Many organizations are now holding some of their meetings with attendees joining in remotely, using conference services and web meeting software. These virtual meetings save time and travel costs. They can be an environment-friendly alternative to face time. And they reduce the number of commuters stuck in traffic. Modern technology makes virtual meetings feasible, but virtual gatherings pose their own challenges. Through a series of four blog posts we will provide you with tips on how to plan and conduct virtual meetings that will meet your objectives.
Making the Decision to go Virtual
If you’ve ever conducted a virtual meeting, you’ll know that some people will love them, some will like them, some will tolerate them and some will hope that this fad will just fade away. We can assure you that you’ll convert many people to this meeting method after you’ve run your first successful meeting. They’ll love not having to travel and they’ll find that many of their concerns about participating remotely are allayed. And yet your first virtual meeting is the one where you’re most likely to experience glitches as you work out everything from technology, to facilitation, to group decision making.
One of the keys to success is planning (the topic for our next blog in the series). With good planning you’ll minimize the problems so that your attendees’ first virtual meeting experience is a good one.
Once you’ve decided to hold virtual meetings, you’ll need to decide which meetings are most suited to be conducted virtually. Few organizations choose to hold all of their meetings virtually. A combination of face-to-face and virtual meetings throughout the year is often the best approach. Virtual meetings are especially good for meetings where:
- The agenda can be covered in less than one hour
- Members already know each other
- Topics and discussions are not contentious or heated.
Choosing a Web Meeting Service
You’ll want to research different web meeting services to determine which one best meets your needs. Many options are available. Some of the most common are WebEx, Go-To-Meeting and Adobe Connect. All of these services provide you with the ability to share images and documents, chat via text, and use a variety of notifications such as raise hand, speak louder, etc. It’s best to try out a few to see which one best meets your specific needs.
Most of these services offer Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) where conversation can be shared through computer microphones and speakers. We have found, however, that using a conference call service for audio instead of or in addition to VOIP provides real advantages. The main benefit is that if people lose their web connection to something as simple as a lost Wi-Fi connection, they can still participate in your meeting over the phone.
We’d love to know if you’re running some of your meetings virtually and what success you’re having. Just post a comment and let us know.
Stay tuned for Part Two: How to prepare for a productive virtual meeting
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