Tips For Hosting a Virtual Meeting
Shhh. Don't say it too loud, but we might be on the backend of this whole pandemic thing. We know, until the next variant. But most of the world is eager to get back to business. And that includes businesses getting back to the business of meeting again. While many people crave a return to the pre-pandemic days, there might be some things that are permanently changed. And that includes meetings and how business is conducted. In-person gatherings are often preferred, but technology has shown us that virtual platforms are a decent backup option when distance, money, or resources make in-person meetings less than ideal.
How Event Planning Businesses have Changed
Many meeting experts agree that virtual meetings will be around for a while. One such expert who believes demand for virtual events will remain strong is William Fogler, Principal at WM Events. We spoke with him about the changes they've seen in their business over the past two years. Founded in 2004, with offices in Atlanta and Denver, WM Events is a full-service events agency that quickly earned a reputation for event planning excellence with Microsoft, Chipotle, Kids II, and Kimberly-Clark.
We asked Fogler if they've seen an increase in business and if so, how it's evolved. He indicated they are experiencing a significant increase in leads with the majority being short-term bookings with decent budgets. Not surprisingly, they’ve observed a change in contractual terms primarily around rescheduling and cancellation policies. Some clients are also adding clauses about COVID protocols.
They've also noticed, in particular, an increase in virtual events, whether social or corporate, including conferences, symposiums, and award shows. As a result, they've begun to work more with large corporate clients looking for support in executing and delivering their hybrid or all virtual events. Additionally, clients are looking for ways to safely host their guests, including scaled-down live events, outdoor settings, or socially distanced setups.
What You Need to Know About Planning a Virtual Event
So what do you need to know about planning and hosting a virtual event? Virtual meetings come with their own unique set of challenges, including:
Using and managing the technology
Controlling interruptions and distractions
Lags in conversations
When it comes to hosting a successful virtual event, pre-planning is key. Stick with a technology platform your attendees are most familiar with. Send a quick cheat sheet ahead of time with call features, so attendees have a resource guide should they have questions. And as with any meeting, you should include an agenda with the invite. This allows people to prepare ahead of time and understand the flow of conversation.
We've all been on those calls where the same handful of people control the conversation, and the rest remain mostly quiet. Call leaders should take roll call when people join and put a checkmark next to attendee names each time they talk. When conversations begin to lag, call on those who haven't participated to share their opinions, so everyone has an opportunity to speak. Encourage an interactive forum by frequently asking participants if they have thoughts to share or questions to ask.
How to End a Virtual Meeting
How you end a virtual meeting is critical to its success. It's all too easy to click “Leave Meeting” and move on to the next task. But it’s important to end your meeting with purpose and control.
Successful virtual meetings end by:
Asking participants for last-minute questions or thoughts
Summarizing key takeaways
Reviewing next steps, who is responsible, and timeline
Asking attendees to look out for a follow-up email
To keep the momentum going, you should send the follow-up promptly. When you send it, make sure to include:
Summary of the meeting
What you accomplished
Actions steps and responsible party
And a recording of the call
Virtual Meetings are Here to Stay
For many, in-person remains the preferred way to meet, but virtual meetings are the ideal alternative when it's not possible. And with proper planning and mindful execution, you can accomplish the business at hand. While virtual meetings may be here to stay, it's important to bring people together when possible. Outdoor settings and socially distanced setups can make in-person a reality. And food trucks are the perfect catering partner that offers guests amazing food in a pandemic-safe environment.