Virtual Meetings promise increased efficiencies, increased collaboration, and reduced costs. Yet, for many, that hasn’t happened – they haven’t found the key to an effective virtual meeting. Instead, virtual meetings have become a quagmire where decisions are not made. Meetings struggle to get traction because people don’t engage. In this article, I will share with you seven tips that will help you unlock the potential of virtual meetings. These tips will help you reduce your costs, increase collaboration with your staff and clients, and get the efficiencies you’re chasing.
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Effective Online Meeting Tip 1 – Meeting or Broadcast?
The first tip with Virtual Meetings is to know whether you are holding a virtual meeting or conducting a virtual broadcast. This is an important differentiation. If you want people to actively engage and participate in the discussion during your meeting, then you need to hold an online meeting. However, if you are looking to conduct a Town Hall style broadcast where you want to communicate information with limited interaction, maybe questions and answers during the course of the session, then you want to hold a webinar. This is an important distinction. If you try and hold a broadcast style session as an online meeting, people will be talking over one another. Your ability as a host to communicate the information would be severely impeded and attendees will get frustrated.
So make sure first you understand whether or not you are holding an online meeting or whether you are holding an online broadcast, and set your event up accordingly. If it involves discussion and interaction, it’s an online meeting. If it’s a broadcast of information with limited interaction, it is a webinar or an online broadcast.
Effective Online Meeting Tip 2 – Can they see and hear you?
The Second tip to help you get you more effective virtual meetings is to make sure that everyone can see you, hear you, and view the presentation. When you have set up your online meeting or online webinar, ensure that people firstly can get access to it. And then ensure that you have set up so that you are screen sharing your video and people can interact according to how you want them to interact.
Ideally, you do this in two steps. Before the event many of the professional webinar and online meeting tools have the ability to give participants the opportunity to test their connectivity and access. Ask attendees to test that they can access the online meeting room. This is especially important if you are using an online meeting with clients. But even with your internal teams, make sure that everyone knows how to access the event.
At the start of your event, before you pushing into your content, confirm that everyone can see your screen, if you’re sharing your screen. They can see your video and importantly they can hear you.
Utilise all of the tools that are available in the meeting online meeting tool that you’re using. Whether it’s Webex, GotoWebinar, Zoom Meetings, make sure that everyone can access your event, see and hear what you want them to.
Effective Online Meeting Tip 3 – Know how to use the tool
My next tip for an effective online meeting is to know how to use the features of your online meeting tool. All of the online meeting tools, come with a range of features such as screen sharing and sharing your webcam, audience polling capabilities, document distribution, chat boxes, Q & A boxes, and the ability to connect your iPad, so that you can do some form of white boarding and diagramming.
You need to know how to use these features so that you can run an effective and professional virtual meeting to get the outcomes that you’re chasing. If you don’t know how to use these tools and you are fumbling during the course of your meeting, you’re going to create frustration. You’re also chew into valuable time where you have everyone’s attention, while you “learn” the tool. This impedes your ability to get the decision and get the results that you’re looking for from your online meetings.
So, make sure that you know how to use the features of the tool. Can you swap presenters easily? Can you share documents? Do you know how to direct people to interact with you? Can you do effective white boarding using the tool? Make sure that you know how to exploit all of the capabilities to get the most out of your virtual meeting.
Effective Online Meeting Tip 4 – Get a Wingman
There are so many tools. So many capabilities within any online meeting tool, that it’s hard for one person to be the presenter, the meeting host, and to manage the actual tooling itself. For example switching between presenters to ensure that the screen is showing exactly what you want it to show at any particularly point and time.
So my next tip for you is don’t be afraid to get some help. Bring in a wing-man or a wing-woman to be your assistant for your virtual meeting. They can look after the tooling. They can handle the Q and A box. They can manage the “features” for you and let you know when there are questions to answer. They can help you switch between presenters and distribute hand-outs virtually to all of the attendees.
So, don’t be afraid to get some assistance, and bring in a wing man or wing woman to sit next to you to be a part of the virtual meeting to help administer the tooling and make your virtual meeting a success.
Effective Online Meeting Tip 5 – Remove Distractions
A big tip is to eliminate the distractions. Distractions can be background noise and they can be background images. Especially if you are looking to incorporate a video stream of yourself and your participants in your virtual meeting. You need to be aware and your participants need to be aware of what the background is showing behind them.
