In the last few weeks the concept of remote communications has jumped. The idea of conferences being focused on an at home audience has been discussed for years, but it never really took off. Five years ago I launched a product called “The Conference Talk Show” with my friend Eliz Greene, because we noticed that hybrid events (live meetings with a remote attendance option) were falling short of delivering engagement for the at home viewers. Now everyone wants virtual meeting ideas, as we have to convene via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Live, etc…
The problem with virtual meetings is too many people are simply trying to replicate the live meeting via video conference. Or they are doing talking head webinar broadcasts without understanding that being at home and attending an online gathering is not the same as being at an in-person meeting.
The first thing to realize is that there are many types of remote meetings. Treating all internet connections between humans as the same thing will mean none of your virtual meetings will surpass the pitfalls of old-time conferences calling. An internal team meeting is not the same as a client meeting. And holding a legitimate conference via video conference will not work. The type of event will dictate the type of meeting software technology you will want to use. Zoom is great for some virtual meetings, but working with a company like Digitell, Inc is necessary for larger conferences.
Most people agree that face to face meetings are always going to be the best way to connect and learn. While there is a lot of false predictions that after the COVID-19 virtual meetings will become dominant. They wont. But I do think that the hybrid meeting option will become more common. This is the time to make sure that your conference broadcast is engaging. It is also the time to make sure your small in-company calls are engaging. When people are at home there are simply too many distractions for their attention.
A successful virtual meeting is about more than a good internet connection and real time screen sharing (although those are important). Finding the right products and services are just the first step. Virtual meetings work when people lean in and manage their attention to focus in the experience. It is not just about a data dump of content. Much like a live meeting, many of these online gatherings flop long before technical issues crash the connection.
It is the human connection that makes for a successful virtual meeting – but that is 100 times harder in the online setting.
Virtual Meeting Ideas – 10 Tips for Better Engagement
- Set the right time for the meeting. Take into account the different time zones. There are so many factors in figuring out when to schedule the event, but do not ignore this factor. 9:00 EST seems like a great start, but not if there are attendees on the west coast.
- Have a moderator / facilitator / host. For in-company and smaller meetings someone still has to be in charge. But large events and full-scale conferences should hire an experienced host / master of ceremonies. Someone has to make sure that there is energy and that the meeting runs on schedule.
- Run on time. At live events and virtual meetings, running overtime is HORRIBLE. This is often overlooked by meeting organizers (for large or small events). Nobody has ever been thrilled when the agenda gets blown and they have to rearrange their personal schedule. It is rude and can ruin the experience for participants.
- Encourage people to use the group chat functions. The more the at home participants engage in the chat (to group or private messages to other attendees) the more connected they are to the information being discussed. People alone at home will multitask other non-related activities if not engaged in the meeting.
- Have a scribe. Small or large meetings should have someone in charge of taking notes that can be distributed to all attendees after the meeting. While this may seem odd for a large conference broadcast, it is actually a great way to connect with participants following the conclusion of the event.
- Prepare your speakers for presenting at a virtual meeting. While most speakers think they know how to present virtually, it is a different skill set. You may want to have a briefing for all who will be presenting well in advance of the event.
- Have a technology moderator and a chat room / question moderator. The speakers should not be having to moderate the Q&A in the chat room, and they cannot monitor the tech component while also delivering a powerful presentation.
- Shorten the length of presentations. At live events an hour is not uncommon for a keynote speech. But in an online setting the shorter format is better, especially if the speaker is not experienced doing virtual meetings.
- Running effective virtual meetings means interactive communications. Be sure you have set up polling, Q&A, and a way to let the audience communicate back to the speakers. For smaller meetings allow everyone to introduce themselves. For larger meetings encourage this in the chat room.
- Have fun and let your voice show your emotions. Too often virtual meetings have a serious business tone. True, Some meeting topics are very serious, but most meetings are not somber events. Even in the COVID-19 crisis, people need to be human. Try to find ways to make the meeting positive when possible. The tone of voice matters a lot in making a meeting more engaging.
Thom Singer helps create more engagement at live conferences. He is known as “The Conference Catalyst” and is dedicated to help people create meaningful connections that lead to more opportunities. He is the host of two podcast (“Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” and “The Digital Enterprise Society Podcast“) and the author of 12 books. www.ThomSinger.com