While some businesses were averse to using virtual meetings in the past, that reluctance no longer rings true. More and more companies are discovering all the advantages of virtual meetings. From expanding their reach, to achieving new goals, to staying connected with fellow team members, companies globally are hosting more online meetings than ever before. Coordinating a virtual meeting isn’t only cost effective and easy, it can also boost your team’s productivity whether you’re working from home, the office or from a remote location at the far ends of the earth. To ensure you’re getting the most out of these meetings, we look at virtual meetings in the age of COVID-19 and provide helpful tips for hosting and running effective virtual meetings.
Virtual Meetings in The Age Of COVID
With the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, the majority of the global population was impacted personally, professionally or a combination of the two. Almost overnight, office interactions and face-to-face person meetings transitioned to working remotely and video conferencing with clients, partners and colleagues. As more businesses began championing distributed teams, virtual meetings became the new standard for communication, serving as a viable alternative to in-person meetings and events.
What is a Virtual Meeting?
A virtual meeting is when two or more people, regardless of their location, use a video or audio platform to interact in real-time. This approach not only cuts out the travel costs and additional time associated with in-person meetings, but it still allows for face-to-face interactions, screen sharing and a sense of connectedness among attendees.
How To Host a Virtual Meeting
Now that you have a virtual meeting definition, you may be curious how to hold one and the meeting software you will need. Fortunately, Lifesize makes it easy to host a virtual meeting without a hitch. The following is a step-by-step guide to help you carry out a virtual meeting that is both organized and effective. While Lifesize Go lets you host free, with unlimited calls with up to 8 participants using just your web browser, we will look at hosting virtual meetings on the Lifesize app and explore some of the additional features the app offers.
1. Download the Lifesize app to get started
The first thing you’ll need to do is download the Lifesize app (available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS) to your preferred device. This tool serves as an easy-to-use video conferencing solution, helping you to seamlessly start a video chat or join a meeting with anyone, from anywhere. All you need is a laptop, tablet or phone with a built-in webcam to have a video conferencing system at your fingertips.
2. Create a one-time or permanent meeting
With the Lifesize app open, click on the Meetings tab and choose either a one-time or permanent meeting. A one-time meeting is a single-use, private sync space hidden from your Lifesize directory, making it a great choice for conference calls or meetings where security is a priority. Permanent meetings are ideal for recurring events because their dial-in details always remain the same (eliminating the need to search for a link you may have mistakenly deleted).
3. Fill-in relevant details
Once your meeting has been created, the next step is to fill in the details the participants will likely need -- the meeting’s name and description, in addition to an optional password. This will help to set clear expectations around the meeting’s objective and get all attendees on the same page before they come together. Once you’ve added all relevant information, click Save.
4. Invite your team to the meeting
Lastly, don’t forget to invite participants to join the meeting by drafting an email, creating a calendar invite, or simply copying and pasting the details into a messaging tool or chat app. It’s smart to send the invitation well in advance of the meeting, so attendees have a chance to add it to their schedules and complete any necessary preparations before the meeting time.
5 Tips on Keeping Your Virtual Meeting On Track
Whether you’re meeting with prospective clients, conducting a company-wide virtual town hall or simply seeking alignment among remote teams, the key to a successful virtual meeting is remembering it’s exactly that -- a meeting. It calls for purposeful planning and preparation, guidelines around respect and politeness, and a clear agenda to ensure everything runs smoothly. If you take these five tips into consideration, there’s every chance you’ll have a fruitful meeting that can readily be repeated.
1. Send out meeting materials ahead of time
When you schedule an in-person meeting, you may approach things a bit more casually, since you’re able to connect with your co-workers in the hallway or the breakroom and catch them up on anything they missed. But an efficient virtual meeting requires intentional planning, as well as distributing your meeting materials ahead of time.
Prior to the meeting, each participant should know the topics being discussed and the goals to be reached. As the host, you’ll want to create a meeting agenda and send it to the entire team before the start of your virtual meeting. This agenda will note key talking points and define meeting outcomes, allowing attendees to come to the table as prepared as possible. In addition to distributing this itinerary, remember to provide virtual invitations to everyone (as noted above), forward visuals that supplement the meeting’s message and confirm all necessary links or login information has been shared.
2. Test all technology a few minutes beforehand
Take a minute to test the functionality of your devices ahead of the meeting and encourage attendees to do the same. At a minimum, everyone should know how to connect to the call and how to share their screen. You’ll also want to check on both the audio and video settings, verifying your camera and microphone are working properly (and that your preferred audio source is selected). By testing these components beforehand, you can avoid the frustration or embarrassment related to technical difficulties, and ultimately keep your meeting running smoothly.
3. Ask non-presenters to mute themselves
The beauty of virtual meetings is the ability for participants to log on from anywhere, but this freedom has the potential to backfire if you’re not careful. Team members might be settled in at a neighborhood cafe, a crowded co-working space or even an airport lounge. While it can be great to work remotely or location independent, these non-traditional offices sometimes present distractions that can interfere with the team’s productivity.
To reduce interruptions, it’s recommended all non-presenters mute themselves for the duration of the meeting. You can include this point in the meeting materials you share, and then mention it at the start of your call in case anyone forgot to implement it on their devices. By anticipating inevitable background noise and tackling the issue in advance, you’ll stay on track and knock out the meeting’s to do’s with ease. You can also assign someone as the meeting moderator who can mute and unmute participants as needed.
4. Close non-work related tabs and encourage etiquette
It’s important to offer your full attention to virtual presenters and fellow participants, which means closing non-work related tabs, hopping off social media and avoiding texting during the meeting. No one needs to see the recipe you just Googled or what’s popping up on your Instagram feed, so make a habit of being fully present and engaged with what’s happening.
Other virtual meeting etiquette includes making eye contact with the camera, speaking clearly and at an appropriate volume, keeping body movements to a minimum with slow and natural gestures, and avoiding interrupting others or carrying on side conversations.
5. Maintain focus by being concise
Part of the prep work for your meeting should involve setting an intention for that time, specifically what information will be communicated. A presentation that worked well in front of a live audience may not receive the same results when delivered via video conference. For this reason, it’s best to focus your virtual meeting on one or two central issues -- any more than that, and it’s possible participants could zone out or grow restless.
If your agenda covers ample content, be sure to build in breaks so the team can get up to stretch, use the restroom or refill their coffee. And if your meeting has multiple segments, try to cap those at no more than thirty minutes per topic. By setting time limits, the meeting will flow at a welcomed pace, and you’ll establish a rhythm between presentations and pauses that will ultimately benefit everyone.
Collaborating via virtual meeting is no longer a far-flung idea. Instead, it’s a very present and practical solution for any number of companies and teams. Not only do virtual spaces save on time and costs affiliated with traditional in-person meetings, but they still support face-to-face connection and collaboration.
Companies are continuing to recognize the benefits of this low-cost, high-impact method for conducting business, as virtual meetings keep operations running smoothly even when global disasters and unexpected situations arise. Lifesize has made it incredibly easy to set up virtual meetings that’ll have your team tackling projects together in no time.