Meetings are one of the most important, yet also most dreaded, events in an average business week. Whether or not your meeting adopts the former or latter quality, though, is up to how you run it. In person meetings have a long history of tried and trued practices, and have been written about countless times. However, with the influx of video technology appearing in every day business communication, some reconfiguring may be necessary. Although all the same principles of the standard meeting etiquette and planning can certainly be applied to virtual meetings, there are certain things that you’ll need to prep that may be a bit different. Here are a few tactics to help you prep for a virtual meeting and make it as productive as possible.
1. Taking Individual Participant Needs into Account
Time zones play an import role in figuring out how to make a video meeting the most effective. Huffington Post points out that not everyone might be in the same time zone, so plan your video meeting accordingly. This is especially important if you’re working with a global workforce, since inevitably, someone is going to be many hours ahead or behind. You can solve this problem in a few different ways. You may want to host two separate meetings for people in time zones that are closest to one another, tape both meetings, and then have the groups watch the meeting they couldn’t attend. This is one of the strongest features of video conferencing, since content can be retained, shared, and re-used. However, many meeting organizers don’t necessarily consider time zones in their initial planning stages, especially if the bulk of the team is located in one geographical location. The core lesson is to take any unique needs of a meeting participant into account.
2. Test Your Equipment and Internet Connection
It seems like an obvious thing to do, but it’s surprising how many meeting organizers using video skimp on this step. When you’re using video conference applications to deliver the service to multiple participants, you will need to ensure that your headset, mic, and other features are working. Double check the device you’re running the conference on, such as a tablet, smartphone, or computer, and don’t forget to confirm that you have enough Internet bandwidth. Although connecting over wifi is a common way to join in on a meeting, make sure that the signal is strong enough to maintain a connection. This is especially important if you’re the organizer and leader for the meeting. Hardwiring your device into an Internet connection is always preferable, but if it’s not possible, test the wifi signal thoroughly before beginning the meeting.
3. Considering Venue Size
Venue size is an important thing to consider if you’re planning on having a large scale meeting. Due to the types of technology available today, many video conferencing providers offer options that can cover anywhere from a small meeting of under 10 participants, to much larger videocasts and meetings that can include 100. While some video conferences can be conducted right from your office, if you’re planning to have a large scale meeting on camera, the venue matters. Tweak Your Biz highlights the importance of venue size, location, technological capability, and the quality of on-site staff. The idea is to make sure you match up all of your needs with what a venue can actually offer.
4. Set a Speaking Time Limit
Even in a virtual meeting, participants will be tempted to run off at the mouth and give more of their opinion than necessary. It’s simply the nature of the beast. Therefore, it’s wise to set a time limit on speaking turns for each individual topic. Think of it as holding the speaking stick. This will not only force
the meeting to stay on track, but also make everyone feel like they have an equal opportunity to offer their input.
Hosting a successful virtual meeting is as simple as building off what you already know. In some ways, in fact, it might even be easier. For example, circulating an agenda is more effective when you’re working solely on camera, because there’s no hubbub about printing a copy for each person sitting around the table. Everyone has everything they need at their fingertips, whether joining the meeting from a personal mobile device or their computer. They key factor to making any meeting successful and not a drudgery is staying on task and not wasting attendees’ time with derailment of agenda items or needless distractions. There’s also the bonus of content sharing, which means you can reference materials immediately on screen without making a note to send out information after the meeting has ended that colleagues may never even have a chance to look at. Ensuring a smooth virtual meeting, just like in the physical world, is as simple as being prepared with all the necessary materials and being able to keep the discussion on track. Video simply speeds up the delivery of information and improves attendance since physical presence to join isn’t necessary.