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What Are Virtual Meetings & How Can They Help Your Company?

Meeting virtually? Considering it? Find out how the best companies do it in this guide, with benefits, top features, tips, use cases and more.

What Are Virtual Meetings?


A virtual meeting is a business meeting that’s held virtually, where the meeting participants aren't in the same physical room, but are instead meeting together at the same time from different locations through the use of technology. Depending on the needs of the meeting participants, virtual meetings can be set up with audio only or with audio and video for a more interactive experience. 

To better understand virtual meetings and how they can benefit your company, explore more specifics on virtual meetings below.

 

 


Benefits of Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings, especially those with video, are increasingly preferred by employees as a primary means of communication. Virtual meetings are shown to improve engagement and connection between employees, increase flexibility in the workday, and maximize productivity. In addition, companies that incorporate virtual meetings benefit in the following ways:

    Employees with illnesses stay out of the office

    Employees may feel the need to return to work before they fully recover from an illness, which can put other employees at risk. With virtual meetings, employees can keep up with work projects without jeopardizing the health of their coworkers. 

    Companies minimize travel costs and downtime

    With in-person meetings, key stakeholders from different geographic locations must pay for travel arrangements and lose valuable work time traveling to different cities. Fortunately, anyone from your company can attend a virtual meeting with just a few mouse clicks.

    Employees feel connected and included

    Working remotely can leave employees feeling disconnected from their work team and overlooked by managers. Virtual meetings can help reconnect your team and give employees an opportunity to collaborate on work projects. 

    Technology becomes familiar

    When working in different offices or conference rooms, you may be working with different computers, conference systems, or devices in each location. Since employees generally use their own equipment for virtual meetings, the technology becomes more familiar for everyone on your team, allowing you to minimize downtime due to technical issues.

 

Top Features of Virtual Meeting Software

 

There are many different types of virtual meeting software, each with its own unique set of features. But flashy features can also mean expensive price tags, and you may end up paying for services that are more of a distraction than a help. To make sure you're getting the most out of your virtual meeting software, it should include several key features.

Audio Conferencing 

 

A comprehensive virtual meeting solution should have the capability to conduct audio-only conferences. This is typically accomplished through the use of a conference bridge that can connect users by phone from any location, even through mobile devices. This is especially useful for employees who may need to work on location in the field to troubleshoot issues but still may need to communicate with team members from the central office during equipment installations or upgrades. 

 
Calendar Integrations

 

Conferences are only helpful if everyone is on the same page and attending simultaneously. To avoid time zone issues and other scheduling mishaps, your virtual meeting software should seamlessly integrate with popular online calendars. This feature will also allow you to schedule meetings in advance and allow participants to invite others to make sure everyone is included. 

 
Multi-display Viewing Windows

 

Depending on the purpose and structure of your meeting, you may want to see multiple participants at once, or you may prefer to highlight the main speaker. Flexible chat windows, participant controls, and toolbars can also help you customize your meeting experience. With Mitel's 16-person multi-pane viewing, you can choose to keep tabs on everyone at the start of your meeting, then grant centerstage to the main presenter as your meeting progresses.  

 
Video Conferencing 

 

In addition to audio conferencing, your team will also need access to video conferencing. For many work groups, video conferencing adds a more personal element to meetings and helps facilitate productivity. The most effective video conferencing also includes elements like team chat and mobile access.

MiCollab and MiTeam Meetings can provide you the tools you need to stay productive, no matter where your team is working. By combining multiple tools into a single video conferencing platform, your team can easily log in and get to work.

 

 
 
File and Screen Sharing

 

In-meeting collaboration is much easier with real-time sharing features, such as file sharing or screen sharing. Mitel's whiteboarding tools allow presenters to freehand their ideas, while document sharing tools allow participants to capture and edit ideas together as a group. These sharing features can turn your next meeting from a one-sided lecture into a fully productive mastermind session. 

 

 
Chat Tools

 

Even with robust audio and video capabilities, your team will likely use chat features during meetings. Chat windows can capture thoughts from participants who may otherwise be hesitant to interrupt the main discussion. You can also use chat tools as a way to poll the audience or capture main takeaways from a session. After the virtual meeting, chat logs can be downloaded for quick and easy review of the major points from the discussion.

 


 
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    Who Should Use a Virtual Meeting Platform? 


    Virtual meeting platforms can be used by anyone who holds meetings and wants to improve collaboration and flexibility within their teams. While there may be a small adjustment period initially, many teams see great success when incorporating virtual meetings in the form of cost savings, improved work culture, and overall employee satisfaction. Virtual meetings work especially well for teams that: 
    > Have multiple office locations in different cities or states
    > Are temporarily or permanently operating as a remote team
    > Need to reduce expenses associated with travel
    > Repeatedly hold back-to-back meetings with different organizational stakeholders
    > Already use technology and cloud-based work management systems

 

Tips for Running an Effective Virtual Meeting 


While there are many benefits to holding virtual meetings, there are also a few challenges. Fortunately, you can overcome these challenges and make your meetings as productive as possible by following a few simple tips:  

 

1. Use a Cross-Timezone Scheduling System 

When scheduling virtual meetings, you may have participants working in several different time zones. To make sure everyone is clear on the meeting start time, use a system that adjusts for multiple time zones. Whether you use a scheduling tool, like Google Calendar, or you simply list multiple time zones in your email meeting invites ("Our next team meeting is Wednesday, December 14th at 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern/6pm UK"), taking this extra step to make sure everyone is on the same page will help avoid scheduling mishaps. 

 

2. Encourage Attendee Participation

There are several ways to encourage active participation and make your meetings more engaging. For regular meetings, set the expectation that attendees will be on camera whenever possible. Attendees are more likely to stay focused, listen to others' ideas, and volunteer to participate more when they are already active in the meeting.  

 

3. Mirror In-Person Meetings 

If your meetings are structured similarly to in-person meetings you've had in the past, your team will feel more comfortable and engaged. If you used to start out your weekly team meeting with a roundtable update, have each participant take a turn giving a weekly update in your virtual meetings, too. To avoid confusion or talking over one another, choose an order before you begin, such as alphabetical by first name. 

 

4. Use Collaboration Tools 

Two heads are better than one, and four heads are better than two. If you are working on a project or solving a problem, get your team working together in real-time by using collaboration tools during your virtual meetings. Not only can you track your progress and improve productivity, but everyone can share the project win, bringing your team even closer together.  

 

 


 
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