Most employees now attend 62 meetings a month.
Maybe the word “meeting” gives you hives or maybe you’re someone who can’t wait for that next calendar reminder to pop up. Either way, it’s clear today’s professionals aren’t lacking for meetings to join.
And while members of the workforce were no strangers to meeting-filled days pre-pandemic, the growth in hybrid and fully remote work means many of our day-to-day meetings are happening virtually in 2022.
Virtual meetings have plenty of benefits, but they’re also a snap to schedule. Just pop that invite into someone’s calendar with an attached video link and voilà: You’re a virtual meeting organizer.
Being able to book these experiences with the greatest of ease means almost anything can turn into a virtual meeting –– even if it lacks a clear purpose or agenda. The pressure to pay extra attention to logistics and time tends to evaporate.
After all, virtual meeting attendees don’t have to go anywhere –– they just have to open an app or tab in their browser, tap that join link, and there they are.
So, how do you rage against today’s mindless virtual meeting machine? How do you tap into all the advantages of these online experiences while elevating your approach and indicating to your colleagues that your virtual meeting is one they won’t want to miss?
Join us for a deep dive into the world of virtual meetings and learn how to make yours stand out –– and deliver real value –– in that sea of 62 meetings a month.
In this guide:
What is a virtual meeting?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or off the grid) the past few years, you probably have a good sense of what a virtual meeting is –– and have likely participated in a few. (Does the alert, “you’re on mute,” strike a chord?)
Even so, here’s a quick refresher:
A virtual meeting is an online gathering in which participants join via audio, video, or a combination of the two.
Typically run using some form of software, virtual meetings allow people to share ideas, information, and experiences without needing to be physically together.
But quickly moving to virtual meetings en masse the last few years left many unsure of how to prepare for or execute a good virtual meeting –– nevermind a great one.
In this guide, we’ll define a new playbook for best-in-class virtual meetings. But first, let’s review some terminology –– and what to look for in virtual meeting software.
Types of virtual meetings
A few terms get tossed around when discussing virtual meetings: video conferencing, web conferencing, and teleconferencing. Are these synonyms? Let’s hash it out:
- Video conferencing: This is probably the most common term used when talking about virtual meetings. A video conference is a video call where multiple people meet and have the ability to see and hear one another — think team stand-ups or meetings with potential clients. If video conferencing is the new conference call, then the platform you use to host it is your virtual conference room.
- Web conferencing: This is like video conferencing — but caffeinated. The key difference is that web conferencing is the most interactive type of virtual meeting because it combines virtual events, team collaboration, and interactive tools, with video conferencing. Let’s say your team is in the midst of a big project, and you need a streamlined way for the team to access and discuss design work. It’s possible with a web conferencing platform that offers that function.
- Teleconferencing: This format refers to a meeting that involves audio without video. While teleconferencing doesn’t leave room for nonverbal communication, it’s often a simple way to meet because a phone is the only equipment needed. Teleconferencing can be a valuable option, especially when you have attendees with limited internet access but the ability to make a phone call, or the meeting only requires a simple chat.
Types of virtual meeting software
At the end of the day, virtual meeting software, video conferencing software, and video teleconferencing software are pretty much the same thing. These phrases all refer to the software meeting participants use to gather and share their video and audio. Some software programs are web-based, while others require attendees to download an application to join the meeting.
When looking for the best software for your needs, consider what your virtual meetings will require. Those requirements could be some or all of the following:
- A mobile app so participants can attend from anywhere
- Security features that allow only approved participants to join
- A space you can use with audio and video, so people feel more connected
- Bandwidth for many participants to attend large meetings simultaneously
- A unique, shareable link for a specific meeting to make it easy for attendees to join
- The ability to interact with other participants without lag
- Screen sharing for slide decks, videos, or other content so everyone sees the same thing at the same time
- A raised-hand feature for queueing questions
- The option to record the meeting, so the content is available for later access
- Host controls to help ensure productivity isn’t derailed
- Chat functionality so participants can make comments
Some virtual meeting platforms go the extra mile to:
- Create breakout rooms for group collaboration
- Offer seamless streaming to avoid tech disruptions
- Provide opportunities for networking with folks in the meeting to help foster connection
- Include GIFs and emojis in the chat for heightened expression
- Include app integrations that support engagement
- Provide embedded integrations like YouTube for easy video sharing
These features enhance the meeting experience and create a more inclusive atmosphere for distributed teams.
