This year has been challenging for everyone! Many of us are now working from our homes, just one of the lifestyle changes we’ve had to adapt to due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented impact on workplaces has been in place for several months and running our businesses remotely is likely to be here for some time yet.
Here at Web Force 5, our clients have adapted incredibly well, despite new processes being put in place quickly. As our new way of working remotely progressed, it became clear there are some positive outcomes. These include improvements in productivity with less travel time and in-office distractions, and cost efficiencies relating to utilities and other office related expenses.
Moving forward, perhaps many of the changes business have made will become permanent so it’s a good idea to set things up well now. An essential component of running a business with employees working remotely is maintaining clear and regular communication. An easy way to do that is by using video conferences to hold virtual meetings with your team. It’s more personal than emails and face to face contact (even if it’s virtual) can assist with productive, reliable communication.
Coronavirus has impacted face to face sales along with supplier and customer interactions so video conferencing can also be an essential tool to manage these requirements, alongside CRM solutions. It is bound to provide some cohesion with those you communicate with, rather than an impersonal email or phone call.
How Do I Set Up Virtual Meetings?
Screen sharing and being able to see people face to face via video, as well as sharing of documents, data and presentations, has been available to businesses for years, however its use has skyrocketed recently. One report states that video conferencing apps saw a 90% increase in downloads during March this year, compared with 2019. Popular platform Zoom has seen 200 million daily meeting participants in 2020, compared with 10 million participants in December 2019.
With technology being literally at everyone’s fingertips these days, it’s mainly about choosing the software.
Firstly, you need an internet connection, audio (which can be speakers or a phone) and a webcam, then you need the software. There are many software options to choose from and what you choose will depend on the type of meetings you require, which can range from a group phone call to a more complex meeting involving a shared screen.
Research what is available that will meet your needs. Do you want extra features such as a chat function, or to be able to record meetings so it can be referred to later, or shared with those not able to attend?
Some of the most popular platforms used for virtual meetings are:
● Citrix GoToMeeting - one of the easiest services to use but lacks some advanced options.
● WebEx - good if you’re already a Cisco customer but a bit expensive.
● Zoom - a range of features, easy to use and affordable, but the video quality can be unpredictable.
● Skype - good features and is free to use, however it can struggle with multiple users.
● Microsoft Teams - great for large organisations, although there’s no video calling on iOS.
● Google Meet - easy to use and good value for money as long as you have a Google account.
While there are free options available within these tools, there are often restrictions such as duration limits and no password protection - you don’t want random visitors dropping in! So, it’s worth paying for something which will be integral to your business.
It is important to use these systems in conjunction with project management and CRM solutions to track, manage and monitor your communication. Our team here at Web Force 5 have developed their Continuum CMS, which is ideal to manage communications via the built-in CRM, email marketing platform and website management system.
Plan & Run Great Virtual Meetings
Now you have your software and are ready to go, here are some tips to ensure your virtual meetings run smoothly.
● Content & Collaboration
Keep virtual meetings as simple as possible. Consider the content of your meeting and make it appropriate - for instance if you have a large presentation to share, this may take a long time and you risk participants disengaging. Instead, you could send the presentation prior and use the meeting to discuss it.
Virtual meetings are different to in-person meetings in that it is harder to read the room and get your team to collaborate. You may like to focus some attention on the quieter members, to encourage participation as it’s even easier to sit back and just listen, especially if not everyone is visible on a screen.
It’s more difficult to stay focused when you’re sitting at home on your own, so encourage everyone to be involved and include visuals if possible. Have people facilitate different parts of the meeting, or give roles such as timekeeper and minute taker.
● Check your Invite
Prior to sending out your meeting invite, double check you have all the correct information and instructions for people to call or log in, to ensure everyone can connect with minimal fuss. Include your contact information in case people have trouble. If you have an agenda, send this out with the invite. Don’t forget to check the scheduled time if you have people working in different time zones.
● Allow for Glitches
When scheduling your meetings, allow some time for technical hiccups. They are bound to happen, especially if someone is joining for the first time or if the software is new. To avoid some issues, request that attendees do a test run beforehand and have everyone join the meeting five minutes early.
● Check In
Use the first few minutes to check in with attendees, see how they’re travelling and ask if they have anything to discuss during the meeting. People are used to the social aspect of working in a team and may miss the people contact so this will make them feel visible and supported, especially during these difficult times.
● Specify Protocols
You want your meeting to be effective and productive, and this can be a little more difficult than in-person meetings as it’s easy for participants to be distracted. Once you’re ready to get down to business, discuss the mute option to minimize background noise and request pausing after asking a question or making a comment to allow for delays. Request that you have everyone’s full attention, to prevent anyone checking emails or doing other work at the same time. And like any meeting, start and end on time.
Once you have your virtual meetings running well, you’re likely to maintain this as part of your permanent business operations. Reach out to our experts at Web Force 5 for website content management systems, CRM’s and strategic digital solutions. Embrace virtual meetings and stay connected with your team and customers.