What is a Virtual Meeting?
While virtual meetings have been around for years, they have exploded in the last year, everywhere from workplaces to schools to government meetings to friend hangouts. And with the success that we’ve seen from virtual meetings, it’s obvious that there’s no putting the genie back into the bottle: virtual meetings are here and here to stay.
But is there anything wrong with that? Some people complain about the meetings and say that they are onerous and unproductive, while others say they’re a waste of resources, and still others say they’re a distraction. But, really, that all comes down to the way virtual meetings are handled because all of those same complaints could be levied at in-person meetings before 2020 upended the business world. Being able to manage a virtual meeting is a skill, and skills can be learned. Once the skill is acquired, a virtual meeting in any setting can be of great value to the participants.
Why Should a Business Use Virtual Meetings?
There are so many reasons to use virtual meetings–even more reasons than to hold in-person meetings. Being able to meet with people either through audio or video is a great chance to connect and, most of all, focus on what the other person is saying. Yes, some meetings should be emails–but some emails should be virtual meetings!
A virtual meeting is extremely convenient, whether it’s audio or video. Teams and departments, managers and employees, peers, even whole companies can get together from wherever they are in the world and have a real person-to-person connection. No more will you have to worry about having a meeting “except for Gary because he’s out of town”. No more will you have to manage schedules to make sure that everyone is in the office at 9 am on a Wednesday. No more will you have to schedule conference rooms, work under the deadline of the people needing the room after you, and have to cut your meeting short. Virtual meetings make everyone’s life easier.
There are some meetings where you really need all hands on deck, or at least you need all members of a team to be present. In the past that meant flying in some employees, putting them up in a hotel with an expense account for food.
In some cases, the advent of virtual meetings is completely undoing the need for formal office space at all. If everyone can meet virtually, then there’s no need for a brick-and-mortar location anymore.
Everyone is Involved
With virtual meetings, you get everyone in on the action. There’s no outside salesperson who is always on the go and unable to get company updates. There is no VP who lives in a different city who never gets to know their subordinates. There is never a consultant who feels out of the loop because they miss all the strategy meetings.
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Meetings?
We’ve already hinted at some of the benefits, but what are some more of the tangible benefits that we can get from a company structured on a virtual meeting platform?
Allow For Remote Business Organization
With virtual meetings, no longer do your employees need to all live within commuting distance of the same building, which means that your talent pool just cracked wide open. You’re able to hire people in different cities, states, and even countries, because when it comes to a virtual meeting the computer and phone don’t care if you’re both in Los Angeles or if one of you is in Dubai and the other in Topeka. You’re able to identify the right people for the right roles and you’re no longer limited by relocation budgets.
Allows For Sharing in Real-Time
Your employees are able to share ideas as they happen. When a thought comes across the mind of one executive they can immediately share it with their team. They can use video features to show the charts and decks on their screens and get immediate feedback from their peers and team as to what they should do next and what the next strategy push will be.
It also allows for brainstorming sessions between team members. They may be coming up with an advertising campaign or are simply on the party planning committee, but they can get together and hash out the details, throwing ideas back and forth and coming up with new ones.
Saves Infrastructure Costs
Aside from the fact that you’re not needing to be in the office all the time, you’re also cutting down on all the costs that go into running meetings: large screen TVs, valuable square footage, and the endless printed presentation decks (that usually end up in the trash shortly after the meeting). When everything is digital, there’s no need for paper and fixtures and office space.
Enables Quick and Important Conversations
Virtual meetings allow you to hop on a call with a coworker and hash out details instantaneously. What once may have been long walks across campus to their cubicle–and finding them not at their desk–can now be resolved with a quick ping on the chat and an instant arrangement to meet virtually. You can share your screens, drill through data, ask simple questions (or complex ones) and solve anything without ever having to interrupt your workflow.
What’s the Best Way to Run Virtual Meetings?
While there are so many benefits of virtual meetings that we’ve outlined above, there are also best practices that will make a virtual meeting run much smoother. Here are some tips.
If Something Could Be an Email, Make it An Email
This could be anything, but often it comes down to reporting on data that only applies to a few people on the call (thus making everyone else tune out) or it could be reciting the minutes of the last meeting. If your virtual meeting is going to make use of all the benefits of virtual meetings–speed, instant feedback, collaboration–then leave the administrative details to emails that can be read as needed.
Connect With People
This is a virtual meeting with all of your friends and coworkers on it, so make it engaging and fun. Now is the time, maybe the first time all week or all month, when you get to see each other, so make the most of it. Talk. Maybe you’ll need to quiet down and let the meeting get underway, but don’t forget that this is a social platform where you get to connect.
People can tell when you’ve zoned out of a meeting. Maybe you’re just not contributing much, but maybe someone asked you a direct question and you’re totally unprepared to answer it. If you’re in a virtual meeting, be present and attentive, no matter if you’re the organizer or the attendee.
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