Making online meetings and events “virtually” the same as face to face

It’s easy to see the broad appeal of running meetings, seminars and events virtually. Data has become much more affordable, fast streaming and download speeds have become the norm, and with a virtual event you can deliver content to many more delegates than in a traditional setting.

The costs of running a virtual event will also be much lower than a physical event, with savings to be made on venue space and facilities.

There’s an increasing trend of this type of event taking place, but what’s evident already is that these online meetings are often less than satisfactory. However, that shouldn’t be the case with today’s virtual conferencing software products. The problem stems from a lack of preparation for the possible challenges around creating effective and engaging learning online.

Consider this scenario: an event is due to take place where hundreds of delegates will meet at a given venue, where there would be keynote speeches, the opportunity to network and some simultaneous breakout sessions. Then it’s decided to run the event virtually instead.

A quick fix is deployed. The delegates and speakers all log on to a meeting app with audio and video capabilities, and each speaker in turn addresses the other delegates. This solves the immediate requirement to replace a physical event with an online one.

But the whole format of the event has now become a series of ‘show and tell’ sessions, and the attendees take on a completely passive role as information is thrown at them. There’s no longer any opportunity to network, and little chance to ask questions effectively. Delegates may become bored and inattentive.

Yet it needn’t have been that way. There are several online web conferencing platforms that all allow for much more than just sitting in front of a screen listening to someone talk. Most importantly, they have the tools to keep attendees interested, with features such as chat boxes, hand raising, emoticons, question polls and even breakout rooms with whiteboards and note-taking.

Virtual best practice

Here are some tips for making your online meetings more successful:

  • Co-create your team’s virtual meeting style, such as camera settings, frequency, length etc.
  • Consider the purpose, roles, agenda, schedule and communication style of the meeting.
  • Avoid technical and time-zone scheduling issues by planning ahead and testing the equipment.
  • Plan the agenda carefully and share it in advance.
  • Start the meeting by introducing new members and checking in with your team.
  • Remind everyone of the meeting’s purpose at the beginning.
  • Send notes after the meeting to all attendees, with actions and deadlines against them.

Agile working and paperless offices will always be at the centre of business continuity. Flexible working spaces are part and parcel of future-fit practices, with cloud software making it easier than ever to collaborate at any time. As such, remote meetings will continue to become increasingly common.

The virtual learning experience can be interactive, and allow for networking and breakouts. It can still be a great experience for delegates. It just needs to be adapted, planned for and executed using the right software.

We provide a range of live best-practice training webinars where you can learn from our experts, to improve your utilisation of the key functions available in your software. These 1.5-hour courses are designed for all new and existing users of the software and will be facilitated by our Professional Services consultants. To find out more about our online training webinars and events, click here.

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