Best Practices for Virtual Meetings and Webinars

Best Practices for Virtual Meetings and Webinars

Dennis Kyle

November 19, 2020

What are virtual meetings/webinars?

Virtual meetings are similar to in-person meetings, except they are done remotely, usually via an online meeting application (such as Ringcentral or Zoom). Attendees can call in through their phone or computer (where they can oftentimes voice chat and share their webcam) and converse with many others at a time.

 

Virtual webinars are like virtual meetings, except they usually have a smaller number of presenters, but a much larger number of attendees. Webinars have been around for quite some time but have become even more popular because of recent world events.

Why meet virtually?

Your business may choose to meet virtually to save on rent and other requirements of a brick and mortar workplace, your workforce may be located in many different geographic areas, or you may have been forced into working virtually due to events such as COVID-19.

Depending on why you have decided to integrate virtual meetings into your business, you may have different requirements. It's important to find out what requirements your workforce will need to be able to save time and best implement the solutions that are most important for your business.

Benefits to meeting in a virtual environment

One of the benefits of meeting virtually is that you can often meet from home, saving time and money of commuting to a brick and mortar space.  Additionally, it's usually easier to schedule all attendees for the meeting when attending virtually.

For larger webinars and presentations, hosting a virtual meeting means saving money and time through booking a physical space, setting it up, potentially booking hotel rooms, training guests and more.

Getting used to a virtual meeting environment

Below are some ideas to create a fun and enjoyable virtual work environment.

  • Create some Team Building exercises designed to be done virtually[1].
  • Build a "Virtual Watercooler" environment where your workforce can connect with each other outside of structured virtual meetings[2].
  • Utilize breakout rooms (if available) for meetings to break off into when certain people need to collaborate but don't want to interrupt the larger meeting environment.

Best Practices

Below are some best practices when implementing virtual meeting spaces for your business.

Have the Right Tools for the Job

Below is a list of some tools most virtual meeting presenters/attendees will require.

  • A Computer/Phone
    • Required to be able to connect to the meeting.
    • Use a headset if possible to ensure meeting privacy, quality of your voice and ease of hearing all participants.
    • Make sure that your phone or computer microphone produces high quality sound. If it does not, it is recommended to purchase a high quality microphone such as a snowball mic.
  • An Internet Connection
    • A High-speed internet connection such as Cable/DSL or better is required
  • A Virtual Meeting Application
    • It almost goes without saying that someone will need the virtual meeting application your company uses in order to attend/present. Some applications must be downloaded ahead of time. Be sure to send instructions on how to install the application well ahead of time and make sure all presenters have tested the application beforehand.
  • A Webcam
    • recommended because it helps attendees connect with the presenter
    • Laptops and tablets often have built in webcams, but you may need to buy a webcam if you are on a desktop computer.

Preparation is Key

  • When scheduling virtual meetings, be sure to take into account whether any participants may be connecting from different time zones than your own.
  • Create an agreed-upon list of rules that will be used by your team so that everyone is on the same page about what is expected during online meetings.
  • Create meeting roles to increase structure and reduce tangents or distractions.
    • Suggested Roles include:
      • Time Tracker–keeps track of time and calls out if topics are going overtime
      • Note Taker–Takes notes and action items from the meeting. Provides follow-up email with summary of discussed items after meeting. (To make this job easier, it’s recommended to record the meeting and transcribe it after the fact).
      • Facilitator–Designs the meeting agenda and leads the discussion.
      • Technical Support–Helps any participants who are having technical issues prior to or during the meeting.
  • Create a virtual ice breaker for people to utilize upon connecting to the meeting but prior to the meeting start time.
  • Create a clear, concise Agenda prior to the meeting.
    • Create a topic order and speaker order per topic to cut out wasted time. The Facilitator can help move the discussion to the next speaker and topic.
    • Ensure your Time Tracker is keeping track of how much time is spent on each topic and have them call out if something is going over time.

