Conducting An Effective Virtual Meeting
by Catherine Wilson
The purpose of any meeting is to communicate and share ideas. Organizing, planning, and running a meeting requires a leader who can facilitate interaction so that everyone can share ideas and work to reach a consensus.
Nowadays, with so many virtual meetings, organizers must not only look after the substantive and psychological aspects of running a meeting, they must adapt their plans to the possibilities and limitations of the technology they are using.
Video conferencing has often foundered on the difficulty of setting up and running the equipment, software, and connectivity issues posed by the system it uses. Lately, live broadcasting, as offered by companies such as Blue Jeans, has mitigated the technological hurdles, but conducting a virtual meeting still requires a different approach to planning than a live meeting.
People are not as attentive to a screen as they are to other people in the same room. They will be more tempted to check email, send text messages, or otherwise try to multitask. Because attention spans are shorter in a virtual meeting, the meetings themselves need to be shorter and have fewer agenda items than live meetings. A long face-to-face meeting requires breaks. A video meeting requires shorter segments, more frequent breaks, and a slower pace, and can even be used in with the sync teaching method or flipped classroom models.
The moderator or presenter must not only prepare differently, but also keep technology in mind. To begin with, consider your appearance. Some clothing that is appropriate for face-to-face meetings will not look good on the screen. For example, striped shirts or other patterns and fleshy jewelry don’t show well on the camera.
You will also have to be cognizant of the lighting. Before the meeting begins, experiment with the lighting. Depending on equipment in the room it will be possible either to move lamps around or change the aim of spotlights. Make sure light does not shine too brightly on your face. Also make sure it is not behind you. Back lighting will hide your face.
It is also important to check the background. The camera will focus not only on you, but whatever furniture, clutter, or patterns on the wall may be behind you. The best background, if you can manage it, is a plain background, preferably light in color, that displays your company’s logo.
Once your presentation starts, remember that you are on camera, and other people are watching. Be sure to look directly at the camera in order to give the appearance of eye contact. Be careful not to yawn or make any other kind of distracting motion like cleaning your ears messing with your hair, or picking your nose.
Be aware of the sound, too. Before your presentation starts, be sensitive to background noise, echoes in the room, or other distracting sounds. Unwanted noise could either be somewhere in the building or caused by the placement of your microphone and setting of the sound level. You may not be able to eliminate unwanted ambient sounds, but proper use of the microphone and sound system can mitigate them.
If you are not used to speaking on a video recording, be sure to practice your presentation in advance. Record your practice time, if possible using the same equipment you will use for the meeting, and watch it more than once. You will probably be surprised and maybe appalled to see and hear your mannerisms. Once you notice them though, you can be mindful of them and learn to control them. That kind of practice will improve your presentation skills both on camera and in person.
When the meeting is in session, sometimes you will be in listening mode. Remember when the microphone should be live and when you should mute it.
Quite apart from how you look and sound, plan to optimize the bandwidth. Insufficient bandwidth can cause images to skip or decrease the size of the windows, providing a poor experience for the people watching the conference. Video conferencing also burdens the CPU and the memory. Therefore make sure you have no unnecessary applications running. Be careful not to download or process anything during the video conference.
Among the many advantages of virtual meetings is the ability to preserve and archive everything. The leader can and should save documents, slideshows, videos, chats, and so on frequently during the meeting and after it’s over. All of this material can be an important resource later on. For example, it can be sent that to members who can’t attend at the scheduled time.
Virtual meetings offer many benefits that live meetings don’t. They also require organizers and presenters to take more factors into account in order for the conference to be successful.
image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschool