With more people using online tools and adopting a remote work lifestyle these days, any business can benefit more when they conduct online meetings rather than doing it through the usual workplace meetings. Advancements in technology and the growing cost-cutting measures will inevitably trigger the demand for more virtual meetings down the line especially for dispersed staff on a limited time and budget.
While business owners are now turning to virtual meetings as a cost-effective way to accomplish certain business goals, it is crucial to remember that team meetings should not be compromised for cost savings. To ensure that virtual meetings will be successful, here are 6 proven tips to help you manage them more effectively.
1. Prepare ahead of time
To produce the right outcome from your online meeting, you need to prepare well, provide a solid presentation and allow participants to engage actively. Here are important things you can prepare:
Assign the right moderator. If you’re not going to moderate the meeting, ensure that someone qualified will take over. The moderator should know how to steer everyone on track with the agenda and ensure that each one has the chance to comment, ask questions and present their ideas into the conversation. It’s a must for moderators to be familiar with the video conferencing software to be used for the online meeting. Although most video conferencing tools nowadays are very easy to use, you may still want everyone, including the moderator, to know how the tools work.
Prepare the right documents in advance. This helps you to foresee any potential obstacles and plan a strategy to resolve them so it’s easier manage as soon as they set in. Make sure that the agenda is emailed in advance to all participants involved. If you know that there will be some opposing ideas beforehand, prepare and distribute the reports early and try to get their agreement, even partially. In this way, you can eliminate some of the tough issues before starting the meeting. Aside from the agenda, it’s important to get a copy of your last minute’s meeting, as well.
2. Use the right tools for collaboration
Consider these things for your virtual meeting software:
- It should have the ability to host all types of interaction from the participants, whether they want to do presentations, discuss, ask, share and edit files in real time
- It has features that can save, archive, recycle the same meeting output and share them across different teams so that everyone can get feedback and assess the client’s requirements.
- It must be compatible with all popular browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
- It allows you to host presentations, do product demos, and business contract reviews together with your client
- It provide intuitive remote screen control to encourage engagement from the audience. The desktop sharing options should allow teams to discuss over documents, project proposal reports, presentations and others.
Some examples of online meeting software that you can try for your business:
- Cisco WebEx. One of the widely used and the earliest in the market, Cisco WebEx is super easy and flexible to use. Once you integrate their plugin on your desktop, you can now host or participate meetings, remotely share screens, and chat with some people in the audience. You can also create an appointment, initiate a virtual meeting, email attendees, and confirm your attendance via tablet or smartphone. Depending on your budget and goals, WebEx offers different subscription packages customized for individuals or business organizations.
- Google+ Hangouts. Hangouts will leave you extremely impressed because it’s free to use, all you need is a Google profile, internet connection, webcam and microphone. You can host meetings with others, take free voice calls with just one tap using your Android or iOS device, share documents through Google Docs and see each others’ videos in HD.
- Join.me. Created by the people behind LogMeIn, Join.me is a simple online meeting service that helps different teams within the organization to easily collaborate with one another and be more productive with their time. It has the ability to to bring more than 25 remote participants together in the same virtual environment, share screen, send documents, and chat with the members. You can also keep records of meetings and refer to them anytime through their secure cloud storage.
- Skype. Skype is not only a great tool to message or call your friends or family members for free, you can also use this to collaborate and initiate a virtual meeting with your colleagues at work. Use it to initiate a group video or audio calls with up to 25 people at a time. Skype for Business is their premium solution for enterprise accounts that frequently collaborate. It allows you to pre-schedule meetings in Outlook, and share files and presentations through Microsoft Word and Powerpoint.
3. Choose a professional and quiet environment
Virtual meetings allow remote participants to join without the need to travel and meet in a physical room. However, this setup does not mean that you should also compromise the location because it still does matter. Nothing spoils the mood than hearing distractions like dogs barking, toilet bowl flushing, noise from restaurants, road traffic, or children playing in the background. Show respect and professionalism to your fellow attendees by bringing your laptop to a quiet place conducive for an online meeting.
4. Show proper etiquette
For virtual meetings to be successful, ensure that you give your undivided attention to other attendees as you would if you were in an actual board room. While the meeting is ongoing, avoid checking your emails, surfing online, texting, or worse, making side conversations. Never eat or drink to prepare yourself for any questions directed at you. Wear appropriate outfit whenever you join online meetings.
Always assume that as soon as you go online, microphones in the other location is already live. This prevents any pre-meeting discussion from being aired.
Since there is a 2-3 second communication delay between systems, maintain a slower place. If you’re hosting the meeting, ensure that there’s a few seconds to pause after asking a question.
For participants who want to address the group, use a signal to comment or question and wait for a few seconds before proceeding. Don’t shout and interrupt the speaker when they’re talking.
Everyone must make eye contact on their camera to make the interaction more genuine. Avoid making unnecessary movements or sounds (don’t wear noisy accessories and turn off other mobile devices nearby) that may distract others. When it’s your turn to speak, speak in a clear voice and always anticipate questions or feedback from other participants.
5. Provide a powerful presentation
Keep in mind that you’re not there simply to sit down and watch while the meeting happens. You have an important role in the meeting. There will be times when you’ll be asked to make a short presentation. In that case, ask your team beforehand on what to present if you don’t know exactly what you need to do. Stick to the overall meeting agenda to meet your intended outcome.
When you speak, be confident and clearly state your main points before elaborating on each one. Keep it short and simple because nobody has the time to listen to someone talk incessantly.
This is your time to shine, so maintain that positive energy and be in control of the environment. Before closing your presentation, it’s important to tell others what you want them to do.
Don’t be anxious when your attention is called to answer a question. It’s only normal to be asked if the question is within your field of expertise, so consider it as a chance to clarify things. Your response should start out strongly with a concise and relevant answer and explanation.
Write down questions as you hear them to help refresh your memory when needed. If the question is confusing, ask back to clarify. But if you really don’t know the answer, save everyone the trouble by saying so, and offer to answer them at a later time or refer someone more informed on that matter.
6. Keep the participants engaged
Since you won’t be meeting each other face-to-face, it’s best to build that relationship within your team by “breaking the ice” before jumping right into your tasks. Start off by asking each one to introduce themselves, and what they are looking forward to doing on the weekend or anything that will simulate personal interaction.
Other ways to stimulate engagement from the participants is to ask them to submit their questions prior to starting the meeting, create a poll or ask questions for them to answer. When you ask questions frequently, this helps to bring a personal connection among remote participants. However, to ensure that people don’t talk at once, direct a specific question to a specific person.
Go over these tips and create a solid strategy before starting an online meeting. The key here is to prepare well to help everyone be more productive in virtual meetings and successfully achieve its intended objectives.
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