Invest Time Up-Front to Save Time Later

  • Open all tabs you’ll need for the meeting ahead of time in your web browser.
    • Close all tabs that aren’t related to the meeting as well to reduce time required to find the relevant tabs.
  • Have all documents that you wish to discuss prepared ahead of time.
  • For Webinars, it's a good idea to create a script ahead of time so you can stay focused on what you need to say.
    • It's important to be able to understand the content of your script well enough so that you don't need to read it verbatim during the presentation, but can refer to it as needed to stay on track.
  • For both Meetings and Webinars, it's important to log in ahead of time to make sure there's time before the event starts to solve any last minute issues that may have arisen.
    • You don't want to waste precious meeting time or delay starting your webinar because of issues that could have been solved beforehand.
    • Best practice for meetings is to log in at least 5 minutes early, and for webinars it's better to log in closer to 30 minutes, especially for larger webinars with multiple presenters.

Practice, Practice, Practice

  • It is very important to connect with all hosts/presenters prior to the meeting to practice materials (especially for larger events such as webinars with multiple speakers and many attendees).
    • Make sure the presenters know when they are speaking, what they are speaking about, how to use any applications they're required to use for their portion of the presentation, etc.
  • Assist presenters with learning effective speaking skills for presentations
    • It's important to help presenters be interesting and engaging with their audience, matching the desired tone of the webinar/event.
    • Encourage the presenters to practice their presentations ahead of time, write down what they want to say to reduce filler words and rambling, and help them find a way to be excited about the material without sounding fake or that they're reading from a script.
    • Sounding natural and fun is sometimes more of an art than a science. Each presenter will be different, so adjust your coaching accordingly for each speaker.
  • Make sure to teach presenters anything they need to know about the applications you are using for the webinar itself and/or will need to use for their presentation (such as PowerPoint or other presentation software).

Dress for Success

For those participating in the meeting/webinar via webcam, there are some additional factors to take into consideration, listed below.

  • Have your webcam turned on whenever possible, and be prepared to be seen.
  • Have your eyes in the top 2/3 of the screen when showing your webcam.
  • Prior to the presentation, have the presenters ensure their webcam is located at a good angle that is somewhere around eye level so when they are speaking it's as if they're looking right at the audience.
    • Finding the right distance from the webcam to sit is also important. You don't want to be too far away, but being too close can also be distracting. (Tip: Some webcams have the ability to pan and zoom, making it easier to adjust the field of view others see.)
    • Generally it is good practice if you're able to capture the head, shoulders and part of the upper body of the speaker within the webcam's field of view.
  • Wear a solid colored outfit (a lighter color is recommended) to avoid distracting attendees from your message[3].
  • Reduce clutter in the background behind where you're sitting, to avoid distracting attendees or providing the wrong impression about you/your presentation.
    • Consider adding a virtual background to your meeting space[4]. This can replace whatever is behind you with an image of your choice (in many cases), which can then allow you to avoid having to completely re-arrange your office to accommodate for meetings.
  • It's also important to have all of your presenters find a space where they will be free from all distractions, such as children, animals, loud noises, phones, other electronic devices.

Be Prepared for Technical Problems

  • Take the time to list out any technical problems that you've encountered in the past or know about and then research solutions to those problems so everyone is on the same page about what to do if/when any of those issues arises during the presentation.
    • What to do if the internet goes out for a presenter?
    • What happens if one of the applications the presenter is using doesn't work properly?
    • What happens if an unwanted guest enters the meeting and begins to cause problems?
  • Test all technology prior to the meeting to ensure it works before joining the meeting.
  • Create user guides or FAQs for attendees, written in plain, easy to understand language. Not everyone is tech savvy[5].

Stay Focused During The Event

  • Do not multi task during the meeting (leads to distraction).
  • Mute yourself when not speaking to reduce background noise.
  • Work from a quiet environment with minimal distractions.

