauses frequently, technology lets you down, there's little cooperation between parties. Everybody leaves with very little achieved and you all feel annoyed at the lack of organization and the wasting 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, and it has a number of benefits:
- 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.
- Saves Time: The vast majority of attendees will appreciate how much time they save by attending a virtual meeting. No longer will attendees have to take three days off from work to travel to another branch or company in another country. Nor will they have to spend long hours traveling between cities to get to meetings.
- Saves Space: Not every business has a large conference room for large meetings, and many don't have the budget to hire an adequately sized venue. 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. But a virtual meeting eliminates this issue.
- Opportunities: Not every potential client can travel across the country — or the world — to get to your meeting. But by sending out invitations for a virtual meeting, you make opportunities to build networks and relationships with a larger number of businesses.
So how can you ensure your virtual meeting is an absolute success?
Plan Your Agenda
It's crucial that your meeting be carefully planned. Every attendee should have a copy of the final agenda so that they have time to prepare themselves. To ensure attention doesn't wander during the meeting, break the content up into short chunks and create detailed mini agendas for each segment. You can open the virtual floor up to questions and informal discussion or general attendee participation between segments to keep everyone energized and engaged.
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 all the right documentation 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, make sure you 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 each element and learn their eccentricities and capabilities so there'll be no embarrassing and time-consuming surprises or bloopers on the day of.
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.
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. So, when you're planning your event, try to inject some kind of interactive activity roughly every 10 to 15 minutes. Any longer than that, people start to lose focus.
Create a Safe Environment
Your participants should trust you and each other. You want to create a safe environment where attendees can ask for help, raise concerns and feel able to 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.
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