With the increase of globalization, many companies now have employees working in remote locations. As a result, virtual meetings have become a common phenomenon. When carried out properly, teleconferences can be very effective and efficient. However, if not planned well, they can end up being a huge waste of time.
Teleconferences have several advantages over traditional face-to-face meetings:
- They are an easy, quick and relatively inexpensive way of getting people together.
- Conversations, as well as materials being shared, can be recorded. This means that people who missed the meeting can easily catch up on the proceedings. Some advanced teleconferencing tools even allow people to locate and replay specific sections of the discussion.
- People don’t have to sit through the whole meeting. Instead, they can be patched in only when they are required to offer their opinion on a specific topic.
- Participants can be quickly split into smaller groups for further discussion on a specific topic. This is unlike traditional meetings where people have to move to a different location to discuss, and then reconvene later.
Here are some guidelines for running a successful teleconference:
1. Apply ordinary meeting guidelines
Most of the guidelines used for face-to-face meetings can also be used for teleconferences. Here are some of the things you need to consider:
- Agenda - It is important to share your agenda well in advance. This gives participants an idea of what to expect, as well as a chance to suggest changes in any of the items.
- Technical directions – Let all the attendees know how the teleconference can be accessed. Before the actual event, be sure to set up and test the equipment. You should also have a backup plan in case of technical issues.
- Establish meeting rules – This is very important when it comes to teleconferences. Some of the rules you could have for your meeting include:
- Log in 15 minutes before the meeting commences. This is because some tools require time to download and install.
- Introduce yourself before contributing
- Turn off your cell phone
- Do not turn your mute button on and off unnecessarily
- Do not multi-task during the meeting
- Don’t interrupt other participants when they are speaking
2. Encourage participation
One of the main challenges of virtual meetings is that participants can easily get distracted from the discussions. It is therefore important to find ways of keeping them engaged. This could be through brainstorming sessions, visualization exercises and questions. Give each participant a few minutes uninterrupted time to speak. This will ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate.
3. Be sensitive about time zones
In many cases, virtual meetings involve people in different time zones. Therefore, when scheduling a meeting, this should be taken into consideration. Make sure the time of the meeting is convenient for all of the participants.
4. Choose the right tools
There are myriad tools out there that can be used to conduct a teleconference. Conveners of virtual meetings should consider their objectives first before choosing the software to use. For instance, you might need a tool that supports idea generation, data gathering, decision making, problem solving or team building. Be sure to get familiar with the software long before the actual meeting.
Despite their advantages, virtual meetings are not easy to conduct. However, applying the tips mentioned above will enhance your chances of success.