For most companies, virtual meetings were virtually non-existent just a few years ago. However, after the Covid pandemic in 2020, It has become more and more common. Let’s look at what a virtual meeting is and how you can make it most effective.

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What Are Virtual Meetings?

Virtual meetings are meetings that take place in real-time over the internet as opposed to in-person meetings.

Should Businesses Run Virtual Meetings?

Just like any other business decision, there are pros and cons to virtual meetings. It is important to weigh those pros and cons and decide what is best for your company and employees.

Benefits of Virtual Meetings

With virtual meetings becoming more frequent as more and more employees work from home, the benefits of virtual meetings have really started to shine. Some of those benefits include flexibility, convenience, and recordings.

  • Flexible. The biggest benefit of virtual meetings seems to be flexibility. Whether you are working from home or in the office, you have access to the meeting. Also, if you need to join the meeting late, or something comes up, it is less disruptive for you to join a virtual meeting as opposed to walking into an in-person meeting.
  • Convenient. Instead of having to plan your day around meetings and leave enough time to get there, you can follow the meeting if you are in the middle of something and not feel rushed in getting what you are working on finished. That last point is more the exception than the rule though, as an employee should ultimately be focused on the meeting rather than getting their other work done.

Downsides of Virtual Meetings

As mentioned above, every decision has pros and cons. It’s important to be mindful of the downsides of virtual meetings and decide if they are worth dealing with as a company. Some of those downsides include distractions, less participation, and technical difficulties.

  • Distractions. In virtual meetings, employees’ full attention is less likely to be on the screen the whole time. It is easier to work on other projects, respond to emails/texts, or do other activities while at your desk as opposed to inside a conference room. If an employee feels like they are alone during a meeting, which often is the case, they are less likely to give their undivided attention to the meeting.
  • Less participation. Participation in a virtual meeting can be a little awkward. A lot of our communication comes from body language and interaction, and much of that is missing during a virtual meeting. According to multiple studies, over half of employees remain silent during a virtual meeting. Employees fall into the trap of thinking someone else will answer during a virtual more often than during an in-person meeting.
  • Technical difficulties. Technology is a great thing, as it has made it possible for companies to grow their workforce and communicate with them wherever they are. However, technology can also lead to difficulties such as loss of wifi, power outage, or human error. None of these occur when conducting in-person meetings.

Types of Virtual Meetings

There are three main types of virtual meetings: teleconference, video conference, and web conference.

Teleconference

Teleconference is limited to audio on a conference call over a phone or an intercom. Teleconferencing is the oldest type of virtual meeting.

Video Conference

Video conferencing has become common since the Covid pandemic. Combining audio and video, platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams are often used for these meetings.

Web Conference

Web conferences are the most in-depth kind of virtual meetings. They consist of audio, video, and content-sharing, and are typically used when content is being shared, such as a product demo.

Tips for Running a Virtual Meeting

While many of the same principles of an in-person meeting apply to a virtual meeting, it is important to understand how they might be different and what you can do to make them most effective.

Tip 1: Introductions

This will largely depend on the group size, but taking time for people to introduce themselves in a virtual meeting is a great way to build rapport that can sometimes be lacking due to lack of physical presence.

Tip 2: Know Where to Look

Depending on what kind of virtual meeting it is, it is important to know where to look or speak. Just like you would in-person, you want to be looking at and speaking to the other participants. You may be inclined to look at the other participants on your screen, but you need to look directly into the camera to give them eye contact.

Tip 3: Keep Participants Engaged

It’s always difficult to keep the attention of all participants in any meeting, but is only more difficult in virtual meetings. In order to keep the attention of participants during a virtual meeting, be sure to make it engaging and interesting enough for participants to continue to pay attention. This can be done through comedic videos, group participation, or even high energy as the speaker.

How to Properly Run an Effective Virtual Meeting

When planning a virtual meeting, there are a few steps to take to increase effectiveness. Some of those steps include sharing meeting details with all participants, meeting agenda, and review meeting etiquette.

Step 1: Send Meeting Details

Prior to running a virtual meeting, make sure all participants have the details for the meeting. Typically, a link to the meeting will be included in the calendar invite. If the meeting will include participants from different time zones, make sure it is clear what time the meeting will start in each time zone. Lastly, give each participant enough time in advance for the meeting so you can find a time that works for all parties.

Step 2: Set the Agenda

Much like in-person meetings, providing a meeting agenda to all participants helps set proper expectations and makes the meeting easier to follow. This agenda can be sent out prior to the meeting or be presented at the beginning.

Step 3: Establish Meeting Etiquette

It is important for participants to know what is to be expected of them during a virtual meeting. Some meeting etiquette might include being on mute during the meeting, having sufficient lighting and sound, clicking on the raising-hand icon to speak, having your camera on/off, or not being on your phone. Outline the etiquette so each participant knows what is expected.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Virtual Meetings

This depends on the company culture, but typically is not needed. Virtual meetings can be treated much like in-person meetings.
The longest a virtual meeting should ever be is an hour. Given the difficulty of holding peoples’ attention, 30 minutes or less is even better.
The number of people who can attend a virtual meeting varies on what platform you are using (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.), but in general, is unlimited.
Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.

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