It’s never a bad time to brush up on some virtual meeting tips. These days, you’re probably spending more time than ever in virtual and remote meetings. Whether you’re presenting to a large group on a video call or you’re planning a collaborative brainstorming session with colleagues in different states and time zones, there’s nothing more frustrating than running into complications along the way.
Today, we’re going to walk you through the basics of virtual meetings: what they are, their benefits and drawbacks, and our favorite tips and tricks for hosting and attending a successful meeting online. We’ll also get into the specifics of how hosts and managers can optimize their team’s involvement and attendance and how employees and collaborators can best engage and participate in the virtual world.
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What Is a Virtual Meeting?
A virtual meeting is any meeting that takes place online, that is, not in-person. This can be over video, audio, chat or some combination of those three. The big distinction in terms of what types of virtual meetings you might attend will be whether or not video is involved (more on this later).
What Are the Benefits of a Virtual Meeting?
Whether audio or video, you’ve probably already been to your fair share of virtual meetings. Increasingly, companies are opting for entirely remote or hybrid in-person and remote, working models. Many companies span the country and even the globe and workplace teams are no longer made up of the people working in the cubicles immediately to your left and right.
Here are some of the benefits of meeting your team remotely:
1. Zero Travel Time for Participants
Traffic and transit have no sway in the virtual world. If no one has to commute to the office in rush hour, then no one runs the risk of being late for that 9:00 AM daily stand-up.
2. Makes Out-of-Towners More Accessible
If you have clients out of town or even across the country, then virtual meetings will make communicating with them that much easier. Check in over video for a true face-to-face feeling.
3. Cuts Down on the Water-Cooler Talk
We’ve all been in a meeting that gets derailed before its even off the ground. Virtual hosts and team leads can set expectations from the start that participants should mute their mics unless they’re contributing directly to the conversation. Goodbye cross talk.
4. Fewer Overhead Expenses
Say goodbye to commercial rents, high utilities and swanky board room furniture and fixtures. Business owners will love what going virtual does to their bottom line. Making sure your team is equipped with the best virtual meeting tech will go far if you want to bring down costs related to your footprint.
5. The Ability to Record Everything for Later Reference
Gone are the days of arduous meeting minutes. Simply record your video call and capture everything your team covers.
6. Promotes Time Efficiency
Most virtual meetings run between 15 to 45 minutes. This is the perfect amount of time to keep participants on-task, interested and reduce the likelihood of wandering interest.
7. Attend From Anywhere
Working from a cafe? At the lake house for a few days? As long as you have a stable, fast internet connection, you can attend or host a virtual meeting.
What Is the Problem With Virtual Meetings?
While the benefits of virtual meetings tend to outweigh the negatives, if you’re new to virtual meetings and want to introduce them in your workplace, there are some things you’ll want to look out for. All of these issues can be sorted out with the right tech, online etiquette code and scheduling tools like calendars.
Here are some things you’ll want to be aware of when meeting your team online:
1. Poor Internet Connections
It’s pretty frustrating to try and communicate while someone is cutting in and out or if their video keeps freezing. That’s why a solid, stable connection is a prerequisite for all virtual participants.
2. Background Noise
With working from home, employees aren’t always joining meetings under the most ideal conditions. Whether the dog starts barking at the mailman or a fire truck races down the street, background noise can be distracting for you plus anyone on the other end of your mic.
3. Scheduling Hiccups
From time zone issues to plain old “I forgot” without the right system in place syncing everyone’s calendars efficiently, you’ll find pretty quickly that scheduling can become onerous with virtual meetings.
4. Participation Challenges
Not everyone feels confident over the phone or video and it can feel harder to jump in with a crucial point when you’re worried about cutting someone else off. There are some cues that people are better picking up on in-person, like body language, that you lose in the virtual world.
What Are Some Virtual Meeting Tips?
As you can tell by the size of our pro and con lists, the benefits of virtual meetings outweigh the drawbacks. And luckily, the factors mentioned above that could complicate your remote meetings are easily remedied.
We have tips for internet connectivity, addressing background noise, using tools that sync across time zones and prioritizing organization. Our virtual meeting tips are perfect for everyone involved in a remote team, whether you’re an attendee or a host. Share these tips with your team for a seamless online experience and make your virtual meetings more effective.
1. Check Your Internet Connection Before You Go Online
You’ll want to confirm, well in advance of making the jump online, that everyone on your team has access to a reliable, stable internet connection. There are a number of ways you can confirm this and the simplest place to start is to have everyone perform a speed test to check the states on their download and upload speeds.
The minimum speed requirements for video calls to run smoothly is eight Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload. This isn’t very high, but keep in mind, the more you want to do on video (screen share, collaborate on documents, annotate on files) the better the internet connection everyone on your call is going to need.
