GREAT virtual meetings do not just happen. They require planning and preparation, without which web meetings, teleconferences and videoconferences can be a waste of valuable time and resources.

To prevent this, as a virtual meeting planner, consider the six items below for prepping your meeting and attendees.


Determine the technology to use

Use only what is needed for an effective meeting. There are lots of options offered by various meeting tools, but using too many can cause confusion, create problems and make the meeting run too long.

If using chat, instant messaging, tweet or text features, it is a good idea to arrange for someone to monitor that information stream so the facilitator can concentrate on the meeting process.

Be sure to allow spaces in the agenda to respond to questions and comments from those using the communication features. If webcams are being used for the meeting, then a few additional things need to be considered:

— The main room should be properly lit so speakers are not in the shadows or do not appear washed out;

— Those speaking should look at the camera when talking as if they are talking with someone. Check microphones or headsets to be sure everyone can be heard;

— Everyone should check his appearance and clothing before going on air. For example white, red and stripes are usually not good on camera; and

— Use slides to emphasise presentation points that have little text in large fonts or images such as pictures and charts. Avoid lots of numbers or verbose text.


Schedule meeting times that are convenient to most attendees

If attendees are scattered across time zones, consider making ongoing team meetings at different times so everyone has a chance to meet during standard business hours.

It is better to schedule less than two hours for virtual meetings rather than try to squeeze too much into a day as people become distracted after a while. One-hour meetings are even better.


Invite only those who need to participate

When sending the invitation, include the purpose of the meeting so people can opt out if they do not believe their participation is required.

If a document needs to be reviewed or downloaded before the meeting time, include that as a link in the invite or as an attachment. Be sure the invite includes how to get into the meeting and information on installing any necessary software prior to the event start.

Also, consider including URL links to any online help for the tool being used. This information may prevent last-minute calls from frustrated attendees trying to get into the meeting. If you plan to invite people outside the organisation, consider security requirements of corporate documents and information before doing so.


Create an agenda in advance

Try to limit topics to be discussed to two key items per hour. When setting the agenda, use the 3 Ts: “Time” the item will start, “Teller” is who will speak and “Topic” is the item presented or discussed. Send the agenda to the meeting participants with their meeting reminder at least two days before the meeting. This helps attendees to prepare for presentations and discussions.


Plan for note-taking

Either ask someone to record the meeting outcome or select a tool that allows recording within presentation documents. Having someone besides the facilitator record meetings ensures the facilitator can concentrate on keeping the agenda moving along and that the minutes are sent out quickly after the virtual event is over.

The alternative of having the facilitator or presenter record comments, changes and decisions directly into the presentation lets the attendees know they were heard and understood.


Send a reminder one to two days before the meeting

The reminder e-mail should include the URLs or phone numbers and any login information required to attend the meeting. This should be followed by the agenda and a reminder of any documentation to be reviewed before the meeting.

If presentation slides may be accessed before the meeting, include information on how to find those. Ask participants to log in five to 10 minutes before the start of the meeting so they have time to fix problems that may occur and are ready to participate when the meeting starts.


Preparation pays

Consider which of these ideas will move virtual meetings from poor to good, or from simply good to great. Excel in prepping virtual meetings and discover how effective and efficient these types of meetings can really be.


Article by Shirley Fine Lee, who has considerable training and expertise in leading effective meetings and projects, as well as training others within the corporate world to be able to do the same. For more information, visit Article source: