Meetings are a fact of business life, and their frequency seems to be increasing daily. In an international survey of businesses by Ovum Consulting, executives reported an average of 17 meetings a week. Half claimed that the number of meetings they attend every week is growing.
This increase can be explained partly by the wide adoption of the collaborative working culture of the tech sector, which has influenced working environments across the country. But if you want to talk to partners or clients face to face, significant amounts of travel time are required. And this becomes even more acute as businesses increasingly adopt models of distributed workforces, remote suppliers and customers.
In places such as London with congested roads and frequent public transport glitches, this adds up to significant expense and stress.
What’s the solution? Video meetings have the advantage of being easy to conduct frequently while adding a personal touch which bolsters client relationships. However, many remain hesitant to embrace them.
So what do reluctant adopters need to know about how to use it most effectively?
Test in advance
Before the meeting, trial the technology and be familiar with how it operates. Check the software is compatible on the desktop, mobile, tablet or laptop being used, and with the operating systems you like to use. This way you can be sure the meeting will start without last minute technical issues. Have any documents to hand, ready to share, or even upload them in advance.
Appoint a moderator
Make sure somebody is driving the agenda, ensuring everybody gets a chance to speak, and shares notes and action points after the meeting.
Prepare an agenda
As in conducting a face-to-face meeting, the moderator should prepare a meeting agenda, outlining the key aims and what will be covered.
Schedule in advance
If there are multiple participants, you’ll probably need to give at least a day’s notice. Video conferencing cuts out the travel, but you’ll still need to make sure people are free.
Keep meetings brief – no more than 30 minutes. Ideally break them down into chunks of no more than 10 minutes.
Although it might be tempting to catch up with e-mails and social media, it is important to be fully engaged.
You may feel more detached when video-conferencing than in a face-to-face meeting, but you still risk looking rude if you don’t seem present.
Share small talk
Small talk – even for a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting – is a good way to build relationships and set everyone at ease before getting down to business.
Choose a space to conduct the meeting which will be free from distractions such as noise or background activity. This is as much for your client’s benefit as your own. Find a quiet, well-lit room or space where you feel comfortable.
Make eye contact
Make sure your head isn’t buried in your notes or looking down at other documents. Just as in real life, look up when you speak and fully engage with the person you are speaking to.