Meeting Virtually Online: What You Should Know?

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Technology sure is changing a lot these days, and meetings are no exception! New tools that affect how we all can communicate are coming out every day, and these changes have spurred the growth of online “virtual” meetings as teams try to find more effective ways to collaborate.

Surveying Online Meetings

This morning, I re-read a white paper from Interaction Associates to further wrap my head around what this could mean for all of us. Managing Online Meetings: Keeping People Engaged analyzes this change through their Fall 2009 survey of 200 business professionals about their experience and challenges with virtual meetings, and they found some very interesting results.

First off, they determined how wide-spread online meetings have become, finding that half of their respondents meet online frequently or as the primary way they meet, while more than two-thirds spend 25% of their time or less meeting online. They also questioned how these virtual meetings have been received, finding that 62% of respondents are “somewhat satisfied” with their web meetings’ effectiveness.

Satisfaction Amidst Challenges

The survey further dug into the satisfaction rates from online meeting participants, and brought up some common challenges that these meetings share.

The most common of these was the lack of participation and engagement within the format. In particular, 73% surveyed said that participants multi-tasking during an online meeting is “always or often challenging.”

Perhaps related to the lack of engagement, another issue cited was the 55% who said that “building relationships” through online meetings was always or often challenging.

Lastly, there seem to be problems with the current technology platforms, as 44% cite technical issues along with 42% calling attention to ease of use.

Making Collaboration Easier

I empathize with these challenges, yet think it’s exciting that so many business professionals are already finding some level of satisfaction with meetings using 21st century tools! All of us at Virtual Edge are big believers that it should be easier to work together than it is to work alone, but it’s getting there that is the task at hand…

Fortunately, despite the challenges to be overcome, the added use of technology to help distributed teams hold meetings does seem to be helping us down the right path. Here are some tips that could help you to further make the most out of this kind of meeting:

  • The agenda is even more important, as it is easy for participants to multi-task and for the meeting at large to lose focus.
  • You can begin coordinating before the meeting and keep the conversation going afterwards, as it’s not reliant on a set amount of face to face time anyways.
  • Personalizing the discussion and delivering happiness becomes increasingly key, as the lack of face time makes relationship building through the meeting a different animal, and it’s easier for participants to flake out with no one noticing.

So, what do you think about online meetings?

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