I work from home, so that means that I take part in quite a few virtual meetings. Whether you prefer Skype, Google Hangouts or full video conferencing, there are some advantages to virtual online meetings, as opposed to in person or even teleconferencing. Here is my list of six things that I gain from virtual meetings:
- No travel time: you can attend from where you are already
- No travel costs (although you might want to invest in some tools)
- It’s easy to share your desktop with folks, to show what you mean
- You can see faces, so it makes you feel more connected than by teleconferencing
- You can video record a meeting for others to watch if they could not attend
- Nobody will catch your cold, and you will catch no-one else’s!
Of course, if you turn the video off, or teleconference instead then you can attend a meeting in your PJs and no-one will know. And of course, I have found that there are disadvantages too:
- Technology needed requires a little time to install & get familiar/comfortable with (and might cost). For freelancers: different clients may prefer to use different technology!
- Internet connections & free tools can sometimes let you down: it’s better to be plugged in than rely on wifi if you’re using VoIP.
- In virtual meetings, only one of you can talk at a time: this might be an advantage, of course! But you lose the many “mini” interactions that take place around a larger, in-person meeting, eg pairs of attendees around a table chatting whilst waiting for a meeting to start or the person at the end who asks an extra question in private. So the virtual meeting is less personal and less social than meeting in person.
- It doesn’t signal your commitment/interest/availability to your client, so you may have to work extra hard with other forms of communication, to compensate. If you really want to impress someone, then it is better to go and see them in the real world!
- There is no travel time but you do need to prepare: plug your camera/speaker/microphone in, sign in to the software, put a smart jacket on, tidy your shelves behind you, silence your mobile phone and turn that washing machine off! You may also need to organise a back-up plan, in case your internet connection fails you.
Sometimes a real meeting is what you need but often, a virtual chat is more efficient and if you live miles away from your client or team then it might be your only realistic option.
What tools do you like to use for meetings, and what advantages do they bring you?