Pre-2020, virtual meetings were a rarity, only being held in remote-first workplaces or in exceptional circumstances. While more and more people were working remotely, most employees were called back to the offices for meetings.
But the technology for virtual meetings has been here for years - and when the world shut down in 2020, and people were forced to take meetings from their home office, kitchen table or bedroom, businesses all over the globe realised that virtual meetings are a real possibility, not just during lockdowns, but into the future.
But while anyone can host a virtual meeting nowadays, it’s a fine art to make one interactive and engaging, so people will look forward to rather than dread them. In this article, we’re listing all of the ways you can make your virtual meetings more collaborative and immersive.
There’s nothing worse than starting an interactive meeting after having spent time preparing a detailed presentation… only to find that your technology isn’t working.
To avoid this (and we’re sure it’s happened to near enough all of us at some point!), it’s a good idea to thoroughly check that all tech is working well before the meeting. Check your webcam and microphone, and have a backup plan in case something goes wrong and you can’t work out what the problem is in time!
While you’re there, make sure that your interactive meeting space looks good, with a neutral background and no objects in the frame.
It’s also a good idea to have a technical professional on hand to do regular services and troubleshoot when necessary. This could be someone who is hired specifically by your company or a freelancer who you work with regularly. While a freelancer may not be available 24/7, having somebody that you trust can at least ensure any technical issues are resolved quickly, and that they don’t impact your working day too much.
We also recommend that you advise your team to check that their tech is running smoothly pre-meeting. You could send them a list of things to check (including microphone, webcam and internet access) each day and implore them to let you know if anything isn’t working as it should.
While you can’t expect your team to purchase lots of different technology for meetings, you could also suggest that they have another device to use as backup as well. For example, if you host your interactive meetings on Zoom, you could advise that any team members have the Zoom app downloaded onto their phone if necessary.
Part of ensuring that your technology is working is using the right interactive tools for virtual meetings. If you invest a little money into some of the best technology on the market, your meetings should go a lot more smoothly!
One of the best things to invest in is an interactive display, like those that we sell at Avocor. These operate like a large tablet and are mounted on the wall , with a touch screen that enables you to access applications and the internet. With perfect audio, visual and interactive capabilities for real-time collaboration and annotations, you can have flawless meetings on these displays, seeing your colleagues in almost life-size - as if they were in the room with you!
Check out our free guide to help you find out how to make the jump into an interactive meeting environment, and give all of your participants a meaningful seat at the table.
Also, make sure that you have a high-speed wifi connection, good enough to run audio and video and not keep cutting out. Nothing stops meeting morale like a constantly wavering connection! If you don’t have high-speed wifi in your building, it may be worth upgrading to the next package to help your meetings run more effectively.
Furthermore, ask everyone to ensure they have a fully operating laptop that will connect to your interactive display. If you work with freelancers, they should have sorted their own gear out. However, if you have a team that works on a hybrid or remote basis, you may be expected to provide them with a laptop or other equipment.
If your interactive meeting is an hour-long, make sure that you stick to that. If you go over, you’re almost guaranteed to lose people’s focus - especially if it’s at the end of the day or if it affects their work schedule!
It’s best to think about all the topics you want to discuss prior to the meeting and allocate a specific amount of time to talk about them. Then, create a schedule. For example, a 30 minute meeting to discuss next year's advertising budget could have the following schedule:
If you go over the allotted time for a certain part of the meeting, try to make the time back elsewhere or leave certain subjects for another time. For example, you could leave the more detailed parts of the advertising budget for people who particularly work on the financial team.
This will prevent people in, for example, administrative or creative advertising roles from spending time discussing topics that don’t concern their job directly.
At the end of the schedule above, you’ll notice we’ve included time for free discussion and answering questions.
This is one of the best ways to make video conferencing more interactive, as it means that anyone who has points they want to raise will have an opportunity to do so. Plus, it can improve the structure of the meeting, as anyone who has questions in the meeting itself can be invited to raise them at the end, rather than interrupt the meeting’s flow.
Lastly, if some of the questions at the end of the meeting don’t affect all of the participants, they can leave early and get back to their other commitments.
One of the most popular interactive meeting ideas is to use ice breakers or team-building exercises. However, in everyday meetings, you won’t want to spend too long on these, although you could spend a couple of minutes, in the beginning, asking some thought-provoking questions. This is particularly useful for people who join your meeting early!
But if you are having an introductory meeting with a new team or bringing different colleagues together, ice breakers or team building sessions may be necessary! Plus, sometimes you might want to have virtual team building days, where you do activities and games focused solely on team building.
Ice-breaking questions include:
Alternatively, quick games that you could include at the start of a meeting could include the following:
Variety is the spice of all meetings, and having different presenters can help to make your virtual meeting much more varied.
Some meeting participants may have a personal connection with different speakers, which could mean that they’re more likely to engage with them specifically. Therefore, having a variety of speakers and presenters could ensure that all participants feel some level of engagement with someone.
So, when you’re organising your next virtual meeting, think about who you could ask to present different aspects. For example, if you’re an advertising manager, you could ask the advertising accountant to give a breakdown of the budget for this year.
Ensuring that everyone is included in your meeting can help you to maintain focus and engagement. You could ask frequent questions to each participant or include anecdotes that different people will relate to.
If you are concerned that some people in the meeting have questions that they aren’t asking, you could also question them directly on what they think about certain aspects.
Another handy way to entice meeting engagement is to follow up with a friendly email. Ask your colleague their thoughts on the meeting and if they have anything that they wanted to discuss further.
If they know that you’ll follow up with an email, they’ll probably engage more in meetings. Plus, if they don’t want to ask any questions in the meeting itself, you should still be able to arrange a time to clear up anything afterwards.
Virtual meetings are, without a doubt, the future - and the good news is that there are lots of ways that you can make them more interactive and engaging. If you follow these simple steps, you should be able to start having better virtual meetings instantly!