How to Host a Virtual Meeting or Web Conference

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

By: Weston Bonnelle

Tips For Conducting an Effective and Successful Virtual Meeting or Web Conference

As information travels faster and demands for efficiency increase, virtual meetings and web conferences rise in popularity. Therefore learning how to conduct or host virtual meetings and web conferences is becoming a valuable skill. Virtual meetings and web conferences are cost-effective, less consuming and tremendously convenient. Although virtual meetings may be not able to substitute face-to-face contact, they can be a valuable addition to your business, especially if conducted appropriately.

Provide an Agenda and Other Necessary Information Beforehand
An agenda, an outline of topics, will help the participants remain focused and prevent any time from being wasted. If concepts are complex, provide background information and research on the topics for discussion. Since the participants will be equipped with knowledge, they will be able to offer valuable feedback and relevant insight during the meeting. Remind the participants to think of questions beforehand. Limit the amount of topics for discussion to encourage a productive and comprehensive virtual meeting or web conference.

Use the Proper Software and Technology
Technological malfunctions disrupt creative thoughts, interrupt important discussions, raise tempers and exasperate the virtual participants. Lower morale decreases the effectiveness of a meeting. Make sure to do your research so that you don't waste time or money. Obtain recommendations about the best software to use for web conferences and virtual meetings. Read reviews online, speak with business colleagues about software and technology and ask the participants if they have any preferences. Also make the effort to match the nature of the meeting and the personality of the participants with the suitable technology. 

Test the Equipment Before the Meeting
Test the equipment and software weeks in advance to get more comfortable with the technology and gain understanding on how it operates. You want the meeting to flow without major interruptions. Overview the manual so that you will be able to handle technical difficulties. Just in case of a malfunction, have a technician nearby who can resolve any unexpected issues.

Encourage a Friendly yet Professional Atmosphere
Maintain a balance between creating a comfortable environment for those who are uneasy with social networking and structured setting for those who are naturally adept with technology and communicating online. The social networking working generation may become too distracted and entertained, while those who are not at ease with virtual meetings may become anxious, lose interest and/or cease participation. Start with concise yet personable introductions that are unrelated to the project to break the ice. This will help the virtual participants find something in common with each other. End with a few minutes of friendly conversation so that the virtual participants can look forward to the next meeting. If possible, set up quarterly or yearly activities outside the virtual meeting and web conferences so that participants get to know about each other. This will increase productivity since the participants will be more comfortable with one another.
Establish Clear Goals
Virtual meetings can reduce the feel of accountability and cause the participants to get off track. Begin by updating the progress since the last meeting, read the agenda for the meeting and next steps for the project. Before the meeting, send an agenda about the topics of discussion for the virtual meeting. While at the meeting, try using PowerPoint so you can communicate your objectives and keep the meeting within those focal points.
Encourage all Participants to Present Ideas
Collaboration may decrease because it can be easy to overlook quieter participants and let more aggressive members take over. Prevent this by designating a facilitator whose role is to show interest in all comments and call on people who have not contributed. People should feel as if they are valued and in a close-knit team, even if they are miles away. Start by setting some ground rules for the participants such as waiting to speak after person has completed their thoughts, so that each member can be respected and meetings can proceed stress-free. Encourage participants to offer counter views. At the end of each major decision, get everyone's final opinion through a vote. Then decide on the next steps to take until the next meeting and designate a role for each of the participants.


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Arlee Bird said...

I never had the occasion to try a virtual meeting but I think it's a great idea that makes a lot of sense. Sure would cut back on travel expenses if everyone could stay where they were but still be an active part of the meeting.
Informative post.

Tossing It Out

Dianne Heath said...

@ Due to Google +, Skype, etc people are definitely becoming more comfortable with the idea of communicating important message virtually. The recession especially is making people see virtual meetings are a viable option.
Thank you for commenting!!