• Virtual Gatherings Are Here to Stay: How To Adapt Them For Your Organization

    By Marko Lindhe and Noah Maislin

    Virtual meetings have gone from a dreaded necessity to the comfortable new norm. With many technical difficulties ironed out over the last year, organizations are now finding that their processes can carry on normally despite the limitations on gathering in-person.

    Online technology has flexibility and staying power. The convenience of meeting virtually despite participants’ physical locations will stick around post-pandemic, complementing face-to-face gatherings even after restrictions are lifted.

    And it won’t just be a choice between meeting in-person or virtually — technology expands meeting possibilities to include a hybrid option as well.

    So, what are the features of each?

    All Virtual Meetings

    The advantages of virtual meetings are many and will likely influence post-pandemic professional gatherings.

    More flexibility for scheduling. Before virtual meetings became commonplace, attendees often experienced scheduling difficulties — participants were expected to be on-site, sometimes well outside regular office hours. Now, it’s as simple as dialling in from home: log in after dinner, hold the meeting and still have family time afterward.

    With participants dialling in from their homes or preferred work locations, it has never been easier to reschedule should a last-minute conflict arise for one of the key members. Availability in general has also increased, further facilitating flexibility.

    Always start on time. Eliminating the commute to a meeting also increases the chances of starting on time. Traffic jams or half-eaten meals are no longer issues — you’re already at your workspace and you’re covered. (You may just want to keep your video off while you finish breakfast.)

    Increased efficiency. People love to chat when gathering face-to-face, which can slow the decision-making process during a meeting, especially for a larger conference. Virtual interaction has become so commonplace in the past year for both the personal and business realms that online work meetings now tend to cut right to the chase. If we’re going to spend extra time on a video chat, we likely want it to be with loved ones.

    Dial in from anywhere. Attendees can take part in virtual meetings from anywhere. Most online platforms even provide the option to dial in via telephone if you’ve really gone off the grid and don’t have Wi-Fi. That makes meeting attendance possible from anywhere with a phone line.

    An influx of new knowledge. After nearly a year of restricted physical contact, even the most tech-reluctant now have some comfort level with engaging online, whether for work or personal socializing. These technological skills go beyond virtual meetings and add up to a better understanding of computers overall, which will lead to increased productivity in the workplace whether you’re at home or in the office.

    Share screens, save trees. With screen-sharing becoming the new norm when discussing documents in online meetings, hard copies of reports and supplementary materials have become obsolete. Paper waste is reduced when our minds are trained to accept these documents in their virtual form.

    Hybrid Meetings

    There are still scenarios in which face-to-face interaction is beneficial. Enter the hybrid meeting, a combination of virtual and in-person contact. What does it look like and when should you use it?

    Guests dial in. The organization’s key players can physically distance together in a large conference room while guests such as industry experts or minute-takers can dial in via teleconference in order to limit all in-person interaction to essential participants only.

    Site visits. Some projects require industry professionals, such as engineers or technicians, to investigate on-site issues, provide recommendations and undertake critical work. When multiple eyes must be on a project, an in-person exploration by one individual with the remaining meeting participants attending by video chat can get the job done.

    AGMs. Some routine decisions to be made during an AGM are a no-brainer for the virtual platform, while others such as the election of new board members can benefit from a personal touch. This is where a hybrid AGM can make sense: Activities such as the approval of the previous AGM minutes and presentation of the president’s report can occur virtually, while voting and the question-and-answer portion can be held in-person. When the weather improves, hybrid meetings will be even more desirable. There will be many opportunities for outdoor physical distancing for larger meetings or for items requiring in-person discussion or a vote.

    One Last Key Ingredient

    Even though comfort with online meetings has increased across the board, the proceedings also need at least one individual who knows the technology inside-out and can take the lead on logistics. Particularly for a major meeting such as an AGM, if your organization doesn’t have an in-house tech guru, consider using a professional virtual meeting platform whose services include providing an experienced moderator.

    A meeting plagued by tech issues can make your organization appear unprofessional and incompetent. Even worse, absent dedicated software and an objective third-party monitoring the proceedings, important decisions that require a vote could be misrepresented or mishandled, which could put your organization in legal jeopardy. Be sure to reserve your professional platform well ahead of time, though – it’s common for the schedules of virtual governance platforms to be filled months in advance.  

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