A quick fix, if someone is cutting in and out in a meeting or if their video is buffering, is as simple as the participant turning off their video. This isn’t the most ideal option, but audio alone requires less bandwidth than audio with video and is a simple short-term solution.
While the vast majority of employees who work at home pay for their own internet, to attract the best talent and to ensure the most efficient meetings, companies who go remote might consider folding that monthly internet charge into a lifestyle benefits package. High-quality internet will make all the difference in your team’s ability to communicate seamlessly online.
2. Brush Up on Your Audio and Video Etiquette
As with in-person meetings, there are a few crucial things you can do to make sure your presence in the virtual boardroom is professional, polished and isn’t a source of distraction.
We’ve already mentioned how unmuted microphones can derail a productive conversation. Some of us live in busier neighborhoods or share space at home with other family members who might be on their own virtual calls related to work or school. Using the mute function is a simple way to avoid background noise and make sure the only thing you’re contributing to the audio component of the meeting is your insight and expertise.
While it doesn’t come up as often as audio etiquette, video etiquette in virtual meetings is just as important. Putting a little effort into your video setup will do wonders for keeping meeting participants rapt with attention when it’s your turn to speak. This is especially important for those who lead meetings and act as facilitators.
Set yourself up against light background and consider adding little touches to enhance your space, like shelves with plants or simple, small pieces of artwork. Avoid busy accent walls or the family kitchen corkboard, as these will only distract your colleagues. Quality lighting is one of the easiest ways to look good on camera and only takes a few simple tricks to accomplish. Find an area where the light source is straight-on and facing you. Natural light is always going to have the best effect but you can also pop an LED bulb into your desk light for light that diffuses evenly. Improving the quality of your lighting will help you stand out on calls and contribute to an overall professional look and feel.
3. Find a Scheduling Solution That Works for Your Team
Whether your team uses Google Suite or Outlook, there are any number of ways you can integrate virtual meetings into your shared calendars. Any quality remote meeting platform will have an “add to calendar” function so attendees can seamlessly place it in their queue. Built-in reminders at five- or 10-minute intervals before the meeting start time will keep attendance high and participants on time.
If your team spans multiple time zones, this is an area you’ll want to be particularly focused on. Take the time to ensure that everyone’s calendars are syncing up correctly. One way to ensure this is to run test bookings and confirm that meetings are showing up in participants’ calendars correctly.
4. Use an Agenda and Designate a Facilitator
While in the past some corporate cultures would opt for relaxed structures for their in-person meetings, virtual meetings require more attention. Create a meeting agenda and circulate it to the team beforehand to ensure that everyone can follow along and know what’s required of them and when. A clear set of expectations will keep everyone on task and prevent confusion.
Designating a facilitator to run the agenda will also help things run smoothly. A skilled moderator will be able to include everyone on the call and encourage participation and discussion in the right moments.
And as mentioned earlier, many virtual meeting providers allow you to record video and audio. This makes referencing back to something that was said or discussed a breeze.
How to Host a Virtual Meeting
Before you jump online, run through this checklist and make sure you and your team are ready to go.
- Did the event show up in your organization’s calendar?
- Did you set a reminder five to 10 minutes before the event starts?
- Did you share the agenda with the team in advance?
- Did you designate a facilitator?
- Do the participants who are presenting know what is expected of them?
- Did you check your internet connection?
- Did you test your mic/camera?
How to Attend a Virtual Meeting
As with hosting, there are a few housekeeping items virtual attendees can run through before they join a meeting.
- Are you joining from a quiet, distraction-free place?
- Did you receive a link to the agenda? Did you review the agenda?
- Are you presenting? Are you prepared?
- How’s your internet connection?
- Did you test your mic/camera?
Choosing a Virtual Meeting Provider
Now that you’ve got all our top tips for meeting virtually, it’s time to consider what to look for in a remote meeting provider.
Every team is different and every business has its own needs. Make sure that you’re clear with prospective providers on what communications elements are important to you. Is video vital to your operation? Is audio your focus? How many participants do you plan on having a call at one time? For example, a meeting provider like Talkroute supports up to 100 internal and external meeting participants.
An important consideration is the size of your company and whether or not you plan to scale. Choosing a robust system that can grow with your business will give you peace of mind. No one wants to be worrying about counting licenses to software when your company is in an exciting expansion phase. You should never feel inhibited by the technology that is meant to help you grow.
Find a provider that is known for its ease of use, quality design and strong customer support. As with any tech issues, virtual meeting services will take some setup and getting used to. Make sure that you pick a provider that’s committed to you using their service successfully.
If being able to take a virtual call from anywhere is important to your line of work, then choose a provider that has desktop and mobile applications. And of course, make sure that the pricing is fair and competitive and has enterprise options if you’re looking for a custom solution.
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