Now, let’s look at why you might choose to organize a virtual meeting in the first place.
The benefits of virtual meetings
Virtual meetings have drastically changed the professional landscape for certain industries and types of work. Let’s examine why someone might choose a virtual meeting over an in-person one.
Global, distributed teams contend with physical distance and many time zones. Virtual meetings allow them to stay connected, build culture, and collaborate.
For example, a finance team in Munich can easily partner with a product team in Brazil –– no travel required. Tools like Miro, a digital whiteboard solution, also pave the way for improved collaboration, making it feel like the whole team is in the same (digital) room.
Health and safety
Navigating a multi-year pandemic has made health and safety top of mind for many.
For employees considering how to connect without being in physical contact with others, virtual meetings offer ways to feel close without being together in person.
As technology advances, companies continue developing ways to support their teams and communities.
Virtual meetings clear certain barriers and offer more access than purely on-site meetings. People with certain limitations can find that virtual meetings offer increased access and more opportunities to participate.
For example, captions for live video streams can be helpful for attendees who can’t fully rely on being able to hear. Team members can also remain in the comfort of their own spaces without needing to travel.
Depending on the platform and the price tag associated with goodies being delivered to attendees’ doors, virtual meetings can be a cost-efficient alternative to face-to-face ones.
Travel expenses add up for distributed teams meeting in person. Flights, hotels, daily commuting costs, and daily food and beverage costs are all part and parcel of getting together for an on-site meeting. But online meetings eliminate the need for those travel budgets.
For many, gone are the days of killing time in airport lounges, commuting two hours to the office, or racing from one in-person meeting to the next. Virtual meetings trim all that “in-between” time and offer a convenient way to communicate and collaborate.
According to McKinsey, speed is crucial for success in today’s business landscape. With virtual meetings, folks can join from around the world with the click of a button –– and quickly come together to make decisions or push projects forward.
While the full scope of environmental sustainability associated with virtual and hybrid events is still being assessed, shifting from in-person to virtual conferences can reduce an organization’s carbon footprint by up to 94%.
Virtual meetings support a reduction in emissions and energy usage caused by travel and decrease physical waste production, all contributing to a smaller environmental footprint.
The meeting ends and everyone realizes they forgot to take notes –– we’ve all been there. And this can lead to wasted time in follow-ups.
But many virtual meeting platforms offer the ability to record conversations. As a result, people don’t have to multitask during the meeting and anyone who can’t make it can play catch up.
Recordings also help prevent misunderstandings as access to original messaging is always available.
Deciding to host a virtual meeting is one thing, but making that meeting something valuable is another.
How to host a valuable virtual meeting
Proper planning prevents poor performance, right?
When it comes to meetings, 64% percent of professionals said it’s the well-planned versions that make them excited to join. Solid planning even beat out perks like free lunch and drinks –– let that sink in for a second.
So, if you want to host a virtual meeting your colleagues are excited to attend –– and that will be valuable for them –– plan it. Consider these tips when preparing for and running a virtual meeting.
Take a look at calendars before slotting in a time for your virtual meeting. If someone has blocked off a time slot as “DNS” (do not schedule), “focus time,” or “ask before scheduling,” don’t just book over that time without touching base with them. Check in with meeting attendees where needed or ask invitees to identify time slots that work well for them.
There’s often a lot to contend with when scheduling a virtual meeting, particularly for a team that’s distributed across many time zones, so establish open lines of communication while scheduling to make sure everyone has context on the timing. And if someone can’t attend, record the meeting so they can digest it later and then give them an avenue for sharing their input.
Many virtual platforms integrate with standard calendar software like Microsoft Teams, iCal, and others, all of which send meeting notifications to attendees. Tools like Calendly or Google Calendar also let folks easily see an individual’s availability and select a pre-measured length of time that works for them.
Provide a clear agenda
More than 55% of remote workers have sat through a meeting thinking, “This could’ve been an email.” Beyond that, many of us have probably joined a meeting not knowing what it was going to be about, and left a meeting wondering, “What was the point of that?”
More often than not, a lack of a clear agenda is to blame in these scenarios.
Developing and communicating a logical meeting agenda with associated time limits helps a meeting stay on track, keeps the focus on key elements, and drives clarity around the intended outcomes.
Consider sending an agenda that includes status updates for your team to read before the meeting as it shows respect for their time and cuts down on the need to play catch up at the beginning of the meeting slot.
Select your tech
Virtual meetings have improved immensely since they first became an alternative for in-person gatherings.