You will want to ensure that you’re not in a common thoroughfare where there is lots of people walking back and forth. This will create distractions. Similarly, you want to make sure you’re in a quiet place so that people can hear you and as a meeting attendee that you are not creating a lot of distracting audio onto the meeting itself.
Make sure that you ask your participants of your meeting to find an appropriate location that will eliminate distractions as much as possible. And, for you as the meeting host, make sure that you have done all that you can to eliminate the distractions on a video feed and from a sound point of view.
Remember to shut down other applications that you’re running on your computer so that you don’t, for example, have an email pop up half way through the meeting that you don’t want everyone in the world to see. Do all that you can to eliminate potential distractions and avoid things being “seen” that you don’t want others viewing.
Effective Online Meeting Tip 6 – Interesting Slides
Power Point has been a problem in many meetings. Now this isn’t a dig at Power Point, this is a dig at the people who use Power Point. Unfortunately, Power Point’s deficiencies get magnified in a virtual meeting. In an in-person setting, you have the power and presence of delivery to alleviate some of the challenges that come with poor Power Point presentations. In a virtual setting, the ability to keep your audience’s attention through delivery alone is diminished significantly.
You need to be conscious when you are preparing your Power Point presentation for a virtual meeting to make sure your presentation. This means that you don’t have any animation. Animations look cheesy at the best of time, but it is significantly worse in a virtual meeting setting, where that animation can “jutter” across the screen in a very slow refresh and create a very poor reflection on you and your efforts in a virtual setting.
Also, make sure that your Power Point is not text heavy. There should not be too many bullet points on a screen. They should be minimal. Remember that in a virtual meeting people will be engaged mostly by what’s on the screen. So, you need to keep your screen engaging. This means a minimal amount of text and more images to keep people interested. If you don’t, their attention will be focused elsewhere.
A virtual meeting and a virtual presentation is competing with their attention for reading the news online, checking emails, and for doing other things. It is very easy for people to switch to do other activities while they’re attending a virtual meeting. So make sure that you have an engaging Power Point. So make sure there are plenty of images. Keep text to a minimum and avoid animation completely.
Effective Online Meeting Tip 7 – Ears, Eyes, and Fingers
Coupled with my previous tip, is the fact that your virtual meeting delivery skills need to be really polished. What do I mean? You need to think about three things. You need to consider how you can keep your attendees interested aurally. In other words, the ears. How can you keep them engaged with their eyes. And, finally, how you can keep their fingers engaged.
This is what will get their attention and maintain their interest and participation in your meeting.
We’ve touched a little about Power Point slides and keeping them graphically pleasing. In other words, plenty of images, minimal amount of text. That is how you will keep their eyes engaged. You have to move through your slides at a faster rate. I recommend a ratio of one slide per minute. So, if you want to deliver a presentation that’s 45 minutes, guess what? That’s 45 slides that you need to be preparing – at a minimum.
You then need to keep their ears engaged. This means you got to use your vocal skills appropriately. Have plenty of variety. Remember you’re almost a radio presenter in a virtual meeting. So, keep your vocal skills varied, use your rate, your pitch, your tone, to keep your audiences engaged.
You also need to be asking your audience members questions on a regular basis. These can be rhetorical questions, but they will be enough to get your meeting attendees participating and thinking about how they might answer those questions. At different points, ask them questions and expect them to either verbally engage or potentially type in a response in the chat box. So in other words – use their fingers to type a response.
When you keep your attendees engaged, with their ears, their eyes and their fingers, you’re going to get a much greater participation rate in your virtual meetings and that will provide the success that you are chasing.
Virtual meetings can be very productive. They can unlock the efficiencies, reduce the costs and get the success that you’re chasing when they are done properly. When you get your staff, when you get your clients, effectively participating in a virtual meeting, the positive outcomes that you are chasing will happen with the reduced costs that are associated with virtual settings.
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If you want more help and assistance running virtual meetings, setting them up and getting them the Best Practises employed in your organisation to help you work with clients, and work with your staff who may be disparate in utilising virtual meetings, then why not contact me and I will help you get those virtual meeting presentation and delivery skills set up, so that you and your staff can start to exploit the benefits of meeting in a virtual setting.