What are virtual meetings?
A virtual meeting is when people from around the world, regardless of their location, use video, audio and text in order meet together online.
Virtual meetings allow people to share information, experiences and data in real-time without the need for being physically located in the same room together. Virtual meetings often use video teleconference (VTC) software, such as Microsoft’s Skype or Teams, Adobe’s Connect or Zoom, just to name a few.
Taking meetings virtually has been steadily gaining in popularity in recent years (and even more so in recent months due to social distancing requirements) with many businesses choosing to become more digital.
They are designed to replace in-person meetings, so that employees don’t have to travel to a specific location in order to attend them. Instead, they can simply dial in from wherever they are based.
In particular, this way of meeting is beneficial to companies who are also choosing to embrace the rise of remote working in their strategies, allowing more employees to work independent of being at the office. Virtual meetings allow all employees to be included in important discussions regardless of where they are based, which greatly increases business inclusivity.
This is particularly enhanced if businesses adopt a certain set of protocols to their meetings, such as everyone turning on their webcam and microphone, allowing for a more personal, connected meeting, akin to everyone being co-located.
In fact, according to Gigaom,? 87% of remote team members feel more connected to their team when they can use video conferencing.
So why should businesses use virtual meetings?
There are a myriad of benefits associated with having virtual meetings as opposed to face-to-face ones, which can assist business in making that key decision to go virtual.
Virtual meetings bring a lot of natural convenience to businesses. This isn’t just because it saves the company the hassle of using real-time devices such as projectors or paper presentations, but also because it allows you to have an ‘all hands on deck’ meeting, even when others are busy elsewhere; such as working away on business trips or simply working from home.
This convenience is adopted across training sessions and interviews too, as they can be conducted via virtual meeting in the same manner. Meeting rooms are no lo
- Reduce expenses
In-person business meetings mean hotels, meals, rental cars, car parking tickets, and even airfares in order to make them happen, all of which can cause significant cost to the business.
With virtual meetings, an organisation will not have to spend their budget on such items, as meeting attendees are not coming together physically in order to conduct their business.
The meeting can still take place with everyone just where they are.
What’s more, meetings can take place rapidly one after another without the need to travel to a new hotel and begin the process all over again.
We’ve mentioned it before but making your meetings virtual can really help the inclusivity of your business.
If you have remote or home workers, or colleagues who are unable to make the journey into the office for whatever reason, there is no need for them to be excluded from potentially important meetings, nor the hassle of rescheduling or trying to realign diaries.
What are the best platforms for running virtual meetings?
At VTT, we love Zoom. It’s easy to use, the basic package is free, it’s simple to set up and you can invite people to a meeting with a single clicked link.
Zoom is a huge, simple video conferencing and messaging platform that works across almost any device. It’s suite of functionality offers easy, widespread usability, enabling quick adoption and quick start up, joining and collaboration tools for everyone to use.
- Microsoft Teams
We also use Microsoft Teams here at VTT for our virtual meetings. As we are already using the platform as a hub for chat, collaboration and news, we find it simple to organise our meetings, particularly at short notice.
If you wanted to have a larger meeting, Teams has the functionality to organise people into breakout rooms, to simulate splitting a room into groups in order to better discuss ideas or processes moving forward.
While we haven’t used it ourselves, Join.me is a piece of very friendly, virtual meeting software. It is available on all devices and can host up to 10 individuals on the screen at the same time.
It is great for easy presentations, sales demos and video call discussions.
Skype is one of the best pieces of virtual meeting software available. It has both a free and paid version available.
The free version allows video conferencing calls to be made free of charge, with the only requirement being that they must be other Skype users.
The paid version of this allows the user to call those who do not have skype, which can be helpful when wanting to include external attendees to the meeting.
- Google Hangouts
Google hangouts is a great way to conduct virtual meetings too, though we think it works better for internal meetings rather than externals. It includes instant messaging, video chat and SMS functionality. It can cater for up to 10 participants in a single meeting and is also available across many mobile devices too.
It works similarly to Microsoft Teams and is most regularly implemented by teams in order to stay in contact throughout the day and easily be able to schedule meetings with colleagues effectively.
What are the benefits of virtual meetings?
There are many benefits that can be gained by using virtual meetings as opposed to face-to-face. They are quickly becoming the most efficient way to hold meetings in business today.
So here is a list of the top benefits that can be enjoyed if virtual meetings are adopted.
hey are more cost effective
As we mentioned above, making your meetings virtual makes them hugely cost effective compared to physical meetings. They only require a computer or mobile with an internet connection in order to attend.
There is no travel, no accommodation, no physical meeting room. Merely investing in a good platform for continued use could save your business a great deal.
It is inclusive
The technological advancement in our modern world has seen the internet improve greatly, so much so that users on the web can connect and interact from almost any part of the world.
By meeting via the internet, office space is saved that would have previously been used to hold a meeting, particularly when the number of participants was large. The internet has no maximum room capacity, though your choice of virtual meeting software might do.
