When you have to confer over documents in real-time or want to increase face-to-face contact with clients, virtual meetings are often a better alternative than voice-only conference calls or emails. Virtual meetings can include screen-sharing capabilities or video conferencing to help keep everyone on track and foster clearer communications during those regular calls.
Setting up virtual meetings is easier than you might think, especially as these services have proliferated in recent years. Here's how to set them up in your business:
Choose Your Service
Small businesses have a wealth of choices. For example, Gartner has gathered a list of popular options, along with links to reviews — they include products made by Zoom, Cisco, Microsoft, LogMeIn and Google, to name only a few. Each has its own features, such as:
Screen-sharing capabilities. These are a must-have for most businesses, allowing you to share documents easily.
Meeting logs. Some have auto-generated transcripts that are saved to the cloud, and you can reference them any time.
Ability to sync meetings with your calendar system. Many products can sync with your mobile calendar systems, allowing you to more easily schedule meetings.
Tech support. Some offerings come with a dedicated support line so you can quickly get help in case of glitches.
After you've identified the product with the features that look best for you, read reviews from people who have actually used the software, ask peers in your industry for their opinions, and try the software for yourself if a free trial is available.
Roll It Out — Carefully
You've chosen your video-conferencing software, and now it's time to introduce the new system to your staff and clients. Make sure to alert everyone to the change a few weeks in advance to ensure that everyone's systems work with the new software. Read the software's tips and advice, try it yourself, and get your questions answered to make sure you fully understand how to use it. If necessary, put together written instructions to share with your staff and have them try it out, too.
Prepping in advance allows time for remote employees to make sure their operating systems play well with the software. Plus, they may need some time to spruce up their home offices if you're making use of video conferencing — they'll want a professional-looking setting in the background of video calls.
Allow Time for Adjustment
Even if you've prepared thoroughly, employees and clients may experience hiccups until everyone is accustomed to the change. Be sure to email your clients ahead of time to let them know you're switching to a new system and that there could be glitches in the first couple meetings.
Using the new software should be relatively easy for your clients. Most products allow you to send the client a link with your meeting invite, and they'll be in the meeting with very little fuss. However, ask them for feedback to make sure they are getting what they need from the meetings — if they experience any issues, you can make adjustments to help the software fulfill its potential.