Today’s office can no longer be defined only by its physical space. Work environments can be virtually anywhere, and can be determined largely by the participating individuals. With access to high-speed internet, cloud-based collaboration services, mobile technology, and advanced audio equipment, people can connect to each other at any time.
Choosing the Right Virtual Meeting Technology:
Consider the number of participants and where they are located
Sometimes, bigger is not better. Having more people in a meeting, virtual or not, can become confusing—and there’s a tendency for a select few to dominate the conversation. However, if a larger group is necessary and there will be remote participants, it’s best served by an online meeting environment that enables users to share screens, see who’s talking, and provide text-based commentary to specific individuals.
When there are multiple users joining from a variety of remote locations, the right infrastructure must be in place to enable effective usage of the required meeting tools. Potential considerations include bandwidth, firewalls that may require workarounds in advance, any special advance permissions, and the ability to download any needed apps.
Know who’s driving and who’s participating
The most successful meetings have clearly defined roles: a leader, presenters, and participants. This becomes even more critical in a virtual environment. On larger calls, it’s helpful to have technology that enables the leader to mute all those who are not talking while allowing typed questions and requests to speak from those who are listening.
If the same group meets regularly, a combined collaboration portal/meeting space that provides file sharing, instant messaging, and instant video conferencing is beneficial. This single destination can also serve as a knowledge exchange, where users can post comments, files, and updates for everyone in the group to see.
Plan for all devices being used
Some users may be calling from their desktop, while others might be calling from a laptop, tablet, smartphone, speakerphone, or desk phone. It’s important to test all potential scenarios. Noise-cancelling headsets or earpieces can help ensure consistent sound quality across various devices under a variety of conditions.
Identify specific tech requirements in advance
All users should be aware of any technical requirements well in advance of the conference call. For example: Is a webcam required? High-speed internet? Speakers? A headset? This will allow them to do the requisite installations and tests to ensure the meeting tools are functioning properly.
In addition, if all users belong to the same organisation, it’s helpful to use a web conferencing tool that integrates with the organisation’s directory. This makes it easy to send quick requests for impromptu meetings. For users outside the organisation, check their firewall and proxy settings to help make the connections more readily.
Know what needs to be seen and who needs to be heard
Do the meeting participants need to see one another? Do they need to share a whiteboard or desktop? Are they showing a video or running through a presentation?
True collaboration comes from a combination of sight and sound matched with the appropriate tools. Do you have the technologies in place to ensure all these needs are covered?
Have a back-up plan
Technical difficulties, unfortunately, do occur from time to time, so it’s important to have contingencies set up. It’s a good idea, for example, to test all passcodes in advance, and to make arrangements to have technical support standing by via IM, should the meeting organiser or participants experience any difficulties.
The 7 Virtual Virtues: Etiquette for the Online Meeting World
- CLARITY: Speak deliberately and clearly to be heard and understood.
- PURITY: In a virtual environment, participants have enough distractions, so stick to the agenda. You’ll help the group achieve more in the end.
- TEMPERANCE: Tone of voice and energy are really important, especially in an audio-only meeting. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
- SILENCE: When you’re not speaking, stay on mute. Background noise is distracting.
- FORTITUDE: Be active in the conversation, but don’t dominate. It’s all too easy when you’re participating remotely to disengage, or talk without giving others a chance to interject.
- PATIENCE: Be sensitive to those whose first language is not the one being spoken in the meeting. Listen carefully, and speak slowly.
- ENGAGEMENT: It’s easy to get distracted when calling in to a meeting. Focus on what’s being said, and engage in the dialogue whenever possible.