By Bongiwe Zwane- Maseko
Virtual meetings are a real-time and fast-growing method used in every industry to conduct business meetings, and seminars, and interact with colleagues about projects, through the Internet.
Virtual meetings are as crucial as physical meetings. They are the only way to connect with your colleagues and clients when you cannot do a face-to-face meeting. With the rise in remote jobs and work-from-home culture, we increasingly turn to virtual meetings to conduct our work and deal with clients globally.
This became even more evident at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic.
With the availability of multiple video conferences and communication tools, we can attain virtual meetings from any part of the world.
Technology has improved internet connections so that users on the web can stay connected with all the clients across the globe. It is useful to host a virtual meeting when you cannot meet your clients personally, as it allows you to discuss the project online and complete it within a specific time. Entering your username and password is all it takes to join a virtual meeting.
- Saves Time and Costs – Online meetings require less cost and time compared to physical sessions. Virtual/online discussion needs a computer or smart device with a stable internet connection. Conducting a physical meeting requires hotel accommodation costs, arrangements of facilities, travel expenses, etc., The attendees need to come from different locations, due to which there may be a delay in gathering all participants. As such, a physical meeting might become more extended than a virtual meeting, as you need to wait until all the participants are fully present. Setting a virtual meeting saves plenty of time. By avoiding business trips and working from a specific location, you can maximise your productivity. Similarly, it saves time because a virtual meeting can be completed in a few hours, whereas managing actual meetings takes more time. Therefore, an online meeting is more cost-effective and saves time than a physical meeting.
- Easy Accessibility – The use of virtual meetings enables increased participation among a wider audience as almost anyone can easily access the meetings with an electronic device and a stable internet connection. A company with many employees or clients can set up a virtual meeting that can be easily accessed, saving the need for resources like a fixed location or expenses.
- Ease Of Sharing Information With Team Members – Discussion and sharing information about the project with clients is necessary to achieve the organisational goal. It is necessary to create numerous copies of documents when attending physical meetings. While the use of virtual conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, Meet, etc., makes it easier for sharing documents and information in a virtual meeting. This ease of sharing information allows the meeting participants to raise any issues in real-time and make changes to the documents whenever necessary. This increases the collaboration of all the team members making the meeting more fruitful.
- Easier to Leave – Sometimes you might not stay full-time in the meeting due to a non-relevant topic to your project. No matter how annoying the meeting is, you cannot stand up and quit the physical meeting in front of your colleagues. It is also challenging to make an excuse to leave the session. If the meeting is not relevant to your project, it is easier to go when you are in an online discussion. There is less chance of being awkward to excuse and leave the meeting.
- Increased Attendance – The participants do not need to travel to attend the online meeting. They can attain a discussion on their own time and from anywhere. Whether you are sick, are in a remote location, or are caught up in urgent work, you can join a virtual meeting from anywhere. This increases audience participation as even the busiest individuals or sick employees can attend a virtual meeting at least for a short period.
- Maintain the Physical Safety Of Participants – A virtual meeting ensures the physical safety of its participants. As all participants can access the meet from a convenient location, and there are no face-to-face interactions, things like the spread of germs, traffic accidents due to running late for meetings, etc., do not happen. Furthermore, if a meeting goes wrong, the participants cannot engage in a fistfight in a virtual meeting. All in all, virtual meetings reduce the risk of physical injuries or diseases between participants, unlike physical meetings.
- Set a Clear Goal – Every individual has their own goal and specific planning when making an organisational decision. Your goal might be different from your team members. While discussing, you can share your idea with team members and listen to all the members’ plans to set a final goal. Proper virtual communication lets you share your ideas and thoughts regarding any project with your supervisors and seniors. Even while working from home or in different locations, the team members can collaborate on their entire goal through virtual communication and finally set a clear plan by considering every individual’s idea.
- Recording the Meeting – In a physical meeting, you need to capture everything in your mind when you listen to the presenters in real time. You may also miss important information when not present at the meeting. In a virtual meeting, you have the option of recording the meeting. If you have multiple things to do while attending an appointment and cannot focus on the discussion, you can record the session and save it to see when you are done with work.
- Less face-to-face contact with clients and colleagues – Face-to-face communication is one of the most powerful tools available to humans. It promotes healthy engagement while also building a trustworthy work environment among participants. However, we only have virtual communication with our clients and co-workers during virtual meetings. A virtual environment, although great for time-saving, simply cannot make team members understand each other more and build more trust.
- Interactions Between Participants Are Difficult – It is more difficult for all participants to take an active role when a virtual meeting, especially if the group is large. In private gatherings, you can talk to each other to some extent and create a reciprocal conversation. When numerous people speak in a virtual meeting, it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying. It can make the interaction feel unnatural.
- Difficulty In Understanding Emotions – We, humans, need face-to-face contact to communicate. We use emotions, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions as part of our communication. A virtual meeting may not give you a chance to fully express yourself and your emotions. It can also limit the level of understanding you want to get from other participants as you cannot understand their emotions and passion.
- Internet Connections Can Fail – While working remotely, you might have a poor internet connection at your location. The internet connection may get lost while attending a meeting, and you may not get a chance to attain a complete discussion. Participants might miss a vital part of the session due to poor connection. Moreover, individuals may also occasionally take advantage of this situation. The participants can use the excuse of an internet connection failure to excuse themselves from meetings.
- Difficulty In Sample Presentations– A virtual meeting only ensures audio and video. This may be ok in normal discussions. But for presentations of samples of products to the participants, it becomes inconvenient. The individuals in the meeting cannot give out any specific response without physically touching some samples as only video and images are not enough. Some samples need to be carefully analysed before making any decisions.
- Difficult To Organise In Case Of Poor Technological Infrastructure – Facilitators may find virtual meetings difficult to organise because not everyone has technology or physical resources. You can find it difficult to go to a meeting when you are hiking in remote mountains or in a warzone where the internet has been cut off.
- Problems Due To Lack of Technological Understanding – Many people in today’s society still don’t understand how remote connectivity, particularly virtual technology, works. Because people do not understand how to use the technology, this limits a larger acceptance of virtual meetings.