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It’s difficult to get an exact measure of the number of Canadians working from home. But according to a BMO Financial Group survey, 23 percent of Canadian companies offer employees the opportunity to telecommute. This is a significant shift from the days of being chained to a desk from 9-5.As our world becomes less bound by borders and more global, this number is likely to increase. And, as the number of virtual workers, customers and vendors grows, so does the need for technology and accompanying guidelines to help everyone do their best and stay connected. Virtual meetings meet that need. It’s important to keep in mind that virtual meetings have their own set of rules. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, not everyone is aware of those rules. This e-newsletter offers several tips and suggestions to get the most out of your remote meetings and conferences.

How to hold an effective online meeting

  • Be clear about date, time and location: Clarity about the date and time should be a given. But often, meeting organizers forget to specify whether a meeting is in-person or remote. This can cause unnecessary travel, feelings of being caught off-guard and wasted preparation time (i.e. you don’t need doughnuts and coffee for remote attendees). Also, be sure to send login information, such as phone numbers, access codes and links, at least a day in advance so your attendees can prepare.
  • Don’t make assumptions: Never assume your meeting attendees have experience with remote meetings or the software you use to conduct them. Gauge your attendees’ familiarity ahead of time, and at minimum, offer a brief phone tutorial beforehand if needed. You may even want to send out printed instructions in advance. Consider imprinting paper mouse pads or Clippys with step-by-step instructions and contact information in case participants have questions.
  • Be punctual: The mix of audio and video as attendees join a call can be very distracting. Log in at least a couple minutes early if possible to avoid interrupting. If you want a good laugh—and a reality check on the effects of tardiness during virtual meetings—check out comedy duo Tripp and Tyler’s Conference Call in Real Life video.
  • Mind your P’s and Q’s: When meeting virtually, be sure you’re dressed in proper meeting attire, reduce background noise by muting your microphone, and adjust your webcam to avoid glaring lights and distractions. You may even want to provide virtual employees with headphones or give remote invitees a set of ear buds. Perhaps most important of all, remember you’re on camera! If you wouldn’t do it in front of a live person, don’t do it during your meeting. Surfing the Web, texting, eating your lunch—these are all distractors.
  • Be engaging and keep it short: It is much easier to zone out during virtual meetings than in-person ones, which is why it is critical to engage your audience. Icebreakers, agendas, Q&A sessions and even polls can be great ways to keep virtual folks involved. Using the chat feature for back-and-forth communication will help avoid multiple people talking at once. And keeping track of time using a Tiny Tot Magnetic Timer helps everyone stick to the agenda, minimizing tangents.

As the number of remote workers increases and our business dealings become more and more global, the need for virtual meetings will continue to climb. The sky’s the limit when you follow the above online-meeting best practices.

“BMO Poll: Canadian Businesses Report Significant Divide on the Benefits of Telecommuting.” BMO Financial Group. 26 April 2013. Web. Retrieved 24 June 2015.

Thomas, Faith. “5 Tips for Conducting a Virtual Meeting.Inc.com. N.p., 20 Dec. 2010. Web. Retrieved 08 June 2015.

Dishman, Lydia. “How To Rein In The Chaos Of Virtual Meetings.Fast Company. N.p., 06 Feb. 2014. Web. Retrieved 08 June 2015.

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