How to Successfully Run Your Next Virtual Conference
All too often, people mistake the virtual conference for its real-life counterpart. They imagine the same rules apply. That what worked in the meeting rooms can be transferred into the digital world. The confusion is hardly surprising. Less than six months ago, we were all still sitting in those old meeting rooms. We’ve barely begun to adjust to the new way of doing things: to the new communication medium.
In previous days, new technology slowly evolved with social norms and understanding. People had a chance to adapt and learn the systems, however, after the pandemic that gentle wave, became a tsunami. Therefore, it’ll take a change of tactics to run a successful virtual conference. Here are some tips to consider.
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No blank screens
Amongst the challenges of virtual conferencing is engagement. Whereas in the real world, there is a social impetus to engage with the content and people in a meeting, virtually there is none. Frequently, people ghost their way through a session. They don’t contribute, instead, lurking off-camera. However, without their camera feed, people cannot see each other’s body language. It creates distrust, and it promotes disengagement.
Therefore, make cameras mandatory. It will stop people from multitasking and allow meetings to be more productive.
There is one understandable concern: people don’t want their colleagues to see their homes. Perhaps they’re in their twenties and are unable to afford quality accommodation. Or maybe they’ve got kids or pets, and the house is a mess. Whatever the reason, there are online zoom backgrounds to help. At Hello Backgrounds, there are hundreds of HD photos and videos from which to pick. They’ll replace your home backdrop with a digital replacement, ranging from natural vistas to swanky apartments.
Keep it short and sweet
The longer meetings drag on, the less gets done. It might seem paradoxical, but it’s true. If people expect a meeting to drone on for two hours, they’ll switch off before it even gets going. Instead, focus on what needs to be achieved and allocate the time accordingly.
Creating an agenda is a useful way to clarify key goals and points. Try to collate ideas and topics together. Then assign each point in the meeting a ten-minute slot. Restrict the conference to five or six points to keep the meeting short. However, if you can do it in less time, do so; if you need longer, schedule another meeting. Better to have two short but fruitful discussions, than a meandering one where nothing is done.
Keep a recording
No one can be in two places immediately. As such, you’re inevitably going to miss some meetings. Previously, catching up required speaking to a colleague or reading the minutes. However, both are a poor substitute for the real thing. Thankfully, with Zoom, that’s no longer a problem. You have the option to record the meeting. Anyone who missed out the first time can watch the meeting back. But meeting records can also serve other purposes.
It can be useful for future reference: save the files as a record. Or, the person writing the minutes can refer back to the recording to produce a more accurate document. If you’re running a training session, you can distribute the video to others or save it for new starters.
Use the tools available
Recording meetings isn’t the only benefit of virtual conferences. There are several other tools available to use.
Screen sharing enables participants to showcase their screen to the group. Fundamentally it serves as a replacement for the meeting room projector, being useful for going through PowerPoint presentations. However, with a bit of imagination, screen sharing can be used to innovate the meeting format. If you’re exploring an interesting concept or need an icebreaker, show a video from YouTube. If you want to demonstrate your latest work, you can do so. Talk through the Excel document or other files to enhance engagement.
If you need a more graphical format, then use the virtual whiteboard. Explore a complicated idea with a diagram. Host a brainstorming session with your project team. Whatever you can imagine, you can draw. With a dizzying array of colored pens, you’ll be able to produce everything from tables and charts, through to pictures and lists. It’s also perfect for a quick game of Hangman or Pictionary to kick off a session.
Next time you’re hosting a meeting, remember these essential tips. They can transform your meeting into something exceptional!