Virtual Meetings: A Comprehensive Overview
We find ourselves delving into the new world of virtual business meetings. To guide you through this new reality, we’ve created the most comprehensive guide to virtual meetings. We will cover:
Virtual Meeting Format
With more and more companies and organizations exploring new avenues to replace their live events, there is more focus than ever on platforms to host virtual meetings and events.
Businesses are looking to platforms like:
In addition to evaluating the cost, it’s important to look at the features each option offers. Recording the meeting is a pretty common and very important feature. Screen-share is also important to most businesses. Being able to pass “presenter” status to other participants is helpful. The host managing audio controls on participants is important too, as we’ve all heard the person that just won’t mute themselves as they bicker with their children for all to hear. Fun features like backgrounds, and being able to share marketing info in waiting rooms are also nice to have. Also consider the number of attendees, availability of local numbers, time restraints on calls and how easy the user interface is. Chat, polls and file sharing also make meetings more efficient and engaging.
The purpose of the meeting will drive the features and tool-set that you require from your platform.
Many IT departments, whether ad-hoc or already existing are focusing on finding, implementing and training teams on the best platforms. A strategy is important, especially if you need to host a variety of meeting and event types.
Once you’ve selected your platform and ensure you know how to utilize all the features, it’s time to turn your attention to the agenda for the event.
We are hearing lots of discussion about cross-talk on calls with multiple participants. Delays in transmission can exacerbate this problem. It helps to start the meeting with rules or guidelines for participation and outlining the agenda for the event. Let participants know if comments should be held, or interjected throughout. Create a process for guests to make the host aware that they want to interject a comment.
Typically your agenda will follow the same format as a live meeting or event would. There is a kick off statement, as mentioned above, and then attention turns to the heart of the meeting. In advance of the meeting participants should be made aware of the particulars related to video and audio. Namely, should they turn their camera on for a video call or is audio all that is required. Food and beverages may or not be consumed by participants, based on what is appropriate for their circumstances. No noise related to the consumption of food and beverages should disrupt the call.
Typically there is a planned break if the meeting is running more than an hour.
If entertainment is part of the event, it may happen during intermission or at the end of the event. You may find people drop off if entertainment is held to the end so many businesses are opting for something in the middle or near the end of the meeting but not at the very end.
Often there is a period for questions or comments after. Some platforms allow you to survey participants for feedback and satisfaction at the end of the event.
Much like a live event, your focus should be on creating the best experience for productivity and enjoyment. If working remotely is new to your participants – you can help ease them into this and increase their comfort level by clearly conveying all guidelines and expectations.
Patience and understanding will be required by all. There may be glitches, noise and unanticipated issues. Getting through them as quickly and seamlessly as possible is the goal.
Food and beverages may or not be consumed by participants, based on what is appropriate for their circumstances. No noise related to the consumption of food and beverages should disrupt the call.
Type of Corporate Virtual Events
- General Session
- Sales Meetings
- Award Celebrations
- Business Meetings
- Company Wide Events
- Department Meetings
- Team Building
- Virtual Happy Hours for Companies
Company Morale and Team Building
Fake news, social media, slower connectivity, feeling alone, no sense of collaboration and team, adapting to a lot of change at once – these are all reasons that employees are struggling with working from home during the pandemic.
The number one thing you can do to combat this and boost morale is communicate with your team. Send emails, do virtual meetings and offer extras to help your employees connect during this rough time. Providing fun, team building events can do wonders for mental health, morale and productivity.
Virtual meetings are a great way to share credible news, assure team members that the company is doing well, update on projects and build a connection in these trying times.
Always demonstrate caring by listening and addressing staff concerns.
Some companies are meeting for virtual coffee once a week, for a more informal session to chat, catch up and get to know how everyone is doing. During this scheduled time, bringing entertainment to your virtual meeting is a great way to surprise and entertain your team. This investment is well worth it. Companies that treat their employees well now will have less turnover (which is a big cost savings) and you will also see great productivity when the team is energized and connected.
