In the olden days, transnational business operations often faced the problem of connectivity and collaboration among teams based in different geographic locations. By conducting virtual meetings, companies can avoid logistical hassles of making travel arrangements for attendees, delegating the participant’s work to other employee, and planning for a space to accommodate them. With virtual meetings, team leaders can be relieved of managing the planning and executing such meetings.
A virtual meeting is an event or a series of events where participants join in from multiple locations. In most situations, everyone participates in the proceedings at the same time via teleconference or video conference. In other cases, attendees’ log in from different time zones.
For small business owners, embracing virtual modes of communication works as a major cost-effective method to conduct various types of meetings, including webinars, training, and conferences. But, at the same time, you need to ensure that effective communication is not being traded for savings.
With the advent of new technology, a majority of business entities are replacing the need for entrepreneurs to meet employee(s) in person. The ease of adoption and convenience can add to the business’s productivity. At the same time, businesses need to be aware of the possible situations where virtual meeting can be helpful, knowing when and how to utilize this technology is vital.
The following five tips will help you conduct an effective virtual meeting:
1.Use Reliable High-Quality Connectivity System
It is not possible for everyone to make time to travel for a meeting. For instance, if you are hosting a meeting for potential clients from outstation, the attendees will be more comfortable attending the event online than booking for conveyance and accommodation for a traditional meeting.
For an uninterrupted virtual meeting, you would need impeccable internet connectivity and high-end hardware to support it. You don’t want your meeting to be disrupted in the midst of a crucial discussion, because you were using a poor-quality connection or faced equipment failure.
Technology needs to be easy to operate and accessible to all participants in the meeting. Simultaneous or even asynchronous methods of testing the devices 15 minutes prior to the meeting can help identify technical glitches and rectify them.
Go for some of the most reliable technologies that are used by numerous businesses for virtual conferences. Skype for Business, WebEx, Zoom, GroupMe and GoToMeeting are platforms that enable all members to access facilities like video calling, sharing documents, screen sharing, and group messaging, when actively participating in the meeting.
2.Opt for Video Transmission over Audio-Only
This is perhaps the most vital tip for hosting effective virtual meetings. There is no denying that video conferencing is more engaging and interactive than hosting a meeting over an audio-call. Not only does it allow you to receive the undivided attention of the attendees, you can also pick up nonverbal cues and facial expressions.
As the host of the virtual meeting, you will notice that video conferencing also encourages participants to actively partake in the discussion and resist replying to emails, check their messages, or otherwise multitask.
Even now, a host of people resist opting for video conferencing. The reasons to do so include reluctance to adopt new technology and unwillingness to pay extra for it. However, the cost of videoconferencing stands at minimal values thanks to technologies like Skype. This makes video calls better than teleconferences.
Video conferencing makes people feel more engaged because it allows team members to interact with others while looking at them, which immediately humanizes the room. If you haven’t already installed a video conferencing tool, you may want to check leading software like ClickMeeting, Join.me, Adobe Connect, and RingCentral.
3.Keep Attendees Engaged
You need to be creative in finding new ways to check in with participants and determine their level of engagement, interest and participation. The host needs to ensure that the time taken by him/her doesn’t outshine the contribution from others. Make it a practice to regularly seek input and feedback from all participants, individually and as a group. Doing so, will keep them interested in the discussion. Remove all visual distractions that may disrupt the flow of the meeting. As the host, you need to ensure the participants fully listen and pay attention to the group dynamic.
Assign different tasks to the participants present in the virtual meeting. Keep them engaged by assigning distinct tasks to different individuals. For instance, one person can be in charge of the whiteboard, another can make a note of the key points of discussion that will later be a part of the Minutes of the Meeting, while one or two of them can collate queries from the rest of the members. Involving more people in managing the functions of the meeting can also sustain the momentum of the discussion.
Intimating the members of the meeting in advance can be an effective alternate method to keeping your audience interested in the event. Send an email to them with points from the key agenda for the meeting and ask them to form their opinions on the said points. Discuss these points at the meeting only if you find people who want to comment on the topics. In this way, prerequisite knowledge will prepare participants to benefit from the meeting the most. They will be thinking ahead about the content, formulating new ideas or working in groups to objectively analyze the content.
In order to see positive results from this method, it has to be assumed that all participants are attending the meeting after pre-reading the content. Not doing so will not solve the purpose, and can be seen as disrespect to the other team members’ time. As the host of the virtual meeting, you need to set the tone of the meeting right and ensure that the pre-reading is completed in advance.
4.Avoid Frequent Usage of the Mute Function
Frequent usage of the mute button is a regular habit seen among people partaking in a video conference. It will definitely kill the mood of any virtual event, and can seem silly as the dead silence follows an open-ended question because people have their audio on mute.
The primary reason to use the mute function should be to cancel unwanted sounds from a noisy environment like a place with heavy commotion. But those instances should be treated like exceptions and not a regular practice. On a serious note, the mute function often projects that the members are present as audience and not as participants. This primarily inhibits the possibility of a spontaneous discussion.
As the host of a virtual meeting, set certain norms to be met by all participants. Some of these norms can be:
- You should not get up and walk around the room, unless it is unavoidable.
- You should not go on mute and have parallel conversations with your colleagues.
- You shouldn’t respond to emails when attending a meeting. This is disrespectful to the speaker, and can hamper the chances of striking a lively conversation.
5.Employ Measurement Tools to Determine the Effectiveness of the Meeting
Just like for any task at hand, using measurement techniques to analyze the effectiveness of a virtual meeting can help rectify problems and enhance overall productivity. As the leader, you must evaluate the results achieved, follow-up on pending action items, and draft better plans for future meetings.
An effective post-meeting assessment chiefly relies on the accuracy of the information and a comprehensive report on the topics discussed in the meeting. Four key parameters to assess the effectiveness of a meeting are meeting results, meeting process, level of participation, and the way forward.
Setting objectives for each meeting, discussing how to achieve them, and determining how to measure the effectiveness of the discussion are the key aspects that can help enhance the quality of the discussion in the meeting.
Here are a few questions to consider to understand how to devise a measurement tool for your meetings:
- Did the members discuss all objectives mentioned in the agenda and attain desired outcomes?
- Was the desired level of participation achieved?
- Did the use of advanced technology aid the meeting?
- Did participants demonstrate confidence and trust in the process and results?
- Are the participants keen on attending another meeting?
With a vast number of organizations adopting global business strategies, telecommuting and virtual meetings have become a daily fact of corporate life. Because of this, companies need to implement cost-effective ways to communicate and integrate various stakeholders of the company. Conducting effective virtual meetings can help them achieve this without spending profusely.