Virtual meeting tools, tips, and alternatives to address coronavirus travel restrictions

Expert Insight

Virtual meeting tools, tips, and alternatives to address coronavirus travel restrictions

At EAB, we are committed to providing support, insights and learnings as the situation develops. Please continue to check our resource center for updated items, links and resources.

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Virtual meeting best practices
Virtual meeting best practices

Given the existing climate, it is important to have a plan for conducting remote meetings, conferences, and business. Based on our own internal conversations, we have compiled some best practices and available tools to consider for the near- and long-term.

Web-based screen share and virtual meeting tools

The technical capabilities of each institution will vary, so in the short-term, consider working with your existing options and incorporating additional opportunities throughout your meetings for attendee engagement.

Some of the more popular platforms available include:

  • Zoom
  • GoToMeeting
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Bluejeans
  • Adobe Connect
  • Dialpad
  • Uberconference

Consider the goals of your meetings to determine which platform will be the best fit for you and your institution. For instance, if you are relaying information and presenting decks, look for a solution that will provide engagement metrics so you can see when your remote audience might be distracted or in another window. If you are relaying lessons and instruction, look for a solution that provides options for Q&A, polls, and chatting amongst attendees for group breakouts.

Further, if the goal is to connect the attendees, consider networking and community management tools to encourage interaction, such as:

  • Discourse
  • Vanilla Online Community
  • phpBB
  • inSided

Virtual meeting best practices

In our COVID-19 Resource Center, we provide some additional resources for your teams. However, below is a compilation of virtual meeting tips to consider:

  • Have a clear business goal for all virtual meetings and ensure all meeting activities line up to it
  • Consider a combination of resources for attendees to interact with to maximize engagement and win their attention (i.e. recorded and live video, articles, decks, etc.)
  • Strongly recommend all attendees turn their cameras on to encourage organic connections and accountability that everyone is engaged
  • Create a live, editable doc so everyone dialed in can contribute notes in real-time
  • If your platform allows, consider planning breakout sessions for participants to interact and work together
  • Assign clear roles such as a moderator, speaker, tech support to ensure minimal glitches during the meeting
  • Make eye contact with the camera when presenting
  • Use polls throughout presentations to make the meeting more interactive
  • Promote discussion by asking the group open-ended questions and intersperse these throughout the meeting to keep everyone engaged
  • Incorporate social media and encourage your groups to post what their set up looks like and mention you/your event hashtag
  • Order catered lunch for remote attendees to keep them engaged and feel appreciated
  • Do additional communication to engage attendees prior and create more of a connection with the topics/speakers/attendees
  • Ask that all attendees mute their mics when not speaking to reduce background noise

Consider blended learning alternative

While in the immediate weeks, doing all virtual meetings might be the best option, consider what might work in the long-run and lay that foundation now.

A blended learning approach can be adapted for remote conferences and presentations with a little more lead time. Even with the most advanced virtual meeting software, you will still be battling with limited attention spans and pressing commitments so provide multiple formats and avenues for your attendees to engage with at their pace.

For instance, break up a larger conference or what-would-have-been a multi-day event into smaller pieces. Release either a “lesson” each day for multiple weekdays or build out an agenda with timed releases of each section.

At the start of each session, host a live speaker panel who are presenting throughout the event, via an online conference platform, to provide context for the lesson being released and to do live Q&A with attendees. Questions can be submitted via email prior or via chat while the video is live.

Afterwards, release the relevant resources for the session digitally or through your website, including:

  • Pre-recorded 10-15-minute videos on a core topic for the meeting with the speaker setting the context for the larger discussion.
  • On-page article with further detail
  • Digital slide share of the full deck available on the page and as PDF download
  • Relevant links out to referenced material for additional learning opportunities
  • Scheduled breakout sessions for attendees to join through individual meeting invites and dial-ins
  • Intersperse surveys or polls throughout to encourage interactions with the information on-page
  • Provide prompts for self-reflection that they can share during breakouts
  • In the weeks following, offer “office hours” with smaller virtual meetings so attendees can continue the discussion, ask questions, share insights, etc.

A blended learning approach to a remote conference or larger meeting means that more information can be shared in multiple formats to fit attendee learning styles. It also allows greater flexibility and increased opportunities to track what is resonating with those participating.

Whatever solution you choose, make sure to clearly communicate with your internal team who is producing the virtual meeting and all external attendees. With a well-thought out plan and the right-fit tools, you set up your team and institution to excel at virtual meetings.

Additional coronavirus resources