8 Tips for Hosting Effective Virtual Meetings

By NAPCO Media

Virtual meetings are the new normal among printing companies as stay-at-home orders remain in place. Many print service providers are using online collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting to stay in contact with staff and customers. Given the increased importance of online meetings, it is important to take a moment and review, and possibly update, your practices for hosting these events. Here are 8 tips for ensuring a positive experience for customers and prospects, while maximizing collaboration and productivity with internal staff.

1. Make sure participants know how to use the collaboration platform before a meeting

Nothing kills momentum at the start of a meeting like an extended delay because people need to download software, can’t get the video to work or can’t get into the meeting. In advance of the meeting, send an e-mail to participants with instructions and let them know if they will need to download any software or adjust any settings prior to the call.

2. Prepare in advance (like you would for any other meeting)

Start the meeting with an agenda and establish clear objectives and ground rules. Send any pre-reading or background materials in advance of the meeting.

3. Consider the audience

Meetings should be discussions, but visual aids can help guide conversations. Use screen sharing to present materials, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.” In addition, minimize presentation length and make presentations interactive.

4. Video may be popular but include an audio dial-in option

Many companies are using video conferencing to make people feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting, but it requires a stable internet connection that may not be available to all. Include an audio-only option for those who may not be able to access the video options.

5. Banish background noise

Barking dogs, sirens, audio feedback and other background sounds can distract meeting attendees—especially if you are hosting a meeting with several participants. Most online conferences tools include an option for the meeting host or participates to mute themselves. At the beginning of the meeting ask participants to use the mute function and explain how it works, or even better, mute them yourself.

6. Assign a facilitator

It’s usually harder to manage a virtual discussion than an in-person one. It can be helpful to assign one individual to guide the conversation, allowing the other participants to focus on the content. The facilitator should also be able to resolve basic questions on the technology being used.

7. Call on people

Getting everyone to participate is one of the more challenging aspects of running a virtual meeting. Attendees often interpret virtual meetings as a license to multi-task. And it’s not uncommon for one or two attendees to dominate the discussion while others sit back and “tune out.” Periodically call on individuals to get their opinion on the topic being discussed. Calling on people can also minimize participants talking over each other and can help ensure everyone stays engaged. In addition, some meeting software allows attendees to “raise a hand.”

8. Agree on next steps

Reserve time at the end of the meeting to wrap up, agree on next steps, assign tasks and determine if and when to hold a follow-up meeting.

The Bottom Line

While virtual meetings might seem straightforward, they can go awry. It is important to take them as seriously and thoughtfully as physical, in-person meetings. Consider these tips when planning and conducting your virtual meetings to maximize their effectiveness.

Ricoh Business Booster Community has engaged NAPCO Research to provide our members with this ongoing series of advisory articles on the COVID-19 pandemic.