It allows sharing in real-time
Participants of virtual meetings can share information, whether text, audio, or video in moments. Most virtual meeting platforms have the ability to send files, share screens or record data in a number of ways which makes it even easier for relevant information to reach the right person.
Also, there is no paper waste, as printing off the information and providing enough copies for everyone that might have previously ended up in the recycling, needn’t be printed at all.
They allow increased opportunities
It is not always possible to attend every phsyical meeting you are invited to, due to other commitments, location or time.
Virtual meetings, however, give people the opportunity to attend from their workspace. Often, due to the convenience and speed of which they are scheduled, the meetings tend to be quicker and more efficient, without the need for build up ‘coffee talk’ or general chatter, making the meeting more streamlined.
They have less impact on the environment
As we have touched on above, making the shift to having virtual meetings greatly reduces the need for travel and unnecessary printing.
Everyone can attend the meeting from their workspace, wherever that is, and all files can be shared electronically rather than being printed.
This helps businesses who are increasingly becoming aware of their carbon footprint and environmental impact to significantly reduce their unnecessary outputs.
How to run a successful virtual meeting?
Virtual meetings are fantastic tools for increased inclusivity and convenience, but there is often a concern that people won’t be ‘as engaged’ in a virtual meeting as they are a face-to-face one.
Here are some tips for how to run a successful virtual meeting.
Turn the video on
Since you are all going to be separated by a screen, the best thing to do to encourage maximum participation is to have everyone turn their cameras on.
This is key in getting engagement for several reasons. Firstly, everyone will more likely feel like they are in a room together. Secondly, it is much harder to be distracted or multitasking when everyone can see your face, and where your eyes are looking.
Also, facial expressions are important. Without video, you can’t see if someone is nodding, or desperately shaking their head, nor smiling or frowning. Facial expressions matter.
If you need a few tips and guidance, we also wrote a blog on 5 tips how to rock your webcam! Check it out here
Cut out reporting!
Too many meetings, virtual and face-to-face, are a waste of valuable time by having people simply reel off their various reports and deliver ‘updates’.
The solution to this is to send out a simple half page in advance of the meeting to report on just the key items.
Spend the time in the areas that matter, the interaction, the decisions, the people. Anyone can read a report on their own, it doesn’t need to be presented to them during these valuable moments.
People perform much better when they are comfortable with each other, which can cultivate a greater degree of honesty and mutual interest as well as harnessing diversity.
As the facilitator of the meeting, it is your job to help people get to know one another, to make them feel connected so they can have a productive meeting, and quickly get over any social awkwardness.
Avoid the mute button
In a co-located meeting, there are some social norms - you wouldn’t get up and walk around the room, not paying attention to what’s going on.
A virtual meeting is no different; you shouldn’t put yourself on mute and start answering your emails. If the meeting is going to be successful, you need to be prepared for the live, interactive discussion, laughter and creativity.
Did you know only 2% of the entire population can multitask? The number of those who think they can multitask is much higher. Which one are you?
Once, multitasking was thought of as a way to get many things done at once, however, now as science shows us, it is now understood to be a way to do many things poorly.
Not only is it bad for the brain, it’s bad for the team. However, there is good news. By putting on your video camera and avoiding the mute button, multitasking risk is greatly reduced. It is hard to check emails and pretend to be engaged. Much easier just to be engaged in your meeting, don’t you agree?
What about participants in virtual meetings?
There are a few loose dos and don’t in virtual meetings. While virtual meetings are likely part of your daily working routine, it can still be easy to fall into some meeting bad habits.
So to keep your meetings productive and professional, here are some simple etiquette rules;
- Leave your keyboard alone: the sound of typing is distracting and you’re not concentrating on the meeting at hand
- Dress appropriately: while it may be tempting to attend the meeting in your pjs, you will feel more focused in the meeting if you dress smartly and be of neat appearance
- Be aware of your surroundings: be careful what is in your background when you are on video
- Be aware of your background noise: nothing is more frustrating for other participants if there is a phantom noise coming from someone’s mic and it can deter others from speaking if they are competing with external factors
- Speak up: when you join the meeting say hi and don’t be afraid to express opinions on the discussions at hand. That’s why you are there!
- No food allowed: for similar reasons to the background noise, people will unlikely appreciate hearing or watching you eat during your meeting
- Stay seated and present: don’t multitask! Be super present in the meeting, it will improve your focus
Virtual meetings are a fantastic tool that deserve to be used and maximised by every organisation. With the current pressures of the world, the increased need for remote and home working, virtual meetings will be more commonplace as we move forward into this remote future.
Like any new skill set or organisational change, you will find the way that works best for you and your team, and it will be through practice that the finesse will follow.
If you find yourself needing a little help however, we do offer several virtual workshops with virtual meetings included.
You can find out more about them on the virtual workshops page of our website, or by contacting us. We would be more than happy to assist you.