The entire understanding of the business world and the office work changed overnight, with the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. The changes that took place approximately a year ago look like a new normal today. Entrepreneurs and companies should keep to social distancing, and, in many cases, self-isolation measures, introduced by the government, to prevent the spread of the infection. Many teams haven’t managed to return to the previous working schedules, while physical contacts are limited or even avoided. Thus, business proprietors and team leads face the challenge regarding how they can motivate and unite employees despite being physically apart. They also have to create an environment that will keep all of its parts united, and the performance – a satisfactory one. In order to retain the right business image and enable people to collaborate effectively, regardless of the distance, that separates them, virtual meetings are widely used.
The concept of the virtual meeting
With the latest videoconferencing facilities, it has become significantly easier to host meetings online and invite participants worldwide. Virtual meetings are often used instead of face-to-face ones, as they are quick to arrange, as well as relatively inexpensive. The most important people related to your business can join the conversation wherever they are based. In other words, the virtual meeting doesn’t have a precise physical location, as it occurs online and unites lots of attendees, each of which works from a different place with the Internet connection, of course.
Although being rather popular among freelancers and entrepreneurs, home-based offices can not ensure business recognition and competitiveness to the fullest. Very often, in order to retain a professional company’s image, the business proprietors are looking for a virtual office for rent. This office solution, among the other amenities and services, often boasts video conferencing facilities that makes it significantly easier to officially run a meeting from a renowned and respectable commercial address.
The term “virtual meeting” relates both – to an ordinary audio-conversation and the one that is conducted with the help of video-cameras. The latter example is more common nowadays, as, since the outbreak of the pandemic, platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts have become exceptionally popular among entrepreneurs and employees.
Initially, they said that the absence of physical presence during the meeting could create some barriers or troubles related to the natural communication between the participants. Still, for no-way-out, the usage of online meeting platforms has become so common that people have found lots of benefits in “running business talks” virtually. Virtual meetings can be as effective and productive as personal ones, yet, to gain success, the organisers have to plan the meetings in detail, as there are many things needed to be taken into consideration.
How to make a virtual meeting effective
When attending a virtual meeting, a participant pays attention to a variety of details, and, as a result, can define whether this or that conversation was a success or vice versa. If you are not a participant, but a planner, you are hardly given room for error. Engaging your audience online requires a profound understanding of the meeting’s entire purpose and the result you are looking for.
Virtual meetings planning and running requires a different approach from leading the personal one. When looking for the best results from the conducted virtual meeting, planners have to build certain strategies that will help them cover all the necessary sides and issues of this process. Still, there are some common things that make a virtual meeting meaningful and effective in the majority of cases.
- Plan the agenda carefully
Actually, in the process of planning a virtual meeting, you will probably need each of the participants to be maximally concentrated and attentive. Preparing the agenda helps a lot to present the content, aims, and purposes of the meeting in a convenient and understandable manner. Depending on the type of participation of attendees you need, there is the possibility to plan the verbal and non-verbal interaction, preparing the virtual floor segments beforehand. The agenda is usually used as a guideline for a specific meeting, so, even if you don’t stick to it completely, you will always have a plan of the meeting in front of your eyes, so, you can be sure that nothing important is omitted. It would be great to send copies of this agenda to each person who will be present at the discussion.
- Choose the best devices and tech facilities
After the issues with the agenda are completed, it will be right to consider and choose the most suitable online platform for your planned meeting. For instance, a quick “check-in” may require one tool, while the discussion that is to involve many participants, a brainstorming session, or a decision-making process requires an entirely different platform. Some of the most popular software instruments that ensure the possibilities to “meet” in the virtual world are Skype, Zoom, Citrix GoTo Meeting, Cisco WebEx, Google Hangouts, etc. The right choice of the online platform for conducting a meeting is not a hundred per cent proof that the meeting will run smoothly. It is also necessary to make effective use of technologies. Here we speak about the stability of the Internet connection(if possible, it is better to use a wired connection than wireless), the satisfactory condition of gadgets, etc. It is better to check how everything works before you launch a programme and start a meeting. As an organiser of the conference, you have to feel comfortable with all the tech, software, and programme tools you use.
- Prepare the participants and keep them focused
Attentive attendees are at a premium when it comes to predicting the final outcome of this or that meeting. It is extremely difficult in a modern busy business world to get involved in one process to the fullest and forget about the other things at least for half an hour. That’s why it is indeed essential to get people engaged and invested before they join the virtual meeting. To reach the required result, it would be great to communicate with your business guests beforehand, prepare the answers to their possible questions, or predict the possible comments to the initially planned agenda. When the meeting starts, try your best not to waste time on long introductions, and unnecessary talks. By jumping right into the content, you not only achieve better results but also show respect for people’s time.
Still, people are only people. It means that upon some circumstances, they may lose focus on the topic of the conversation and become inattentive. To avoid distractions during the meeting, the experts recommend planners to inject some kind of interactive activity roughly every 10 to 15 minutes.
What does it mean? In order to gain the participants’ trust and make each attendee feel comfortable about virtual communication, it would be advisory to think about the safety of the virtual environment. The key feature to keep online meetings safe and secure is the use of passwords, recording the conversation to save all the data discussed in the process of the event, etc. Here, it is extremely important for each participant to understand the issue of confidentiality. Sharing meeting links and passwords with only those people whom you plan to invite is a way towards avoiding the leak of important information.
Over the last decade, the number of virtual meetings has increased dramatically, from the occasional conference call to a situation where many project managers spend a large proportion of their time on conference calls and other virtual meetings. The increase in the popularity of the virtual meeting was driven by several important factors, such as the development of the VOIP telephony, telecommuting, freelancing, etc. The external environmental factors, like, for instance, pandemic outbreaks, natural catastrophes, etc. can also impact the growth of interest for the virtual workspace per se or flexible meeting schedules. When working with virtual meetings, many different variables come into play that the project manager must be aware of. And, although, many virtual meetings are frustrating and ineffective, a little thought and preparation can turn them into a great success.
Author bio: Olivia Martinez has been working as a Content Writer at MatchOffice. She is a professional writing expert on such topics as business, real estate, digital marketing. She also likes traveling and speaks German and French.