Virtual Meeting 101
Companies with offices in multiple locations may find virtual meetings a cost effective alternative to holding face-to-face meetings. A virtual meeting can be held anywhere that attendees have access to a computer and Internet. They are often used in today's world as substitutes for numerous types of meetings. Typical virtual meetings include employee training, brainstorming sessions and sales presentations. Fortunately, almost any type of meeting can easily become a virtual meeting
What is a virtual meeting?
A virtual meeting takes place over the Internet via a software program or website. The participants log on simultaneously at a predetermined time, using a single use password and username.
Meeting organizers may use avatars, or 3-D images, to represent the participants during the virtual meeting. They eliminate the need for webcams and other streaming video equipment. In some cases, however, the only person with an avatar is the host or presenter.
Is a virtual meeting right for your presentation?
While a virtual meeting can replace many face-to-face meetings, they must be used, like any other business tool, with care. For example, virtual meetings are appropriate for explaining policy changes that affect more than one location. They are also appropriate when contacting an existing client or investor about a new product or service.
In fact, a virtual meeting can be inappropriate in some situations. Those that project an attitude or subject matter that is too complex to be effectively presented during such a virtual meeting. In these cases, a face-to-face meeting is usually a better option than a virtual meeting because it is important to show the client that you value your professional image and relationships. Thus, with new clients or investors, a virtual meeting may feel impersonal.
Furthermore, virtual meetings usually feature 3-D representations of people and objects, so presentations that focus on intricate products or complex processes should be presented in person. this prevents the loss of important details during the 3-D conversion.
There are some great benefits.
One of the most obvious benefits of virtual meetings is no travel costs. You do not have the expenses that come with transporting everyone to a specific location or even holding several meetings to inform all of the participants. Eliminating these expenses means higher profits and lower costs to your customers.
Another benefit of a virtual meeting is the increased productivity at all of your offices, as employees do not have to spend time traveling to the meeting. You can expand your workforce by hiring employees to telecommute. In turn, you will recover costs of providing office space, furniture and equipment for these employees. You can hold meetings on very short notice without having to exclude employees due to logistical concerns.
You should be concerned, however.
As with any technological advances, virtual meetings come with special considerations Due to security concerns, it is often unwise to discuss sensitive or privileged information. Most virtual meeting software promise secure transmissions. This may be true when the software was developed. However, hackers can just as quickly develop technology that may break the security encryptions of the software. Scheduling virtual meetings is another problem, especially if you have participants overseas due to time differences.
In addition, finding a company to host your virtual meeting or choosing virtual meeting software may be difficult. In some cases, you may have to try several companies or programs before you find the one that meets all your needs.
Have a successful virtual meeting, using a little etiquette.
A successful virtual meeting is productive, efficient and motivational. To achieve these goals, all participants must begin by practicing good virtual meeting etiquette. For example, discourage multitasking during the meeting. Email or fax a list of basic etiquette reminders prior to that meeting. Also include these reminders in the meeting itinerary. Doing so will keep the meeting and its participants on task. Include in the reminder that background noise is distracting and can be avoided by muting microphones during the meeting.
Another tool to help stay on task is the question and answer session. Providing time for a Q&A at the end of the virtual meeting will prevent interruptions during the key points of your presentation. Stress to everyone that any questions or comments that do not directly pertain to the subject at hand can be addressed one on one at the end of the meeting.
Used correctly, virtual meetings can make your company productive, while decreasing costs. It is a great tool, but like any other must be used wisely. Consult a professional, and maybe take a training course to ensure that you and your staff know how to effectively use this tool. As the world marches toward a more web-based communications, your business-to-business and client communications will keep up with the use of virtual meetings. Soon, your business will be a more formidable competitor, no matter what industry you may be in.