In-person vs. Virtual Meetings: How to Bridge the Gap

 

Is there any doubt in-person meetings trump video conferences? There’s a reason Sales VPs and CEOs are cautious concerning company travel budgets – studies show a direct correlation between dollars invested in business travel and money coming back in revenue and new profits.

Despite innovations with video conferencing, screensharing and cloud collaboration, face-to-face meetings still win the day. And to be clear, that fact isn’t lost on us. We’ve happily talked about why in-person meetings are a gold standard in communication.

So what does that mean for you? Should you run into your CEO’s office and demand that your web conferencing budget is slashed and moved into more business travel?

Probably not – it goes without saying moving to solely in-person meetings would be prohibitively expensive and plainly inconvenient for communicating over a distance on the day-to-day. Instead, the conversation should revolve around bridging the gap – making virtual meetings more like in-person meetings.

Virtual Communication Needs a Nonverbal Component

Decades-old research about nonverbal communication is cited by business bloggers to this day. A breakdown by the Association for Consumer Research provides a quick look at the stats:

  • A UCLA study reported 93 percent of the meaning contained in any message is nonverbal
  • No more than 30 percent of the meaning in a social exchange is conveyed by words
  • Specialists agree about 80 percent of human communication is nonverbal.

One thing that should be noted: these studies were conducted in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. They aren’t relics, but the researchers didn’t study in the age of email and ubiquitous digital communication.

Regardless, let’s consider the research on face value. If so much communication is done nonverbally, then your virtual communication needs a strong nonverbal component. How do you achieve that?

Reliable, Real-time, HD Video

It goes without saying; you have to see your participants. But it’s not enough to host just any video conference. There is an incredible amount of nonverbal interaction in a meeting, and that can be lost due to poor video quality or lag created by unreliable internet connectivity. Seeing facial expressions in real-time is critical when judging how participants react to pitches and data.

Shameless plug: this is one of the reasons FoxDen allows presenters to see participants while screensharing.

Choosing a conference call technology with high video quality is key. Internet connectivity may be harder to control. If you’re in the exploratory phases of HD video conferencing, consider your bandwidth requirements. Tech Target has a very helpful breakdown for this.

Surprisingly, some reference company culture obstacles over technical obstacles. Communicating solely over audio comes more naturally for some, and moving to video can seem daunting to others.

To those worried about culture shock, refer back to the first paragraph. There’s a huge business interest in making virtual interactions more like in-person meetings. Video is a necessary piece of that, regardless of company culture. So, you might consider offering those late adopters some sort of incentive to hold more video calls. After all, there’s a lot to gain if your virtual meetings perform just a little bit more like your in-person meetings.

Click here to try ReadyTalk's virtual meeting software for free

Hello? How to get people’s attention on a conference call

 

Let’s be honest – no one really enjoys conference calls. Sitting on the line with who knows how many other employees while wondering what’s the point of you being there is hardly a good use of your time, not to mention your sanity – the first time three people talking over each other is funny, by the tenth time it’s maddening.

Conference calls are just prone to boredom, frustration and existential strife (“Does anyone even know I’m here?”). The way they’re conducted by most companies is just wildly inefficient. To prove the point, comedy duo Tripp and Tyler give you a look at what a conference call would be like in real life.

The problem is, far too many companies accept them as a necessary evil. But we’re here to tell you that there are ways you can revamp your conference calls to actually be productive and to engage employees – and not just have the majority of them be on mute while they do other work or watch Netflix.

Here are a few helpful conference call tips for making these virtual conversations worth everyone’s time:

Have a video conference instead

Conference calls can feel cold and impersonal. Video humanizes the experience by making face-to-face communication possible. Employees can feel like they’re real people, being creative and collaborative to work out solutions to business problems, instead of disembodied voices echoing about in a dark, empty void. And feeling like you’re in a void is never good for productivity and engagement, trust us.

However, video is just part of the solution. If your conference calls are aimless and boring, people are still going to daydream during them. So:

Edit them into something more manageable and relevant

Editing is the magic device that transforms a messy, rambling manuscript into a shiny gem of literature, and the same principle works when it comes to conference calls. So take out your red pen and show no mercy. Boil conference calls down to the absolute essentials when it comes to time, content and invitees. Keep it as short as possible. Only cover what really needs to be covered, and only invite those employees whose presence is vital.

Give the amorphous some structure

The nature of conference calls makes it easy for them to feel aimless and unfocused, and that’s not good for engagement. Grab and hold people’s interest by creating a detailed agenda for the conference call, and distributing it to attendees ahead of time. Block in time for questions throughout the meeting, too, to help minimize awkward interruptions or people talking over each other.

Use video, keep things short and sweet, and stick to the agenda to make conference calls more engaging and productive for your company.

How to run more effective meetings

Tips for holding more effective all-company meetings

Maybe you need to give an update on quarterly performance or introduce a new PTO policy – but whatever the reason for holding an all-company meeting, you better make sure you put on a good show. Because while in theory these gatherings are the most effective way to share important information with a large group, in reality, they're far more often a real drag for employees to sit through and a big missed opportunity to unite your organization. 

However, you're not doomed to holding uninspiring all-company meetings forever – just follow these tips:

Be a transformer, not a transaction-er

Make like Optimus Prime in your all-company meetings – not physically per se, but in the sense that you're a leader who inspires others to do their best. Before this analogy goes off the rails, we're actually talking about being a "transformational leader" and not a "transactional leader" in your company-wide meetings. Transformational leaders are open to feedback, excited about change and transparent – and they create trust between company and employee, as the Society for Human Resource Management explained. Transactional leaders, on the other hand, see things in black and white: an "I boss, you employees" mentality, so to speak.  

