Virtual meetings are on the rise. They are a tremendous cost saver and allow for participant interaction from across the country or across the globe with just the click of a mouse. The challenge is keeping the meeting interactive, collaborative, and interesting for both participants and presenters.
Make It Brief
Shorter presentations work well within the virtual environment. Keeping the presentation simple will allow the presenter to use anecdotes/experiences to help tell the story. Data-heavy presentations can be cumbersome for both the presenter and participants. Keep the participants focused with visuals but don’t go overboard with animations (that may not play smoothly in certain online platforms). Consider designing presentations with the specific purpose of being used for virtual meetings.
Encourage Premeeting Participation
Want participants to interact among themselves during the meeting? Do some prep work in advance of the meeting. Use a holding room to show videos or ask questions of the audience before the main presentation exists. This begins engaging attendees before the meeting starts.
If the virtual meeting allows for introductions, use the participant list and have the moderator or presenter ask a question. Ask the participants to share some information about themselves. Often, the presenters like to know the locations and backgrounds of those who are in attendance. It just takes a little bit of preparation to get virtual meetings started on the right foot and ensure interaction during the live meetings.
Prepare FAQs for the moderator to help get the interaction started if the Q&A session is slow to start.
Use a Moderator
Consider using a dedicated moderator during the presentations. This moderator can introduce the speaker to the participants and let the speaker know a little more about the audience as well. Use a script and develop opportunities for the moderator to encourage interaction. Merely asking participants for questions will often just lead to awkward dead space. Speakers like to know who is listening in or watching via the Web. It’s no fun when you think you are talking to space. A moderator can help them connect with the participants and encourage feedback.
Build in Interaction
Include built-in interaction breaks within the meeting. Adobe Connect (as one example) has many tools already built in to allow for interaction between participants and presenters. Plan the meeting with opportunities to engage all attendees. This will help prevent attendee multi-tasking and make attendees feel like they are part of the group. Determine where in the presentation to encourage participation and which tools would best support engagement.
• Chat: Ask participants where they are from or what their background is directly using the chat function.
• Polls: Create polls to do knowledge checks or to tailor the presentation to the audience. There are several different formats and data can be collected at the end of the event.
• Q&A: Create Q&A pods to allow audience members to ask questions. Let them know that questions can be submitted throughout the presentation.
• Whiteboard and Whiteboard Overlay: Use the whiteboard function to allow participants to collaborate with the presenter.
• Web Links: This function allows presenters to share any additional or required Web links. The links are presented in a clickable hyperlink and open in another Web page, so the presentation won’t be disturbed.
• File Sharing: Upload supplemental documents right into the Web room. These PDFs will open separately.
• Note Taking: A moderator can use a separate pod to capture notes during the meeting.
• Web Cams: Web cams are the easiest way to encourage interaction. Seeing who is doing the talking helps create a more interactive environment. Encourage speakers to use headsets or speaker phones. Audio can also be streamed directly through computer/device microphones so phones can be eliminated. Web cams on the audience can also help the speaker feel like they aren’t just speaking to dead space. The vast majority of computers and devices have built-in cameras, and it has become a quick and easy process to get them up and running.
These are just a few of the options that might be available to you within your virtual meeting platform. In most cases, the meeting room can be tailored to meet the needs of your specific event.
Don’t Forget Presenter Training
Build time in to speaker trainings to discuss how to present in a virtual environment. Delivering programs in a virtual environment takes some getting used to. The best presenters have honed their speaking skill set, but presenting virtually is something that not every speaker can do without a little help. Share tips and techniques for speakers to engage the audience during this time. Demonstrate the tools they will be using and let them know they can set up a run-through before their presentation so they feel comfortable using the technology.