How To - Master Online Meetings

Employee management – and even sales calls – often happens remotely today. Here are six ways to use online meetings effectively.

In a hyper-connected business world, distributor principals can often run their businesses from anywhere these days. Whether you have to meet with employees or appeal to the needs of clients, online meetings can provide an outlet for getting anything done at any time and from anywhere. Here are six ways to make online meetings work for you.

Provide an Agenda. Send it to your client or employees well ahead of time and follow up with them in advance of the meeting. “This will give you insight as to what they think is most important, and where they might want to elaborate in the presentation itself,” says Meghan Dotter, principal at Portico PR. “You’ll have time to make any adjustments.”

Defer to Clients’ Platform Preference. If you’re setting up internal meetings with employees, you can decide on a platform that works best for your business and your people. But, when talking to customers through Web meetings, use the technology platform that they’re most comfortable with.

“Oftentimes, customers will lean toward a specific tool – be it WebEx, Skype, Google Hangouts or another. Be flexible enough to meet your customer at his comfort zone,” says Tsahi Levent-Levi, who consults around a technology called WebRTC, which enables voice and video calling through Web browsers.

Ensure Your Tech Is Top-Notch. Proper tech tools are essential to presenting yourself as a polished, dependable professional. So, use a high-quality webcam. Ensure you have a reliable, high-speed Internet connection. Since muffled audio can be a significant source of frustration, consider working with a headset or pro-grade microphone.

“I have a professional Heil PR40 microphone connected through a USB sound board to my computer,” says Ryan Scott, an inbound marketing expert with Lean Labs. “Whenever I do important meetings or presentations, I use that microphone as my audio source. This gives me super-clear audio that pleases our clients quite well.”

Prepare Properly. Preparation is the key for having stellar virtual meetings. “Set aside at least 30 minutes to prepare the technical side,” says Shadé Y. Adu, a brand strategist and life coach at Savvy Solutions Consulting.

If possible, Adu advises, hardwire your Internet connection using an Ethernet cord to avoid losing your connection. Scott says you should also consider having a second Internet connection you can turn to in the event of a crash; if you have this backup, test it too. Check your lighting and Web camera to ensure they’re functioning optimally. Also, perform a test call in order to ensure things are working, and make sure that any links are checked for functionality. “This will ensure that you are portrayed as a tech-savvy professional instead of a flustered tech amateur,” says Adu.

Tend to Your Image. You might be at your work desk or in your home office, but you should prepare your appearance as if you were doing an in-person meeting. Therefore, dress appropriately and make sure the area you are connecting in from is clean and professional looking.

“De-clutter your ‘background’ space,” says Levent-Levi. “Put on a shirt that doesn’t have stripes or squares, which looks bad on video and actually reduces video quality.”

Additionally, arrange the lighting so that it’s flattering to you. Realize, too, that in virtual settings people rely more on “likeability” indicators than they do in person. “For presenters, this means paying greater attention to our hand gestures, facial expressions and speaking slowly enough for others to understand,” says Dotter.

Up the Engagement. “If you are just presenting and moving slides, it can get boring, so engaging with the participants by asking questions and soliciting feedback is critically important,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.

Amy Glass, director of training and an executive coach at Brody Professional Development, says it’s also smart to invite questions from the outset. “Set the expectation and then let participants know how to do this,” says Glass. “It’s important to encourage dialogue during a virtual engagement.”