Your staff is crucial to your business success – there is nothing greater you can invest in than them.
Keep reading for some killer ideas for virtual entertainment. Keep in mind, your clients may be feeling the same loss of morale – consider hosting an event to appreciate customers too!
Keep in mind that newsletters work well for your target audience. They can be just as effective internally. Keep employees informed and engaged with an internal newsletter. The effort shows you care. The information keeps everyone current and the feelings of connection to the company increase with this extra effort to connect.
Etiquette for virtual meetings
To ensure success of your virtual meetings, follow these tips:
- Send a reminder – make sure everyone is aware of the event and how to access it
- Make sure everyone understands how to use the platform – not everyone is tech savvy, make sure everyone is comfortable doing what they need to on your virtual meeting platform
- Work off an agenda – keep the meeting focused and productive with a pre-set agenda
- Leave the keyboard alone – taking notes will become a distraction when fellow attendees hear the tap tap tap of your typing, use a notepad and paper for notes
- Dress appropriately – this is still a work event, determine what is appropriate dress for the event and follow it
- Track time and don’t run over – respect people’s time and schedule
- Review guidelines for call (who can speak etc) when you get started or even prior to the event, in writing
- Be aware of your surroundings:
- No beds (unmade or made) in the background
- No messy rooms or open closets
- No NSFW background art, items or language
- Mute your microphone when you’re not talking
- Speak up when it is your turn to talk
- No food allowed – unless it has been predetermined that snacks and beverages are ok
- It may be tempting to check your email, carry on a side conversation or do other work during a meeting, resist the temptation. You may miss key information or an opportunity.
- If you’re using your webcam, show that you are attentive and present, sit up straight, don’t make big or sudden movements, and don’t let your eyes wander too much
Zoom Fatigue, according to the BBC, is growing stressed or tired of virtual meetings due to the unique stressors – namely, it is harder to intuit social cues, there is unnatural eye contact (in person, eyes tend to wander more than they do on video calls) and lastly, there is stress over who speaks when and interruptions etc.
It can be more mentally taxing to participate in virtual video calls, especially when there are many in a day.
It can be tempting to work on other projects during video calls, however that just detaches you from the conversation and creates more stress.
Your best bet is to stay focused, allow natural eye movement, ensure you are in a place with minimal distractions and allow yourself time between meetings.
Tip for employers and meeting hosts: consider adding entertainment or an emcee to longer meetings. This will help alleviate stress and energize participants.
Ways to get more out of virtual meetings
Plan your agenda in advance, coordinate things like passing the presenter role, consider logistics – such as recording the virtual meeting and plan in advance. Basically, ensure once the meeting starts, everything flows smoothly with no logistical or technical issues to distract anyone.
Make sure all attendees know the agenda and understand when they can respond and participate.
One of the best ways to ensure success of a longer meeting is to use a moderator or emcee.
Host/Emcee/Moderator Adds Value
Think of in-person events that you host – there is typically a face of the event. Someone that is there to keep things moving, keep the participants engaged and to add some levity and humor. Arguably, a virtual meeting is sometimes stressful, especially as we all continue to adapt to the new normal. A host, moderator or emcee adds even more value to a virtual event.
Keeping participants engaged is crucial to the success of any event and that job is measurably harder in a virtual environment.
Virtual Entertainment for Meetings
Your next online event doesn’t have to be boring! Entertainment isn’t only for live events! Virtual entertainment is hot right now and people are loving it!
During tense times, we are all looking for comforts. As we traverse this pandemic and even beyond the pandemic, our new normal is a lot more digital and virtual than we are used to. One way to help ease tensions, motivate and engage your audience is by thinking outside the box!
Ways to use Virtual Event Entertainment
- Attention grabbing videos to kick off the event or to offer some much-needed levity mid-event
- Short entertaining video bits to work into your event or presentation – customized celebrity videos are a great surprise for meeting attendees
- Live virtual event entertainment works with streaming platforms
Examples of online entertainment:
Virtual Trivia or Game Show
A Virtual Trivia or Game Show is highly interactive, memorable, engaging and fun. Games can be up to 60 minutes. The host will be key to the success. Use a host who is professional and experienced. Adding custom questions to the mix will delight your participants.
