Want a Successful Virtual Meeting?
It’s All in Planning!
As a continuation of the previous article on sustainable meetings, (which you can read here), we are discussing virtual meetings. Virtual meetings are more sustainable since they do not involve any travel.
Virtual meetings have become a necessity due to COVID-19. More planning is required when meeting virtually than meeting in-person, since last minute changes are more of a challenge in the virtual format. TRI has significant experience conducting successful virtual meetings. This article includes tips on preparing for and holding a successful virtual meeting using TRI’s Event Planning techniques.
Determine the Purpose and Goals
Before scheduling a meeting, it is critical to determine the purpose and goal of the meeting, since this is the foundation of all your plans. This will assist in determining the set-up of the meeting, which can vary widely. Is the purpose to discuss a subject on which all participants are familiar, or is it to provide instruction to participants and assess their comprehension? Every meeting has a purpose, goal, and ideal set-up to accomplish them.
All attendees need to be informed if they are being recorded during the meeting. Some platforms make an automated announcement to the attendee when they log onto the meeting, but other platforms do not. As the host of the meeting, you will need to know the platform you are using and verify whether you need to make a general announcement. Meeting recordings are helpful for creating summaries; however, meeting recordings also have their drawbacks. When determining the purpose and goals of your meeting, you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantage of meeting recording.
For a virtual meeting, it is important to identify the roles of the meeting host, moderator, technician, and presenters/panelists.
The term “Host” in this instance refers to the person/account which schedules and begins the webinar. The host is not always the presenter nor the moderator. TRI recommends having a separate party handle the technical side of the meeting, while the presenter focuses on the meeting contents and goals. It is the host’s responsibility to preserve the quality of the presentations and to make sure that the meeting runs smoothly. For instance, if an attendee is unmuted and is creating extraneous noises interrupting the webinar or interfering with the quality of the audio, the host has the responsibility to mute that attendee. If web cameras are active, the host should monitor them. If something inappropriate occurs on the web camera, the host should turn off the camera or expel the participant from the meeting. A host must review and be comfortable with the capabilities of the platform before the meeting, so they can act efficiently and quickly should an incident occur during their meeting.
A moderator provides a valuable service to connect presentations. He or she should smoothly transition between presentations, bring energy and excitement, engage the audience, keep the meeting on time, and cover any technical difficulties to avoid awkward pauses. A moderator should address any obvious issues, if they are not immediately corrected by the host, such as miscellaneous noises or audio issues. In a virtual meeting, the visual cues people perceive are different. A moderator can assist in avoiding silent pauses, which will reassure attendees they have not lost the connection.
In a virtual meeting, everyone must connect separately. Each person has a different level of experience with technology. A technician can assist with smooth connection for all presenters and attendees, as well as assist troubleshooting any issues. An experienced technician can guide those unfamiliar with the platform with how to join the meeting. The technician should know how to troubleshoot common issues with the chosen platform and technology.
Presenters and/or Panelists
The presenters and/or panelists present the meeting content, fulfilling the meeting purpose and goals. It is important to separate this role from a host and/or moderator role. When the presenter is comfortable and focused, it leads to a higher quality presentation. At TRI, our goal is to remove any technology concerns and reduce stress. This way the presenter’s only concern is his or her presentation.
The Importance of a Practice Session
A practice session should not be overlooked. It is necessary to have a successful meeting. The practice session should include all key people, including host, moderator, technician, and presenters. It lets everyone understand what roles they play in the meeting and its importance. It also lets everyone involved practice the ebb and flow of the meeting.
During the practice session, everyone gets a chance to advance their slides, make any necessary adjustments, and ask any questions. It also lets the key people feel comfortable with their role in the meeting.
Create a Staging Guide
Creating a document with step-by-step instructions and all the meeting details will help everyone involved effectively handle the meeting. At TRI, we refer to this document as the “Staging Guide.” Each key person’s role and responsibility are defined in the Staging Guide. The Staging Guide should include all pertinent information necessary to successfully execute the meeting. For example, how the host gives the presenter presenting privileges and instructions for any wrap-up activities.
When creating the Staging Guide, remember to review any notes from the practice session. It is common practice at TRI to include a step-by-step guide on how to join the meeting platform with every meeting invitation as well.
After most of the attendees have joined the meeting, we recommend making general announcements with information about the meeting and expectations of the attendees. We refer to these as “Housekeeping Items.” These items can include identifying yourself when speaking, letting attendees know if the web conference is being recorded, asking attendees to keep their lines muted when they are not speaking, where and how attendees can mute/unmute, or how you want attendees to ask questions, i.e., if they should unmute and ask verbally, raise their hand, and/or post questions in the chat or questions feature, depending on the platform.
We hope this article has been helpful in preparing for a successful virtual meeting.
About the Authors
Amy Lippincott, CMP, CGMP, HMCC, SEPC, is an award-winning certified meeting professional with ten years’ experience in meeting planning and management, providing a full range of logistics support to clients. She was a Smart Meetings’ Smart Women in Meetings Award Winner 2019 in the Stellar Performer category and has received multiple awards from the Potomac Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) including Planner of the Year.
Karen Ellis, CGMP, HMCC has over 20 years of experience in meeting management. She is a Certified Government Meeting Professional and has a Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate (HMCC) St. Louis University (2016).