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How You Can Significantly Improve Your Firm's Virtual Meeetings


Online meetings have become a staple of the workday for many accounting professionals right now. And if they are done well, virtual meetings can be a cost-effective way to hold webinars, training events, conferences and project kick-offs.

Jun 18th 2020
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However, if facilitators and attendees aren't used to the online format and don't know how to adapt to the virtual environment, they can be frustrating time-wasters.

If you're looking to improve your virtual meetings, here are some tips to help make them work for you, your team and your clients.

Choose the Right Technology

There are plenty of technology options out there that can make your virtual meeting a success. The key is figuring out which one is right for your session. Consider what you're trying to accomplish with your meeting. Is it a brainstorming session?

If so, you'll need to use a video conferencing solution like Zoom or Microsoft Teams that lets participants collaborate and see each other's reactions. On the other hand, if you are hosting a large audience you may want to look at a webinar platform such as Zoom Webinars or WebEx.

The right technology has a huge impact on the success of your meetings and not all platforms are created equally.

Prepare for Your Meeting

Think through the different aspects of your meeting, the features you might use and your timeline. Many virtual meeting technologies include features such as polling, hand raising, breakout rooms, Q&A boxes, recording and screen sharing that can help keep people engaged. Familiarize yourself with any features you plan to use before the meeting so you know how to use them and can help others troubleshoot technical difficulties.

The number of participants also has a big impact on the flow of the meeting and how people interact. In a small group with just two to four people, it's easy to keep the conversation flowing. But in a large group, people may be hesitant to speak up.

Rather than asking answers to the whole group, you might use breakout rooms and have one person report back to the group. Also, do not hesitate to call on people individually to provide input.

The timeline is also important. If you have a limited amount of time scheduled, you'll need to ensure you can cover your entire agenda in the allotted time. You may need to allow time for introductions if people don't know each other, and time for questions at the end of your presentation.

Have Assigned Roles

If you're the one presenting, it can be challenging to do it all: field questions from participants, deal with technology issues, take notes and ensure you're sticking to the schedule. During our virtual meetings, we like to have two roles in addition to the main presenter:

1. Facilitator. This person's role is to guide the conversation, set objectives and expectations, and keep the group on time and accountable.

2. Moderator. This role is in charge of dealing with technology issues, launching polling questions, or taking notes. The keep everything working smoothly.

Remember, it takes a team to make a successful meeting run!

Set Expectations

While it’s important to define roles when you’re hosting an online meeting, it is just as important to set expectations for your audience prior to the meeting. For example, do you expect them to have their video enabled? Do you need them to prepare for an activity in which they’ll participate?

Let your audience know that you want them to be on video. Provide tips and tricks for technology and attending a virtual meeting prior to the meeting and have them complete homework items (when necessary). This helps the individuals come prepared and aware.

Minimize One-Way Presentations

No one enjoys sitting through a lengthy presentation where they are just being "talked at." This is true in person as well as in a virtual setting. Presentations aren't always avoidable, but try to incorporate some discussion, Q&A or other interaction.

You can also look into using online tools to help drive conversation and collaboration such as an online whiteboard, Google Docs, or a Box Note. These tools can help the group collaborate in real time!

Don't be afraid to call on people to get everyone talking. This helps drive the conversation forward and keeps people more engaged and less likely to lapse into multitasking during the meeting.

Build in Breaks

Virtual meetings can be mentally taxing. When you see multiple people on screen, your brain tries to decode multiple people at once. You may become hyper-focused on searching for non-verbal cues. If there is silence, you may wonder if the technology isn't functioning properly.

Relieve some of this mental overload by building in breaks during meetings that will run longer than one hour. Give people 10 minutes to get up and move around. Encourage everyone to stand up, grab a glass of water, or even do a few jumping jacks to get the energy flowing again.

When it comes to virtual meetings, more isn't always better. Remember, everyone's time is valuable. Make your meetings worth the time by being prepared, focusing on the right objectives, and keeping people engaged. Putting the extra effort into your virtual meetings will ensure they are just as productive and educational as an in-person meeting.

The original article appeared on the Boomer Consulting website.

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