Making virtual meetings effective

virtual meetingVirtual meetings are a great way to save time and connect people in different locations so they can work on projects and update each other. But running a successful virtual meeting takes just as much preparation as a real-world meeting. We’ve all been on a conference call where someone hasn’t pressed mute when they should have, but it takes more than solving those basic problems to make a virtual meeting a success. Here are some tips.

 Identify the tools you need. For some meetings, you may only need a conference line. For others, using desktop video capability such as

Web­­Ex can get everyone on the same page, says Rick Lepsinger, president of On­­­­Point Consulting and co-author of “Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide to Working and Leading From a Distance.”

Jason Copeland, the owner and CEO of Fin­­land Tech­­nology Solu­­tions, says he holds virtual meetings be­­tween offices in San Fran­­cisco and Arme­­nia for one project. His organization uses High­­five, which allows videoconferencing access on laptops, desktops and TVs. He also recommends Google Hang­­outs, Skype for Business and for video. What­­ever tool you use, ensure that everyone has the bandwidth and hardware to manage it, Copeland says. “Some­­times it’s not the tool that matters so much as what a company has to support it,” he says.

Be an expert. Devon Pilney of North Star Resource Group is a finan­­­­cial advisor who holds up to 15 re­­mote meetings a week. He recommends fully learning whatever tool you use so you can troubleshoot on the fly. “It’s technology; something always goes wrong,” he says. He often uses because it’s browser-based and doesn’t require logins. “This helps to minimize the hassle usually associated with new software.”

59 Tech Tips D

Send an agenda. Share a plan for the meeting through email, Google Docs or another system to ensure everyone knows what to expect. For new participants, Pilney recommends a note explaining how the conference system or software works so people aren’t stressed about what they should be doing before the meeting.

Encourage participation. It can be easy to check out of a virtual meeting, especially if it’s audio only. Lepsinger suggests feedback tools to keep people engaged. For large groups, use chat or polls to find out what people think about an idea. “For small groups, encourage people to stay off mute to keep them engaged.”