In-person meetings and virtual meetings are very similar in their purpose — gather a group of people together to share ideas — but there are some key differences to keep in mind if you are planning on going the virtual route.
How is a virtual meeting different from a traditional meeting?
Traditional meetings usually involve everyone sitting in one room together and speaking with each other face-to-face. This can involve technology, but it’s just to supplement the meeting in most cases.
A virtual meeting, however, relies heavily on technology for the meeting to even take place. Virtual meetings are ideal for teams who have remote members, or who prefer to collaborate digitally rather than using traditional tools like whiteboards and flipcharts.
Keep in mind that your team doesn’t have to be located in a different country in order to hold a virtual meeting — some of you may even be in the same room — but technology is being used to conduct and drive the meeting.
Both types of meetings are still popular, but virtual meetings are growing in popularity as technology continues to progress and more and more people are working remotely.
Why is having a virtual meeting so great?
Meeting in person can be expensive. You might have to rent a boardroom or meeting space, purchase snacks and beverages for the attendees, rent or buy equipment, and if you have remote workers or clients coming in from elsewhere, their travel and accommodations may need to be covered by your company.
This isn’t the case for all traditional meetings of course, but it is for many.
With virtual meetings, your team can meet from anywhere, so travel or accommodation costs are reduced. If everyone is joining the meeting from their own workspace (on a different floor, in a different building, from home, or in another part of the world) there won’t be a need to take up a meeting space or provide refreshments – which saves money and time.
Holding a virtual meeting takes the pressure off of those who might have tight schedules, massive to-do lists, or extremely busy workdays. Attendees are able to join a meeting without having to waste time getting a physical location.
Holding meetings virtually is the ultimate time saver. No time is wasted getting to the office, waiting for late arrivals to get there and be seated, waiting for the facilitator to set up, etc.
Technology, in general, gets things done faster. You don’t have to wait while one person writes the agenda up on a whiteboard or wait your turn to give input. Using technology, everyone can be working and collaborating at the same time, and ideas are shared faster than in more traditional meetings.
Large Group? No Problem
When a meeting is held in person, there are often restraints on how many people can attend. This is usually due to the size of the available meeting space. If you have a large group of people who all need to get the same information and have discussions, virtual meetings are the best way to go.
Virtual meeting platforms are able to accommodate huge groups and are much more organized than squeezing 20+ people haphazardly into a room. Problem-solving will be easier and things will get done because everyone will have a chance to give input and be an active participant.
How to hold an effective virtual meeting
Have a Plan
As with any meeting, you can’t rush into it without a solid plan.
Everyone, whether they are in the room with you or joining in from elsewhere, should have an agenda to follow along with to help guide the discussion. The meeting facilitator should create the agenda and send it out, or add it to the virtual meeting space for everyone to review before the meeting even takes place.
Back Up Your Equipment
Technology is a wonderful thing, but it crashes, breaks, and dies unexpectedly more frequently than we’d like it to. If you are using laptops, phones, projectors, etc., bring backups! Also make sure you have chargers, extra batteries, and even other devices on hand to be prepared if something happens. This is important whether you are using tech with other people in the room or if they are in all different locations.
Being a virtual meeting, the virtual aspect needs to be prevalent throughout — which means you need the right tools.
It is important to choose a high-performing digital collaboration and meeting tool (like Stormboard!) that will allow everyone to communicate in real time, whether they can see each other or not.
Don’t Leave Anyone Out
When people are in one room, it’s easier to account for everyone, but at the same time, it can be hard for them to share when people are talking loudly over one another or have to wait their turn. Virtual meetings make it much easier to ensure that everyone involved is getting a chance to share their ideas.
Online collaboration tools like Stormboard usually have real-time capabilities so that each person in attendance (no matter where they are) can add an idea for the whole team can see it and interact with it. While one person is talking, others can be adding ideas to the shared workspace, or posting videos/images to go along with the ideas being discussed.
This tip isn’t for every virtual meeting, but it’s for the ones that will be using video services, especially when it’s a meeting with a client.
If you are going to be seeing the other meeting attendees through a screen (like Skype), dress professionally! Don’t embarrass yourself or your company by not looking the part. It may seem like an afterthought, but if you are meeting with people who don’t know you, dressing well is important. Represent yourself and your team with confidence and a polished look.
(Note: Also remember to consider the space behind you. Sit so that your camera is pointed at a blank wall, or an area that will not look messy or distracting to the rest of your team.)
Test Your Tech
Test everything before starting the meeting so that there are no technical issues. If there are issues, have a plan in place to combat them without disrupting everyone in the meeting.
This can be done by turning on all devices to see if they are charged, in good condition, and are updated with all of the information and software that will be used for the meeting.
Virtual meetings aren’t exclusively for remote teams anymore — they can be held by anyone! Get your technology ready and have a great plan in place, and you and your team will be on your way to having a super virtual meeting.
Want to read more about virtual meetings and Stormboard? Take a look at some of our previous blogs: “In-Person Meetings are Expensive” and “Why You Need to Stop Holding Meetings in a Boardroom”.
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Holding a virtual meeting soon? Stormboard’s digital workspace is the best place to host all of your meetings — try it today!