Virtual meetings have been gaining momentum for years now, but it’s only been over the past few months we’ve really come to appreciate their value. However, with business travel way down and remote work becoming an indefinite prospect for many, virtual meetings are here to stay. Here’s why virtual meetings have taken such a stronghold in our imaginations – and how to make the most of them.
News From Afar: Benefits of Virtual Meetings
Sure, face-to-face can be hard to beat in some respects. There’s the easy chitchat, the ability to gauge reactions and course-correct accordingly, and of course, the coffee and snacks. But there are plenty of areas in which virtual meetings come out ahead.
Easy scheduling. When you don’t need to account for commuting or set-up times, it’s far easier to arrange a meeting time that suits everyone. Virtual meetings also make it simple for people to log on and off as needed, and without the awkward shuffle involved in doing the same in person.
Instant room availability. Since each participant is logging on from the comfort of their own workspace, there’s no need to hunt around for (or pay for) an available conference room. You just set the time, and off you go!
Screen-sharing. Virtual meetings make presentations a breeze. Rather than fretting about whether the people at the back of the room can see what’s on your Powerpoint, you can easily share your screen with them. Whether it’s a traditional presentation, work-in-progress, vision board or a site link, sharing media just got easy.
Reduced carbon footprint. Business travel is a top source of carbon emissions for many companies. Virtual meetings cut back on the need for flights, taxis, hotels, and even printed notes and handouts, dramatically reducing your company’s carbon footprint.
Improved meeting logs. A dedicated minutes-taker can be a great help. But virtual meetings can take note-taking to the next level. Both audio and video can be recorded, and even auto-transcribed, and chat logs and shared media can be easily downloaded and shared. Files from events and presentations can also be uploaded and shared to your social channels for greater reach.
Try This One Weird Trick: Tips For Effective Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings can be a game-changer, but they do take some getting used to. If your virtual meetings are characterized by awkward sign-offs and last-minute tech troubleshooting, try these steps:
Make them video optional. For presentations or events, it makes sense to have the camera rolling. But for quick check-ins or brainstorming sessions, let your employees hide behind their Zoom avatar. People working from home in less-than-optimal work environments don’t necessarily need their life scrutinized by colleagues or clients.
Try out your tech beforehand. If you’re going to be using a new platform or trying out new-to-you features, don’t wait until your meeting is underway to test them out. Browse the program’s support documentation ahead of time, and enlist a friend or coworker to help you do a trial run. Similarly, log on early before any meeting or presentation to ensure all presenters’ microphones and cameras are working.
Prepare an agenda. Just like an in-person meeting, things will go much more smoothly if you outline an agenda and goals at the beginning of the meeting, and assign roles to various participants. Keep things on track and succinct, and your meeting will be a winner.
Be mindful of time zones. The simplicity of virtual meetings makes it tempting to arrange an event for whenever best suits you. But remember that coworkers or clients might be signing on early in the morning, late at night, or during dinnertime with their family. Try to keep things within business hours where possible.
Get real-time feedback. You may find that your participants “go silent” during your virtual meeting. Avoid this situation by explicitly asking for feedback and input throughout, and by making it clear up-front that you’ll be doing so. This will help you avoid the feeling that you’re talking into a void.
Virtual meetings will never replace face-to-face meetings entirely, but they’re an affordable, convenient, and accessible complement to them, especially in a context where the majority of us are working remotely. Keep the tips above in mind, and your virtual meetings will quickly become something everyone on your team looks forward to!