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Virtual meetings tend to be short, and they also spread time over a specified work period. Therefore, it is essential to have pre-work as a tool that will limit the actual meeting time. During the planning of meeting time, determination of the level of interaction is necessary to meet the objectives of the meeting; whether it is communication, generation of ideas, solving a problem, or making a decision. Type and level of interaction that is needed for each part of the meeting will determine the tools and technology needed for the meeting.
Use of Technology Effectively
Different kinds of technology exist. They can be used to augment audio conference with tools that will increase participant engagement and interaction, in order to get better results from virtual meetings. Matching the tools and technology to the objectives of the meeting is important. Facilitators of virtual meetings have to be aware of the full range of technologies that are available for use, practice and be proficient with their use. There is no short cut when it comes to using these tools, and the user has to be adept at using tools for virtual meetings.
Use Web Conferencing Tools to Pass Information
Web conferencing tools function well in pushing information to participants in virtual meetings, the technology includes charts, recordings, quick polling, shared desktop, and presentations. Tools used in web conferencing that are managed by a corporate IT department are MS Live Meeting, iLinc, Elluminate and WebEx.
Tools for Web Meeting
Tools used for web meeting are a smaller niche of products having a focus on information for participants, and they create a high meeting environment for real-time and asynchronous collaboration. Tools for web meeting are designed with a facilitated session in mind, they include meeting documentation, action plans, categorizing, brainstorming, voting, and surveys.
Use of Social Networking and Web 2.0 Tools
Web 2.0 tools are essential for facilitating communication, having interoperability, creating a form of collaboration on the World Wide Web and for the purpose of securing information sharing. The concept of Web 2.0 has led to the development of web-based communities, hosting of services and use of applications such as video sharing sites, blogs, and social networking sites. These are designed for asynchronous communication between many people with a more informal and personal interaction compared to other tools used for virtual meetings.
Having Pre-Work with Preparing Participants
This is a critical success factor that will launch the participants right into the conversation that are productive, the role of a facilitator and meeting leaders will shift to getting the members prepared ahead of time. This enables the participants to use the available time efficiently, in a productive way, and to engage the participants. This process will involve the development of new behaviors among the meeting participants that may be used to showing up at the time of appointment. It may also end up in giving divided attention for the entire duration during teleconferencing process then move to the next meeting.
Engaging and Focusing the Participants
This is the number one challenge when it comes to running effective meetings, it is difficult to stop participants in a virtual meeting from multi-tasking since the facilitators also multitask. It is the role of the facilitator to make the virtual meeting as short and focused as possible, this should involve the needed people only. The preceding factors that are critical in effective virtual meetings play into planning a series of meetings that are short, therefore, the right technology and preparation of participants has to be done.
Building Trust and Social Capital among Participants
For virtual meetings to be useful, trust and having a comfortable level of social and personal interaction is important. Some influence is lost by a facilitator when it comes to the management of the room with participants' physical presence, their personalities and the need to find a new way of engaging members. Creation of an appropriate and effective dynamic within participants in the meeting is important, they all have to be aware of interactions and reactions that take place within the group.
Inspire Motivation and Sustain Momentum in the Meeting
The transformation that takes place from face-to-face events to virtual meetings is an implication that there needs to be a maintenance of momentum and motivation between meetings that are taking place. The role of the facilitator becomes that of a project manager and logistic coordinator, this includes the role of a social glue that holds the group members together. The facilitators should not take the whole responsibility for these. What is needed is a reorganization of the importance of having continued communication, engagement, and the diverse ways used to keep in touch with participants.
Measure Effectiveness of Virtual Meeting
This is helpful since it helps us determine by ourselves and our clients an effective virtual meeting. The process will involve setting of goals and objectives for specific meetings, and learning how the effectiveness will sharpen the participants' focus and preparation.