Best Conferencing Tips

What Is A Virtual Meeting And How Do I Get Started?

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Direct view of hand holding up smartphone showing picture-in-picture video chat of a smiling young man, held up against a brightly lit window at homeWondering how to set up a virtual meeting? Better yet, still wondering what a virtual meeting is? Here’s the good news; At this point in time, it couldn’t be easier to set up a virtual meeting and if you’re still not clear about what one is, you’re in the right place.

Ready to get a closer look?

A Virtual Meeting Is…

Otherwise known as an online meeting, or video conferencing, and audio conferencing under the umbrella of web conferencing, the virtual meeting definition according to Educause is: “Virtual meetings are real-time interactions that take place over the Internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing.” Just like an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting gathers participants to share ideas, converse, and collaborate in a dynamic setting between two or more endpoints, except rather than actually being physically present, a device is used instead.

A virtual meeting is critical to the health of a growing business. Anyone from an employee to a project manager, c-level executive, and HR professional has to rely on group communication technology to be able to do their job and bridge the gap between other humans in time and space. Pharmaceutical and IT companies, law firms, small and enterprise businesses and more, all benefit from the immediacy and relevance of having a video-centric communication approach.

This Is A Virtual Meeting:

Side view of a smiling young man waving at his desktop, seated at desk in home officeBy way of being able to communicate with anyone, anywhere at any time, virtual meetings allow for businesses to flourish regardless of location. Spatial barriers that would normally block working relationships, continuity and productive collaborations aren’t there anymore with virtual meetings that encourage connection. Some of the overall benefits include:

  • Reduced time commuting
  • Cutting transportation, travel and accommodation costs
  • Increase productivity = Less redundancy
  • Better employee retention
  • Competitive advantage

And when it comes to business, consider how incorporating a video-centric approach to your communication strategy works to support:

  • A more digitally-enabled and connected workforce
  • Access to management
  • An enhanced global culture of communication
  • Better reliability that equals faster results
  • Reduced redundancies and up-to-the-minute data and information
  • Better value
  • Still a little unclear as to how to get started with video conferencing? Here’s how to set up a virtual meeting:

Choose The Right Software

Consider a few logistics before jumping into a commitment with a service provider.
How often do you think you will need to use the software? If you’re looking for enterprise-ready video conferencing, think about where participants will be located; at home or in the boardroom? If it’s the former, then web-based conferencing is more suitable, easier, and convenient to use.

Take a look at what features are provided. Does it come with screen sharing (perfect for IT customer service and presentations); an online whiteboard (helpful for educational purposes or brainstorming creative work); or document sharing (makes sharing handouts, important documents, and onboarding new talent much more streamlined), etc.

Get Clear On Why You Need A Virtual Meeting

Why are you calling together a meeting in the first place? Is it internal (announcements, onboarding, tissue sessions, management meeting) or external (sales pitch, new business development)? Think about the structure and reason and then naturally, other pieces will fall into place like attendance.

Decide Who Needs To Attend

Virtual meetings are especially effective for corralling people at the same time, in a different place. So if you have participants overseas, at home or down the hall, you can connect easily and effectively regardless of location. As long as everyone is aware of a potential time difference or uses the Time Zone Scheduler, it’s easy to attend. Do keep in mind however that only necessary people should be invited. Save time and money by only including participants who are essential. For anyone else, record the meeting to send out later.

Create An Outline

Setting out an agenda will get your thoughts organized so you can have a timely, crystal clear, and engaging virtual meeting. Plus, it will help participants know what’s expected of them. What do they need to contribute? Is there any material they need to brush up on prior to the sync? How long will the meeting run? Including a brief layout will prevent confusion and help participants feel prepared.

Send Out Invites And Reminders

What’s great about virtual meetings is that you can host one now as an impromptu session or schedule in advance. It’s easy to plug in all the necessary information into the initial invite like time, date, and other important info because it’s automatic. Set the reminders to help coordinate your calls to remind participants of the upcoming sync. For more urgent meetings that need to take place on the spot, use SMS notifications to fire off meeting details straight to participants’ devices. No more time wasted waiting for late arrivals or non-attendees.

Utilize Features For More Effective Virtual Meetings

The right video conferencing software for your virtual meeting will come with a multitude of practical and convenient features to enhance your online experience. For the best results, make sure the technology you choose comes loaded with:

  • Screen Sharing: Instantly share your screen with participants to lead a presentation or solve an IT problem.
  • Recording: Hit record now to watch later. Perfect for participants who can’t attend a call.
  • Transcription: Automatic transcriptions of all recorded meetings ensure no idea gets left behind.
  • Online Whiteboard: A creative way to express concepts and graphics using images, colors, and shapes.

Include A Take Away

At the end of your virtual meeting, what do you want participants to leave with? What was the purpose and what are the next steps? Make sure everyone walks away knowing the objective and what needs to get done next.

Follow Up With An Email

Woman diligently working at her laptop in outdoor cafe while sneaking in a sip of her takeaway coffee without removing her eyes from the screen

Keep it as short and sweet as you can, but here’s what to include in a follow-up email: Meeting minutes summary, next steps, the key meeting accomplishment (this should match your meeting’s objective), and the recording (if you recorded it).

Virtual Meeting Best Practices

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of how a virtual meeting can strengthen communication between the sender and receiver, there is some etiquette to follow. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Technology: Do a pre-meeting check to make sure your technology is updated and functioning. Ensure your mic, speakers and camera are ready to go. Verify your settings, and if you’re moderating, launch a waiting room and ensure everyone is automatically set to mute.

Participation: Review your meeting outline and go over the flow before things get underway. This way, you can prepare where the pauses and breaks are, and plan questions to ask participants. Try including an activity using the online whiteboard and using the screen sharing feature to “show” instead of “tell.”

Engagement: Participants are more likely to absorb your information when you make your delivery interesting. Instead of just relaying statistics and dry metrics, tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Embed the necessary data and info throughout using images, videos, bright colors and highlighting important words.

Have Fun: Let’s not forget to make a virtual meeting social! Open the virtual meeting with icebreaker questions. Questions that are a little more personal work well in small groups, like, “What did you get up to this weekend?” or “Tell us what you’re watching on Netflix.”

With bigger groups, you can be more vague and fun, “What’s a personal excuse you use all the time?” or “Which kid’s movie or book character reminds you of yourself?”

And in a meeting, consider asking a relevant question like, “When was the last time you spoke in a group?” or something a little more unique like, “If you could have any animal tail, what would it be?”

The idea is to get to know each other in a professional environment but with a more casual tone. An icebreaker inspires appropriate emotion, stimulates learning and encourages bonding. All excellent skills to bring to the virtual table!

Choose Callbridge as your group communication platform and watch as productivity and engagement spike once you’ve learned how to set up a virtual meeting. With premium features that include Screen Sharing, AI-powered transcription and summaries, plus heightened security measures, zero downloads and customization, you can make any virtual meeting hit home with participants.

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Alexa Terpanjian

Alexa likes to play with her words by putting them together to make abstract concepts concrete and digestible. A storyteller and purveyor of truth, she writes to express ideas that lead impact. Alexa started her career as a graphic designer before embarking on a love affair with advertising and branded content. Her insatiable desire to never stop both consuming and creating content led her into the tech world through iotum where she writes for the brands Callbridge, FreeConference, and TalkShoe. She’s got a trained creative eye but is a wordsmith at heart. If she’s not wildly tapping away on her laptop beside a gigantic mug of hot coffee, you can find her in a yoga studio or packing her bags for her next trip.

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