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What Is An Online Meeting?

Online meetings—or virtual meetings held using an internet browser or computer application—are increasing in popularity across organizations large and small as they seek to connect geographically dispersed teams, increase productivity, and reduce travel costs. A deeper understanding of online meetings can help you and your team hold more successful virtual meetings and improve collaboration.

Defining the online meeting

Online meetings happen via a web browser application or software downloaded on a computer or mobile device. With online meeting software, users can connect with one another via virtual meetings, also known as web conferences or video conferences.

In most cases you only need a computer or mobile device equipped with a microphone, online meeting software, an internet connection, someone to meet with who has the same components, an agenda, and BOOM—you have an online meeting.

Of course, you can expand the functionality of your virtual meeting if you choose to adopt sophisticated collaboration offerings like web conferencing or video conferencing, both of which fall under the “online meeting” umbrella. Web conferencing enables users to share their screens, poll attendees, digitally whiteboard, and more during meetings. Video conferencing adds a real-time video component into the mix to help further foster team building and add face-to-face communication to virtual meetings.

When should I conduct a virtual meeting?

Aside from day-to-day check-ins, planning sessions, and debriefings, online meetings can a beneficial pivot from traditional in-person or standard audio-only get-togethers. Training is growing in importance, with nearly 77 percent of companies using virtual training to provide professional development for their employees. E-learning is also popular, as are webinars and conferences. The possibilities are as almost as endless as your work-from-home wardrobe (yoga pants again?).

What to look for in online meeting software

The online meeting marketplace is saturated with vendors offering solutions for teams of all sizes and budgets. For companies big and small, the features you need from your online meeting software are universal, no matter the budget.

  • Intuitive: Can a non-technical user figure it out with no training? Users should be able to connect quickly and easily so meetings can start on-time – no fuss, no muss, no entering a complicated code a dozen times.
  • Reliable and high-quality: Meetings stay connected no matter the device, and users can clearly hear attendees, no matter what device you’re using or they’re using.
  • Screen sharing: Readable shared screens and applications that enable meeting attendees to zoom in to read more closely, as well as the ability to digitally whiteboard and edit in real-time.
  • Video conferencing: With remote workers spread across geographies and time zones, team building via non-verbal communication is critical in the modern workplace.
  • Integrated instant messaging: Converse before, during, and after meetings to keep work moving forward and help maximize productivity.
  • Single button sign-on: We’ve come first circle to the first point and the frustration of entering complicated codes to sign-on to meetings. Ensure that your solution makes getting into meetings as simple as possible.
  • How to run a successful online meeting

    Selecting the right online meeting solution for your organization is the first step in holding more successful meetings. With better technology in place, it’s possible to improve team collaboration, maximize your time together, and keep projects moving forward.

    Here are seven tips for running a successful online meeting:

    1. Prepare and share meeting information ahead of time. While this can certainly be done via email, team collaboration platforms are great solutions for sharing information and helping get everyone on the same page. Before an online meeting, you can introduce team members and share their roles in an upcoming project.
    2. Clearly communicate meeting expectations and objectives. We’ve all been in meetings with discussions that are sidetracked with conversations that aren’t relevant to the meeting topic. Help eliminate confusion by outlining expected outcomes and objectives ahead of time.
    3. Start on time. Complicated online meeting technology that makes meeting joining and set-up difficult can eat into precious minutes with over-scheduled colleagues. Respect everyone’s time.
    4. Empower everyone to participate. Some of your colleagues find it easy to speak on the spot in large – and small – meetings; others might find it easier to communicate in writing when inspiration strikes. Ensure that everyone is able to contribute in ways that they’re comfortable with an online meeting solution that enables information sharing before, during, and after a virtual meeting, whether that’s via documents and files, digital whiteboarding, screen sharing, or video.
    5. Ensure everyone is engaged. That silence on the other end of the meeting might be due to your colleagues tuning you out. Video conferencing solutions enable you to read non-verbal cues and know when to move on from a subject – or dig a little deeper to ask more probing questions.
    6. Table off-topic discussions. As mentioned earlier, keeping meetings on track requires careful monitoring to stick to ensure only the most pressing issues are addressed live. Keep the meeting moving – and on-time – according to the agenda. Create a “parking lot” for off-topic content for later discussion if time allows during the meeting, or share those topics in a discussion room.
    7. Wrap-up with clear action items – and follow-up on them. With so many meetings dotting our daily schedules, it’s vital that we ensure work is progressing once each meeting is over. Clear action items for attendees, as well as expected delivery dates, keeps everyone on the same page with next steps and ensures nothing falls through the cracks.

    Adapt and learn as you go

    Using an online meeting solution is no different than any other technology your team adopts. It’s important that your team picks up best practices along the way and assesses how the tool is working for you. In the end, online meeting software and other collaboration solutions should help you eliminate information silos by connecting team members who need information. If it’s not meeting that criteria, examine how you can improve how your team works together.

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    Learn more about Cisco products and solutions related to online meetings.