Overview with tools, software, best practices and alternatives

What is a Virtual Meeting?

A virtual meeting is a meeting format that utilizes online access to the web instead of meeting face to face.

Who does Virtual Meetings?

Teams with members spread across the globe run virtual meetings. Also called remote teams or dispersed teams, virtual teams are capable of conducting online using the internet. Virtual trainings are also used by interviewers and applicants in faraway locations. Virtual meetings allow such groups of people to discuss online anytime and anywhere, since their location as well as their time zone is not an issue.

Why do people do Virtual Meetings?

People hold virtual meetings to accommodate all team members coming from different places. Also, virtual meetings operate over the internet, eliminating the need for travel. Team members are able to see and hear each other, just like they are in the same room. Exchange of information in several formats can be achieved thru virtual meetings, since participants are encouraged to share their insights from different sources.

How to do a Virtual Meeting

Virtual meetings just need three things to connect people around the world together – internet access, audio (headset with microphone), and device (such as laptops or netbooks).

The agenda can be sent to the participants at least days prior to the online meeting. This is for the participants to review the topics for the meeting, giving them a good grasp of what they will discuss in the meeting.

Establishing momentum is essential in a virtual meeting. A good atmosphere for a meeting should be set in order to establish and build the momentum of the team. A meeting is productive if everyone is participating in the conversations. Also participants have the chance to share their experiences, thus, boosting their confidence and socialization skills.

The presentation is the next step in a virtual meeting. Slides can be used as templates so that the participants can view information in an organized manner. Also, the slides can be shared to all participants and team members, including those who failed to attend the meeting. It includes a glimpse of the previous meeting. Topics of the current meeting should focus on plans, actions, problem-solving, tactics, accomplishments, and lessons learned from mistakes or errors.

Team leaders should also keep the whole team informed about the next meeting schedule as well as the next step the team will take. This is to prevent the team from losing its track.

Advantages of doing Virtual Meetings

Conducting virtual meetings is an efficient method of communication among team members for some reasons.

First, virtual meetings reach all members of the team, having no issues with time zone and location. Dispersed team will benefit most with this set-up as the meeting can be done wherever the team members are, as long as there is an online access.

The easy operation is another reason why virtual meetings are beneficial. The technical tools and requirements that are required include an internet connection, audio, and a webcam. For virtual meetings involving larger groups, a projector screen or large TV monitor can be used. Also the presentation should stick to the KISS principle, which means “Keep It Short and Simple.” It is the ultimate way to keep the participants focused on the presentation.

Disadvantages of doing Virtual Meetings

While virtual meetings present various advantages, they also have some flaws.

In virtual meetings, people are not in the same room; hence, they cannot establish eye contact, use body language, as well as verbal cues during the presentation.

Since virtual meetings are highly dependent on internet connectivity, technical issues involving the online access puts trouble to such meetings. Poor internet access will hamper the continuity of the meeting. Those with absence internet access will not be able to participate in the meeting. The online meeting may also be cancelled if the host’s internet connection has the problem. In addition, technical problems can interrupt the meetings, making it hard to distribute files and check visual aids, including graphic designs, portfolios, and product samples.

Best practices for doing Virtual Meetings

In conducting virtual meetings, the participating audience should be determined before setting anything else. Some facilitators immediately decide on the technologies and software to be used, without considering the participants. They sometimes end up revising the presentation due to the wrong grasp of the audience. One of the best practices in conducting virtual meetings is designing the presentation in parallel with the environment and audience, since live audience is different from virtual audience.

Virtual meetings should be planned in advance. For instance, the agenda should be sent ahead of time. The visuals should also be created early and should be forwarded to the participants prior to the meeting. In addition, team members who need to be involved should be informed beforehand. It also important to test any software downloads needed in the meeting.

For virtual meetings with a large audience, a good idea is to have someone whose function is to assist the main presenter. The assistant may support the participants in case there are technical issues. In addition, the assistant may entertain any chat questions that are raised.

How Teamreporter helps at doing Virtual Meetings

Teamreporter is an application that replaces meetings with scheduled report mails. It remains no charge for small teams with four members and it only takes less than a minute to sign-up.

The application contacts team members via e-mail, asking them to report the progress, conflicts, and notable events within the day. The responses from the team members will be collated in order to generate a summative output of the team’s status, which will be sent to the team members the following day.

Teamreporter allows the team members to get in touch with the team with the updates it produces using its simple and automatic system. Team members will be aware of the progress and problems of each team member, enabling them to communicate about it and devise plans and strategies.

The number of virtual meetings will be lessened with Teamreporter, since it already serves as the team’s means of communication. Since it fits all workflows and work environments, Teamreporter can be programmed to provide daily status to all team members regardless of their location and time zone.

Alternatives to Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings are conducted in order to meet the increasing demands on people’s time and traveling expenses. These meetings enable team members to make the most out of their available time and budgets as well.

An alternative to virtual meetings are in-person meetings, which involve face-to-face meeting within a team. In-person meetings may be an option for discussions involving sensitive topics such as grievances of staffs, disciplinary actions, one-on-one discussion with a team member, or situations that may require tough decision making.

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Teamreporter is free for small teams (up to 4 members)