Virtual meetings are real-time interactions that take place over the internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing. They offer a way to engage students in fully interactive online learning experiences such as lectures, discussions, and tutoring. Business owners are also embracing virtual meetings as a cost-effective method to achieve a myriad of goals; webinars, training, and conferences. Below are steps to help you conduct a productive virtual meeting:
Before launching into execution mode, assess the needs you have for conducting the meeting. A needs list comes in handy when you are deciding the platform to use to launch the meeting. Decide if you want to have a video option or simply an audio option. It is possible that you do not need any audio options at all, but simply need a way to visually share information at the meeting.
Choose a Platform
You can narrow down the options available for hosting the meeting using the list of needs you have created. Choose the platform that meets all or the majority of your needs. Some sample platforms include:
1. WebEx: WebEx provides a platform where participants can come together using various forms of interaction. The WebEx platform tends to work for meetings where presentation slides, documents, files and handouts need to be shared among the attendees. WebEx also offers an audio component so the host can talk and lead the attendees through the meeting. A chat option is available as well so that attendees can interact with each other via chat while in the “meeting room”.
2. GoToMeeting: The features range from video and audio options to chat, email and instant messaging. GoToMeeting has the option to record and playback the audio portion of the meeting for future reference or to share with attendees that were unable to attend the live meeting.
3. Google Hangout: Google Hangout combines a video and audio option along with Google Docs sharing. Google Hangout also allows you to create an audio-only version of your meeting, so you and the other participants do not have to use the webcam for a video component. Domestic calls are free through Google Hangout, but there is a charge for International calls.
Inform the Participants
Send the agenda ahead of time, create visuals to reinforce your message and forward them to everyone before the meeting, invite the members of each team who need to be involved. Also, make sure to send log-in information (access codes, URLs, and call-in numbers) at least a day in advance so that participants can test for any software downloads needed. You may also want to ask participants to log in at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting to test connectivity. You wouldn’t want the meeting being disrupted half way through.
Start and Focus
Start the meeting and endeavour to keep the focus on one or two topics. If you must cover more items, then give people time to stretch, take a bathroom break, or replenish their coffee. Try to keep each segment of the meeting short – not longer than 30 minutes. This will reduce fatigue and keep the participants focused longer.
The 7 Do’s of Virtual Meetings
1. Be courteous to other participants.
2. Speak clearly.
3. Keep body movements minimal.
4. Move and make gestures slowly and naturally.
5. Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera.
6. Dress appropriately.
7. Stay focused during the meeting.
The 7 Don’ts of Virtual Meetings
1. Don’t make distracting sounds.
2. Don’t shout.
3. Don’t make distracting movements.
4. Don’t interrupt other speakers.
5. Don’t carry on side conversations.
6. Don’t wear “noisy” jewelry.
7. Don’t cover the microphone.
Virtual meetings aren’t ideal for every situation, so knowing when and how to utilize this technology is vital. When used appropriately, it is the cost effective and flexible tool you need to increase your business’ productivity.
About the Writer: Ejura Salihu is a freelance Writer and Copyeditor. Connect with her on twitter @Icyquin_msc