Driving Engagement During The Event

  • Ask Participants to contribute
    • When relevant, ask team members for their opinions and feedback on meeting items (works well when combined with text chat, polls, and document collaboration).
  • Be exciting
    • If possible, bring content to meetings that will elicit excitement from team members, through ice breakers prior to meeting start.
    • Another option is to create short three question surveys for people to complete while in the meeting and have the presenter share the report on screen to create discussions.

Follow-up After The Event

  • Get feedback from participants on what they liked and disliked so you can constantly improve your meetings.
    • Polling - Get feedback during and after the meeting using polls. Saves time on asking every user to voice their feedback on every agenda item. Helps the Facilitator to improve meetings in the future.
  • Designate someone (often the note taker) to create a summary email that will be sent out after the meeting has concluded to ensure all agenda topics and action items were documented accurately and provide a place for follow-up prior to the next meeting.
  • For Webinars, there is often a Q&A session towards the end of the presentation. If your webinars contain such elements, it's important to prepare the speaker for this eventuality ahead of time so they aren't caught off-guard and don't know how to respond.
    • Train the speakers about best practices for how they should handle different types of questions. Some examples include:
      • How to handle questions outside the scope of the webinar
      • How to handle personal questions
      • How to defer answers to appropriate people
      • How long they are taking questions for so they know when to wrap up
      • What they should/shouldn't speak about (if the presenter is an outside person not connected to the company)

What to Look For in Virtual Meeting Tools

Below is a list of things to look for when choosing applications to use with your company's virtual meeting environment.

  • Virtual meeting application
    • This is the most obvious and important tool. Make sure to research and test possible tools thoroughly to determine which tool is going to meet the needs of your organization the best.
    • Some features to look for are:
      • Recording capability/limits (cloud and local)
      • How many participants can be in a meeting at one time?
      • How many of those participants can speak and/or share their webcam?
      • Screen sharing ability
      • How much bandwidth/computer resources does the application use?
      • How easy is the application to use?
      • Does it include features such as text chat, signalling when someone wants to speak, muting/unmuting, etc.?
      • Are there any breakout rooms or other features that allow for quick separation of some participants from the main call to have sub-meetings?
      • For Webinars, is there a special "Webinar" add-on or version of the application that can be purchased?
        • Does it come with additional desired featured such as increased attendance, audience control, multiple presenter support, etc.?
      • Annotations
        • Allow users to type, draw and comment on specific areas of a shared screen to quickly collaborate or solve problems together.
      • Text Chat
        • Type messages to one or many participants to help speed along conversation without interrupting the speaker(s)
      • Screen sharing
        • Help quickly navigate through discussion items that can be seen by all users and remove the need to describe what is happening for every step of the process. A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Document collaboration/storage application
    • When hosting or attending virtual meetings, there are often discussions around documents or files that are changing. It's a good practice to be able to utilize a document collaboration service to be able to update documents in real time or quickly link to the most up to date version of documents to save time during meetings.
  • Other applications related to your line of business
    • The more applications you can connect to the cloud and have interact with each other, the easier it should be for your workforce to connect to what they need to be able to do their job.
    • Just as with the document collaboration application, having these things connected to the cloud makes it easier to pivot during meetings to save time and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Final Thoughts

Today more than ever, Virtual meetings/Webinars are very powerful ways to interact with your workforce, clients and prospects while saving time and money. By following some of these best practices, you can still create a high-quality experience for everyone involved that might be the next best thing to meeting in-person.

To learn more about implementing virtual meetings, webinars, virtual events, and other virtualized collaboration or for assistance with choosing the proper virtual application, contact us at:

 

Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions

440.499.4944

https://PositiveResults.com

 

[1] https://www.ringcentral.com/small-business/blog/virtual-team-building-activities/

[2] https://slackhq.com/ultimate-guide-remote-meetings

[3] https://medium.com/@BigMarker/10-best-practices-for-preparing-your-guest-webinar-speakers-dbf2d1c86fb8

[4]https://support.ringcentral.com/s/article/11859-RingCentral-Meetings-Desktop-Virtual-Background?language=en_US

[5] https://blog.hootsuite.com/virtual-events/

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