Yes, It’s Possible to Host a Successful and Enjoyable Virtual Meeting

Introduction
Four times per year, our team gathers in person for a two to three day meeting. As the team has grown, so have the options for meeting locations. This is good as Lincoln, Nebraska is a great city, but it doesn’t compare to Florida in February.

We enjoy getting together/we like each other/we have fun. However, our travel schedules had been unusually heavy this spring and the logistics for a May meeting weren’t coming together; hence the virtual team meeting. We are a virtual company so Skype, instant messaging and web meetings are part of our everyday. But the thought of a three-day virtual meeting didn’t stand out as something I was looking forward to.

To my pleasant surprise, the virtual meeting was one of our most productive, engaging and efficient team meetings to date with zero travel required.

VirtualMtgScreenShot

Keys to Success

As I reflect on the meeting, there were several things we did in preparation for and during the meeting that contributed to success.

    • Studied and tested the technology
      • After some research, we decided to stick with Adobe Connect, which we had already been using for basic webinars with clients.
      • We sent the diagnostics test links to each team member and asked team members to run them on the computer they planned on using well in advance of the meeting.
      • We put together a relevant reference guide including dos and don’ts plus  trouble-shooting ideas based on information from Adobe’s website.
      • We held a practice run with facilitators.
      • Established rules of the game
        • We let people know that everyone should have their webcams on throughout the entire meeting.
        • We made sure everyone cleared their calendar for the meeting times.
        • Modified a typical agenda
          • We met for four hours each morning as large group. Then we took time for lunch and any client work that had to be done.
          • In the afternoons, we met in smaller groups for one to two hours. Adobe Connect has a really neat feature where you can send people into their own virtual conference room and it worked well.
    • Added personal touches
      • The week before the meeting we sent each person a package containing a few of their favorite things and some goodies for their kiddos. We opened the meeting by opening the packages.
      • We threw a virtual baby shower. The last day of the meeting a second box arrived to celebrate a new little one on the way. It was complete with a blue and yellow-themed party favors, handmade cookies, a mini bottle of Champagne and a glass for toasting.
      • Utilized the chat function
      • I would not have predicted it to be a key to success, but the chat function in Adobe Connect was vital. We were able to chat with the entire group or just one person at a time. It allowed for banter without interruption and people could type in questions as the facilitator shared. It actually was a large contributor to the efficiency of the meeting because comments and questions didn’t pull us off topic as they would in person.

Issues

There were a couple bumps in the road. While annoying, they were not detrimental. At one point we were interrupted by what sounded like interference from a police scanner. Apparently there was a lot of action in St. Louis that day and Miranda’s speakers picked it up. We banished her to mute until break time. Having her swap over to her headset solved the problem.

Conclusions

While we have no intention of canceling all of our in-person meetings, it’s fair to say everyone was impressed with both the experience and the results of the meeting. We accomplished most of our task list and it was a good venue for showcasing recently completed projects. Perhaps best of all: we did not have to pack up suitcases and catch flights home.