It is not unusual in today’s economic climate for businesses to scale back on travel costs and to look for ways to reduce business expenditures. Even the recent Swine Flu Pandemic has many large and small businesses eliminating business travel entirely for non-essential staff. Some people will be overjoyed with this news – ah now I get to spend more time with my family, or more time on those work projects that get shoved to the bottom of the pile when I am away on business. Wrong! Now more than ever we have to manage our work time wisely. Online meetings are replacing face-2-face meetings for many workers. Not only is it a cost-effective solution but it is also time efficient when managed correctly. If it is not managed correctly, well I probably don’t have to tell you, but I will because we have all sat through those boring teleconferences where no one says anything and we all just kind of sit there.
So you might be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? I won’t have a problem running a virtual meeting because I am very successful at face-2-face meetings.” Well that may very well be the case and for your sake I hope you do find the same success at leading a virtual meeting. But to err on the side of safety you might want to review a few key steps that will help ensure that you are a success rather than a bore that makes everyone roll their eyes -because if the air on the line goes dead you really don’t want to have to guess if your audience is sleeping do you?
The following steps have been compiled through research, mine and my colleagues, and feedback from participants.
Top Tips for Developing a Virtual Meeting
1. Have a game plan – create a one-page agenda that outlines the topics to be discussed and who is responsible for leading that discussion. Try to create a logical order for the meeting’s progression and cut-out non-essential information.
2. Set a time limit – limit your meeting time to no more than 1 hour and less if possible. Be respectful of everyone’s time and remember that nobody likes meetings no matter how charismatic you think you are.
3. Incorporate visual aids if appropriate- whenever possible try to incorporate visual aids that may help in facilitating the points of your presentation or illustrate a new concept for the group. These can be created in MS PowerPoint(TM) and then e-mailed to participants prior to the meeting. Alternatively, you might use a meeting/screen sharing program such as WebEx, Acrobat ConnectPro or GoToMeeting to share your presentation slides.
4. Behave yourself- adhere to the same business manners and behaviors that you would in a face-2-face meeting. If you are meeting with a client remember to address them and treat them with the same courtesy you would in a face-2-face meeting. Off-color jokes should always be avoided and don’t fall victim to such inappropriate gestures as eye-rolling – though your client may not be able to see you, your colleagues will, and it sets a bad example.
5. Say it first…and then say it last – take advantage of the fact that people remember best what they hear first and last. Tell them what you want them to know twice–once when you start and once when you finish the meeting.
6. Answer questions and say thank you- Before closing out your meeting ask your audience if anyone has any questions. And remember to say thanks – everyone likes to feel appreciated!
Use these six tips and you will be well on your way to a successful virtual meeting!