The Pros and Cons of Virtual Meetings

I recently attended my first virtual meeting, a three-hour training session for an upcoming project. Here are my top two takeaways from that virtual experience. First, I can’t think of anything more awkward than looking at your own face next to the faces of others on a screen for an extended period of time. Second, I love the aspect of not having to travel a great distance to get to that training.

As with any meeting, whether onsite or online, there are both positives and negatives that go along with the setup. When looking at virtual meetings, specifically, here are a few advantages:

  • No travel costs. The virtual meeting I was a part of recently is typically an onsite meeting I attend involving extended car travel, hotel stays, and meals. What typically costs them thousands was “virtually” eliminated.
  • You can cover more information in a condensed time frame. It’s inevitable – when people are together, they talk. From casual conversation and personal dialogue to brainstorming sessions and extended discussion, the time frame of an onsite meeting will be longer than a virtual meeting. When people gather for a virtual meeting, the small talk is typically at a minimum, as attendees seem to be focused and ready to work.
  • It’s simple. Software companies such as GoToMeeting and Zoom have made virtual meetings an easy reality. Setting up an online meeting isn’t complicated, and companies such as these offer excellent support.
  • It’s comfortable. Virtual meetings can take place anywhere, anytime! From the comfort of your own home or office, you can attend a meeting in a familiar atmosphere.

In addition to these benefits, though, there are a few disadvantages:

  • Less personal connection. The one thing I missed about the virtual meeting I recently attended was the connections I made with other attendees in years past. While personal relationships aren’t always necessary between those attending meetings, for some types of groups, these greatly benefit the outcome.
  • Technology doesn’t always cooperate. Internet connections fail. Computers have glitches. It’s a risk you have to take when relying on technology to carry your meeting.

Some meetings can be handled virtually. Others cannot. I think a mixture of the two can be a great way to save money, increase efficiency, and place value on your attendee’s time.

From an event planner’s perspective, virtual meetings can be a great way to gather a team of leaders who may live throughout the country to regularly meet for progress updates. While an onsite, in-person planning session can be a great way to jumpstart planning for an event and build relationships among your team, follow up meetings can easily be arranged virtually.

 

The Pros And Cons Of Virtual Meetings

Organizations these days are becoming multinational; some are becoming multisite; and with better Internet capabilities, some are becoming multi-coffee-shop.

Having multiple sites has lead to meetings being conducted virtually.  And the best thing about that is the technology has caught up as well.

Why would you have a virtual meeting?

  1. Different locations.  The great part is you don’t have to leave that coffee shop to meet with your co-workers.
  2. Stay connected to co-workers.  Meetings can be painful; but, with all these locations, staying connected to the work that needs to be done is necessary.  Virtual meetings can solve that.
  3. Get more work done.  The inverse is true of the above point as well.  Virtual meetings make you stay on point which helps you stay focused on getting more work done.

While all of these points are nice, there are a couple of downsides to virtual meetings.

  1.  With a virtual meeting, attendees can get distracted.  This holds true with any meeting, but it’s easy to type an email or finish some blog reading during a virtual meeting because on camera it just looks like you’re “taking notes.”
  2. Lack of creative energy.  There is just something about a full team being all together in one room that spurs creativity.  The creativity generated in a virtual setting can be different than when you are seeing everybody face-to-face.

We’ve talked about pros and cons with virtual meetings.  Now, let’s talk about the technology that is available for these.  I love Apple, but their FaceTime app on any Mac only allows for a conversation with one person…and the other person has to have an Apple product.  If you have those two variables, I think it’s better than the other apps we’ll discuss.

Skype is great for big meetings.  It’s a trusted technology that is free (unless you’re calling internationally) and works across Mac and Windows platforms.

GoToMeeting.com is a very robust system and is great for larger groups.  The biggest difference between these and the apps listed above is that there is a cost.  But remember that old adage: you get what you pay for.

When your organization does virtual meetings, what do you use?  How has it worked for your team?