Think about the agenda and content of your meeting in a transformational way, as opposed to a transactional one. Establish ample time for people to share their thoughts and ask questions, and explain how the information that's being presented is beneficial to employees' well-being, not just the company's bottom line. 

Connect remote workers with a webinar 

The internet is supposed to connect us – not leave sales guy Joe in Timbuktu with no idea what's going on with his company. The age of the remote worker is upon us, and that means that businesses need to be leveraging technologies that keep everyone on the same page. By hosting your all-company meeting as a webinar, you can ensure that all employees can join in, no matter how far flung they are around the world. Go one step further and record the meeting, too, so both in-office and remote workers can watch the meeting later if the proposed time isn't possible for them. 

Show them the money, but in helpful ways 

"This went up, that went down, here's some numbers, now meeting dismissed" is unfortunately the gist of far too many all-company meetings. Everyone knows how tempting pie charts can be – hey, we think it's fun to play around with the colors, too – but pointing to a bunch of graphs during a company meeting isn't doing anyone any favors. Make sure you present sales figures, revenue and other data in easy-to-understand ways and that you also provide context for such numbers. 

Follow these tips to avoid snores at your next meeting – and make it a productive use of both company and employee time. 

How to promote your webinar using social

We've written a lot about the wonders webinars can do for your business – but they won't do squat if no one knows about them. Interactive and engaging, social media should be front-and-center in your webinar marketing plan

Below are some of our best tips and practices for promoting webinar using social. In marketing, as in life, you get the best results by following through, so that's why we've included tips for using social before, during and after the event.

Leading up to the webinar

Use social media to put a bug in the ears of potential audience members well ahead of the day the webinar is set to take place. About three weeks ahead of time (the sweet spot for social promotion), post short, snappy messages advertising the webinar several times a day on the major social platforms – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But don't sacrifice substance for sass, as the social posts should catch people's attention but also contain the useful info like the date and time of the webinar, the material that will be shared and where and how people can register. 

We've also found that response rates are the highest in the two weeks leading up to the webinar, so you should take advantage of spreading the word during this crucial timeframe or your attendance rates may suffer. 

During the webinar

Don't lose sight of social media benefits once the webinar begins. These platforms make it easy for your target audience to share information about your webinar, and they also enable you to interact with your audience during the actual event. Have a team member live-tweet choice nuggets of info during the webinar or pose poll questions on Facebook. By creating a more interactive environment, you can boost your audiences' engagement with not only the webinar but your company brand as a whole. 

After the webinar

The webinar may be over, but your work's not done yet (is it ever?). Now you have a high-value asset ready to be shared with the masses. Send out social posts after the event, recapping the highlights of the webinar and directing people toward where they can view an on-demand version. Over the following months, continue publishing occasional posts about how the webinar can be viewed online, and look for ways to tie it into future campaigns. 

If you're just hosting webinars and calling it a day, you're missing out on their true ROI. By promoting webinars via social media before, during and after the event, you can boost engagement as well as create a stronger and lasting brand connection with your audience. 

How Webinars Find Higher Quality Leads for Less

Take off your business hat for a moment and put on your consumer hat. Now imagine what your ideal marketing campaign would look like – one that wouldn’t annoy you or bore you to tears. Our list would look a little something like this:

Top 5 desired traits of a marketing campaign:

  1. Contains fascinating content.
  2. Provides actually useful information.
  3. Reads concise and to the point.
  4. Seems made by a human and not a robot.
  5. Leads us to a service or product that will improve our lives.

Webinars are a powerful marketing tool because they check every item off the above list, satisfying consumers’ needs for engaging and informative content.

They also hugely benefit the businesses that host them because they produce more qualified leads in a shorter amount of time. In fact, our research shows that between 20 percent and 40 percent of webinar attendees turn into qualified leads.

Here’s how webinars can crush it when it comes to lead generation:

Webinars are built on permission-based marketing

No one likes it when telemarketers come calling or companies send unsolicited emails. Contacting consumers without their consent can lead to negative brand associations and a whole lot of bad feelings – not to mention law-breaking in some places.

However, when people give you their permission to contact them, they’re much more invested in what you have to say. That’s the basic tenet of permission-based marketing, and that’s one big reason why webinars are so successful at generating leads.

When someone registers for your webinar, they’re showing their genuine interest in your company. This increases the chance that the consumers who attend can be sent further along the sales pipeline.

Webinars provide more trustworthy data

When people genuinely want something from you (like your permission to attend a webinar) they’re much more likely to provide accurate contact information – no more JohnFake@gmail.com in your email subscriber lists. Webinars minimize the amount of bad data you receive, helping you have access to more promising leads.

Webinars provide longer-term gains 

A specific webinar may take place only once, but you can create so many other pieces of collateral to support it, such as emails, social media posts, e-books and whitepapers. Our research showed that if you send marketing materials within one hour of a live webinar, prospects are 60 percent more likely to convert. With these tools, you can build a longer-term relationship with consumers that extend beyond a one-time event.

When there are so many ways to fight for people’s attention, you’ve got to make sure you’re using the most cost-effective and efficient methods possible. Webinars generate higher quality leads in a shorter amount of time, giving you a higher ROI.