As a marketing agency Account Manager who works remotely from my home office, virtual meetings have become an essential, cost-effective and convenient way to interface with my clients and colleagues, many of whom are scattered throughout the country. By enabling participation from any geographic location (with a stable WiFi connection, of course), it's no secret that conducting meetings virtually drastically reduces business travel expenses – as the costs of flights, accommodations and meals are eliminated entirely.
And who doesn't want to cut down on unnecessary expenditures, right?
But what you might not expect is that virtual meetings can also foster a more productive and inclusive workforce! In fact, studies show that remote employees who leverage virtual meetings can be up to 13% more effective.
That being said, not every screen share or conference call is set up for success. Without the right structure and guidance, a virtual meeting can quickly go awry (perhaps, something a little like this...).
To maximize the virtual conference room experience for each of your meeting attendees and to improve the overall effectiveness of the session, here are a few best practices to follow:
Skype for Business, Zoom, GoToMeeting and WebEx are all excellent, collaborative virtual video conference platforms that allow participants to share documents, chat and record the meeting. Some solutions also provide customization options you can use to brand the meeting room with your company's logo and colors. What's more, if you're really looking for a sleek, professional and reliable virtual event delivery platform, there are a few on the market that offer self-managed solutions for your internal or external conferencing, webinar, education and training needs. No doubt, we can expect that as the 'virtual workplace' becomes increasingly popular, the number of communication tools and software available will grow in tandem.
Creating and sending a defined and detailed meeting agenda (well in advance!) will help keep participants focused and on task. Be sure to attach the agenda when you send the meeting invitation that integrates with the attendee's calendar. If any pre-work or document review needs to be completed before the meeting, make this explicit in your message. Nothing kills a meeting's momentum faster than a lack of participation because nobody's done their homework.
Another good rule of thumb to follow is to avoid presenting new data during the meeting. Again, you're better off sending over important documents several days ahead of time and asking participants to review all materials prior to the meeting, so they can be fully invested in the content and prepared to participate in the conversation.
As you prepare to start your virtual meeting, be sure to eliminate any ambient noise. I reiterate that if you happen to be hosting the meeting, you should be the first one signed or dialed into the meeting room. This gives you the opportunity to welcome members as they join and make formal introductions. Keep in mind that some attendees may be joining from their cell phones and can only be identified on your platform's interface as Caller #1 or their phone number itself.
One of the most common virtual meeting challenges is keeping members actively engaged. Yes, we're all super busy at times, and a stagnant virtual meeting may tempt attendees to 'mute' themselves and accomplish other tasks during the meeting—checking their email, text messages, the latest sports scores, Instagram, etc.
You can combat this passive listening by asking members to NOT mute themselves (provided they, too, are in a quiet space) and even by encouraging members to participate via video.
Before finishing up a meeting, always take a few minutes to summarize what’s been covered. Everyone will feel better about the time they spend on a call if there is a mutual sense of accomplishment.
Perhaps what's even more important is to assign next steps – or any action items that need to be taken care of by the members on the call. If possible, set the date and time for the next meeting while everyone is still present. And finally, after the meeting be sure to send out notes to all participants, recapping those same action items and providing further instruction.
Have any other suggestions for making the most of your virtual meetings? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
Tracey MacDonald has been Senior Account Manager at PMG since July of 2015. She’s a strategy, sales, technology and SaaS ninja, and loves to write about sales and marketing integration (as ninjas do). While she’s fighting off the evil forces of low SEO rankings and poor marketing strategy, she somehow finds the time to write blogs – and loves hearing from readers. So, if you want to know more, let her know!
Tags: Relationship Marketing