People can now access virtual platforms with devices like computers, mobile phones, and tablets.
For the best possible virtual meeting experience, consider using a computer because of its audio and video functionality. If your sound or video is lacking, using headphones, a headset, webcam, and/or microphone might provide a better experience.
Another benefit to using a computer is the option to share your screen when presenting demos, videos, and slide decks, or using a collaboration tool. If you’re accessing your virtual meeting via your web browser, make sure it’s up to date and supports video conferencing technology.
Check your internet strength
To connect with video and audio via a browser, you need a solid internet connection. It’s a key factor to consider because a strong connection can make or break your experience.
Here are a few tips to help ensure a strong internet connection:
- Run a speed test.
- Stay as close to the router as you can.
- Use an ethernet cable if one is available.
- Try to minimize the amount of people using the same connection, if possible.
With a solid foundation in place –– thoughtful scheduling, a clear agenda, the right tech equipment, and a strong internet connection –– you’re prepared to run a valuable and productive virtual meeting. But there are ways to take these experiences beyond the basics.
Taking your virtual meetings to the next level
Let’s be honest: There are virtual meetings, and then there are virtual meetings you actually look forward to. Here are a few tactics to consider if you’re looking to level up and keep attendees coming back for more.
Many professionals have developed a personal style for running a virtual meeting. Whatever your preferences, consider setting expectations for meeting norms in advance and think about how you’ll lead with empathy:
- Should cameras be encouraged or optional?
- Do you want people to mute their microphones when someone else is speaking?
- Should people raise a virtual hand to ask questions or write questions in the chat?
Communicating expectations beforehand sends a clear message and helps attendees understand meeting parameters. Rallying everyone around proper meeting etiquette ahead of time can help minimize distractions, answer outstanding questions, and prevent potential awkwardness.
Leave a short buffer for late joiners, but start on time
Staying on schedule shows respect for attendees’ time, so a punctual start is key. Too often, a host waits for every person to join before starting a virtual meeting, which can quickly derail the agenda. Then, topics that should have been covered are left unacknowledged.
Try leaving a five-minute buffer for late joiners and casual conversation, then dig into meeting content. Remember, you can record virtual meetings, so anyone running late will be able to catch up later.
Test screen sharing and presentation tools before the meeting
Nothing indicates a lack of preparation and slashes excitement faster than not being able to show a presentation you worked hard to produce. Plus, fumbling with technology robs everyone of precious meeting time.
Create a test meeting ahead of time and get at least one other person to join so you can understand what attendees will see. Practice screen sharing any presentations and implementing any other tech tools you want to use in a few different ways so you can tackle any necessary trouble shooting before showtime.
Model the ideal physical environment
First impressions count. With that in mind, as the virtual meeting host, aim to model an optimal physical environment.
Consider these tips:
- Select a well-lit space without backlighting, or invest in a ring light, so participants can see you clearly.
- Make sure you're comfortable with participants seeing any objects in the physical space around you.
- Find a spot with little background noise so you can hear and be heard.
- Place your camera in line with your eyes so folks aren't looking up your nose!
- Position any physical props, tools, or other items you need right in front of you for easy access.
All that said, no situation is perfect –– and authenticity is appreciated. If your child, pet, or a loud vehicle driving by interrupts, go with the flow –– acknowledge it but don’t let it derail the experience, if possible.
Lean into apps
While the core content is paramount, consider app integrations that can help enhance the experience and, when appropriate, encourage active engagement. A virtual meeting can include:
- A collaborative session on a digital whiteboard
- Brainstorming sessions
- Post-meeting networking
- A multi-language experience
- Various gaming integrations
- And much more
Apps can help support a wide variety of elements across virtual meetings, promoting increased accessibility, deeper connection, and collaboration.
Finish with a recap, takeaways, and next steps
When wrapping up your meeting, reiterate key learnings and talking points, so everyone is on the same page.
More importantly, share takeaways and next steps (including who is running point on each next step), so responsibilities are clear and everyone understands how they’ll move the needle. If you need a follow-up meeting, give everyone a heads up that is coming.
Set yourself up for virtual meeting success
Make your life easier by choosing a virtual meeting platform that goes the extra mile –– especially when it comes to engagement, ease of use, and flexibility.
If you’re searching for a platform that not only exceeds expectations, but is also backed by a team who will support you along the way, speak to a member of the Hopin team. We can help you plan best-in-class virtual meetings that don’t get lost in today’s shuffle.