Virtual meetings are here to stay. Companies have found out the advantage of remote communication, whether their team is in the same building, working from home, or in different parts of the world.
But, to host a virtual meeting, you will need videoconferencing tools and equipment, and they might have a cost. And not all businesses are prepared to add a new bill to their expenses
You can't avoid having to buy a camera and microphone if they aren't in-built into your computer or laptop. But there are tools and strategies you can implement to ensure your virtual has zero cost while still being effective. Let's talk about them.
Before you do anything, it's important that you have clear in your mind what makes a virtual meeting effective. There is no straight answer for this, as it can vary according to your company values and policies, or the goal of each specific session. But there is some common ground you can consider.
A meeting is considered effective when you manage to share or collect relevant information during it. It can be feedback from your team, data about your products, lessons on how to use a new tool. The concept of relevant information is based on what you had set as the meeting's goal before it happens, the reason to organize a meeting in the first place.
Your meetings should grab and keep the attention of your team for the entire duration. Of course, some people are easily distracted, but you should aim at keeping most of your collaborators interested in what you are saying. And this isn't only about falling asleep. A meeting can't be considered effective if attendees are constantly looking at their phones or disappearing from the screen view.
But how do you know if you have hosted an effective meeting? For that, you must decide which performance indicators are important to you.
As mentioned before, the fact that no-one fell asleep and all eyes were following every word is a good place to start. You can also ask a few questions to participants, in the end, to know if they remember and retained the key point of the meeting. Or you can also distribute a survey to evaluate retention or find out what they think of the meeting.
As the host of a virtual meeting, you are up to a few challenges before, during, and after each session. Let's see what you must be prepared for.
Before the virtual meeting, ensure that everyone has received an invitation and the link to the online room. Emails and online messaging systems are usually reliable, but you can never be sure. Always ask for RSVP.
Make sure you have a meeting agenda prepared to keep the session to the point. Share it with your audience, so they know what to expect and what you hope to get from them. And ask them to test the online meeting tools and their equipment beforehand.
Also, consider running a test by yourself or with the assistance of a team member. This is especially important if it's your first time hosting a virtual meeting. You must have a full understanding of how to control the tools and, for instance, be able to change settings during the session if necessary.
It can be much harder to host a virtual meeting compared to face-to-face sessions. For instance, you must be ready to deal with last-minute technical problems. Or have an IT technician on call.
Also, accept that some people might disappear from the meeting with or without a good reason. If it happens, carry on regardless. Don't take it personally or jump to conclusions. It might not have anything to do with your presentation, and you can deal with it later.
After the event, share the meeting notes with the participants and create tasks based on them if it's the case. Use the recording, if you have done it, or a transcription of the meeting as a support document.
As mentioned before, consider asking for feedback. Be ready for criticism, understanding this is the best way to improve your skills as a host. Encouraging your team to speak their minds will be useful for everyone.
An alternative for virtual meetings becoming more and more popular recently are async meetings – online meetings that aren't attended by all participants at the same time. You could say they work in the same way as any online video conversations. But they have a pre-defined agenda and happen in a secure environment.
The concept of async meetings is new, but it can work well. The advantages go from staying away from technical issues to allowing time to the participants think over and present stronger arguments. It definitely is the best option when it comes to remote teams working from different time zones.
Now, let's have a look at a selection of tools you can use to host reliable virtual meetings.
Zoom has become one of the most popular online tools, and it deserves its place. Even on its free version, you will get everything you need to host an effective virtual meeting. It can be used well no matter what camera and mic your team members have, and it doesn't require much previous preparation.
Writing on a whiteboard never gets old and still is one of the best visual aids in the market. It can also make your meetings more be fun if you know how to explore it. Miro creates a virtual whiteboard that can be shared with your team. It comes with many extra features, and you can use it in real-time or asynchronously.
Zoho Cliq is a powerful messaging tool, going beyond treads and channels. For instance, you will be able to custom build bots or create command shortcuts to automate tasks. It also comes with virtual meeting features, including whiteboard and screen sharing, plus searchable conversations and data encryption.
Many interactions don't need to be synchronous. For them, RemoteWorkly is the perfect tool, allowing you to hold async video meetings with your team. It includes screen sharing, searchable transcripts, and other features that will be the best choice for remote workers looking to become more productive.
But if what you are looking for is for a video tool to talk to clients outside your company, check Videoask. Created by Typeform, it can be embedded into your website, so you can have an async video conversation with your customers – instead of using a chatbot, for instance.
Sometimes, you have no choice but to spend some money to host an effective virtual meeting. This happens when:
If this is your case, the good news is that most equipment is very affordable. And free virtual meeting tools usually have a pro version you can test first. This way you can decide if they are worthwhile for your business before making a commitment.
Otherwise, make the most of the free tools. By following our suggestions, you will be sure to host effective virtual meetings.