Now more than ever we need a good laugh. Laughter relieves stress and creates natural bonding among participants. Find a professional virtual comedian who has audience-appropriate material.
Virtual Escape Room
A virtual escape room is highly interactive and engaging. This event is stimulating, engaging and promotes bonding among your team. Great for everyone these days.
Dazzle and wow your attendees with magic, humor, audience engagement and a memorable virtual experience with an experienced virtual magician.
Virtual Mentalist/Mind Reader
A mentalist will bring that exciting wow-factor to your next event. Your guests will be amazed at their mind reading capabilities.
Masters of Ceremony or Professional Emcee Host
Whether you use an experienced corporate or a television host or a clean, experienced virtual host, you will find they help keep things moving and are able to improvise on the fly when unexpected things happen.
Sometimes the draw for an event is a celebrity. It’s no different online. Including a celebrity creates excitement and is a great way to show appreciation for the attendees by offering something special. It may work best to have the celebrity prerecord a short 3-5 minute segment and personalize it for your group.
Professional comedy is the most popular go-to entertainment type. Comedy makes your event memorable and fun. There is nothing like laughter to connect your virtual audience. The best format is in front of a small staged audience with some laughter, but prerecorded or live from their remote location works well too. The key is a shorter segment like 10-20 minutes tops. You can use 2 or 3 comedians throughout an event. A comedian as a host works well too.
America’s Got Talent has created renewed interest in variety acts of all kinds. Magicians, mentalists, technology acts and jugglers all add a lot of entertainment value to the event. There can be prerecorded segments or they can be “live” at the event on the main stage or even in their own remote stage. The idea is to WOW your audience and treat them to something unexpected.
A solid mainstay of telethons has always been musical acts. Generally, when acts perform virtually the cost is less than a live performance. Often acoustic and solo performances work best in a virtual environment. Groups/bands can be harder – but not impossible! Virtual music events have become very common in a short period of time.
Pre-Event Digital Teasers are important
With any of the formats and suggestions above, use the entertainment to spark interest and motivation to attend the remote event. Have your act prerecord a short intro bit you can use leading up to the event.
Tips for Success
Don’t forget to promote your virtual event to ensure maximum attendance. Test all tech prior to the event. A few dry runs are always a good idea. Get feedback on your event, just like you do with live events. Have a clear start and end time. Have a goal for the event – whether it’s as simple as getting through an agenda or more complex like building relationships to ask for donor support. If there are technical glitches, stay calm and have an expert on hand to help resolve the issue. Having an entertainer, host or emcee there to jump in and fill gaps due to glitches is a great idea. Be clear about your policy for food and beverages for guests – it can serve as a distraction and create noise (there is always that one person who won’t mute and we all hear everything!). Decide whether you want to acknowledge attendees – if it’s possible, it’s a good idea and a great way to engage your audience.
Teasing the audience with promises of exciting reveals, great entertainment and special perks for those who attend virtually is a great way to increase attendance.
Revenue opportunities with virtual events
The pandemic has hit hard in all areas. We are hearing from so many associations and businesses that are worried about lost revenue from conferences, tradeshows and other industry events.
A virtual event, whether it’s live streaming or pre-recorded, is a great way to offer the content your audience wants and still generate revenue. In many ways, you can generate more revenue – you can host more people since there are no limitations on venue size. Attendees don’t have to worry about travel and can afford to attend more events virtually. Employers are approving expenses for virtual events, wanting their team to stay current and on top of the latest news and trends.
Virtual events also allow for a lot of data that can be used to benefit future marketing efforts and events. Digital platforms allow tracking of more data, which can be turned into actionable insights.
Associations that are worried about losing memberships can focus on retention of these members by providing high quality virtual events.