You have your coffee next to your laptop, your notes sprawled across your desk and your agenda pulled up on your second monitor; you are ready to make the most out of every minute of your virtual meeting. The reminder notification pops up, you call into the bridge and you wait patiently for the other party to join. This is an important call. It could, in fact, be the call that gets the signature on the dotted line for your company.
But about 10 minutes into the call, things start to go—and feel—wrong. The conversation turns contentious, your legacy technology interferes with the flow and your deal is quickly headed for the drain. It’s a business nightmare that could have easily been avoided with the right technology in place. So, what are the signs that your remote meeting is going wrong? And how can the right technology keep your conference on the right course? Let’s take a look:
1. “I’m Sorry, You are Breaking Up.”
The Problem: Not just reserved for those beloved Verizon commercials, the “Can you hear me now?” predicament is still very much alive and well for businesses—even those that use VoIP or IP-enabled phones. That’s because many are not teaming with the right phone providers or investing in the best equipment. The reality is that many virtual meetings are still plagued by latency, jitter and eco. If you start to notice that one in every three words appears to get lost, and that the party on the other end is becoming exasperated, that is your first tell-tale sign that your remote meeting is going awry.
The Solution: Just as we no longer use a horse and buggy to get across town, we should no longer rely on 20th century technologies to solve 21st century business problems. This sentiment is no more true than with our office phone systems. As revealed in Verizon’s “Meetings in America” study, 89 percent of those surveyed believe that technology will make meetings easier in the future. Therefore, it’s your job as a business owner to make sure that this is the case. Ask the right questions of your phone providers, perform due diligence when selecting an office phone system and ensure that voice problems no longer ruin your conference calls.
2. No One Knows Who is on the Line
The Problem: Whether you join the call late, or are simply unable to distinguish between the near identical voices on the other line, you may occasionally find yourself in the middle of a virtual meeting with no idea who is on the other line. A lack of visibility, though, is a sign that your virtual meeting is already heading down the wrong path. By not having this insight, not only are you at risk of saying the wrong thing and appearing unprepared, but you will also be distracted by trying to identify each speaker.
The Solution: The right conferencing software grants you unprecedented visibility, displaying the names of all the members in the virtual environment, as well as notifying you who is speaking in real time. It also shows you the spelling of each participant so that you have a greater chance of correctly pronouncing names and sending spelling error free follow-up emails. Keep in mind that mangers spend about 20 percent of their time in meetings with five or more individuals, according to a University of Arizona teamwork study. Since the norm is for company officials to interact with a variety of key stakeholders at once, the right technology is imperative to help you keep all of your ducks in a row.
3. Nothing is Getting Accomplished
The Problem: So you have the agenda in front of you, but no one seems to care—or even notice—that you are attempting to keep order. Instead, participants are speaking over one another, the tone in everyone’s voice is being increasingly agitated and the screen sharing process is nothing short of a debacle. When nothing is getting accomplished during your virtual meeting, it is time to course correct. A meeting gone wrong creates frustration for everyone and also has serious financial implications. Specifically, a meeting between several managers or executives can cost upwards of $1,000 per hour in salary costs alone, according to the aforementioned study. Moreover, an unproductive meeting can cost a Fortune 50 company more than $75 million per year.
The Solution: Appoint a mediator to keep everyone on task and the conversation moving along. This person needs to feel comfortable interjecting when the meeting starts to deviate and needs to be adamant about getting the right people to speak up. Another tactic is to make sure the right people are invited to the meeting. With the rise of the work-at-home movement, it can be tempting to over-invite in order to establish a sense of connectedness for your remote workers. But leave it to your unified communications solution to keep employees in the know and instead be selective when it comes to meetings. And never underestimate the power of the agenda. As revealed in the Wall Street Journal, having an agenda and starting on time can reduce the time managers spend in meetings by up to 80 percent.
4. There is No Screen Sharing
The Problem: Many business executives are still accustomed to the in-person meeting at the large oval conference table, in which copies of an important document are passed out so that everyone can collaborate in real-time. They forget that the same type of process can take place online. You know your online meeting is going south when Party A is referencing a proposal in front of them while Party B scrambles through emails to find what Party A is looking at. Instead of both sides being able to look at the document together and discuss it in real time, one is lost in a sea of emails while the other is gabbing a mile a minute.
The Solution: Technological platforms like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Google Docs have completely changed the game for businesses across the globe. Thanks to features like desktop sharing, screen sharing, live chat and Web co-browsing, individuals can share critical documents with others on the line instantly and participants can modify, interact and engage with the document in real-time. These VoIP conferencing tools can quickly augment your virtual meeting.
5. Stomach Growls, Yawns Dominate the Conversation
The Problem: You were so focused on finding any free 30-minute time slot to get your client on the phone that it slipped your mind that the virtual meeting you set up was during their lunch hour or, even worse, at 8 pm their time. If you start to notice that the party on the other end seems more concerned with when he or she will find time to wolf down a sandwich than to talk mergers and acquisitions, your virtual meeting may be failing.
The Solution: Executives are so eager to grab any free block of time to schedule meetings with both internal and external stakeholders that they often don’t consider what may be going on during that time of day. The key is to schedule smarter. Perhaps you can make the one-hour meeting a 30-minute conference or bump it up 30 minutes so as not to cut into that one time of day when your client has to scarf down a turkey sandwich. Or, better yet, schedule meetings on the quarter hour mark (think 2:15 or 2:45). Very oftentimes these slots are open and force you and your party to be as productive as possible due to the shortened amount of time.
Looking for more tips to rock your remote meeting instead of seeing it heading down the drain? Then download our free white paper today!