When newspapers, magazines and websites list the most stressful life events that people can go through, they tend to focus on deaths, divorces, moving house and starting a family. These journalists have never tried to start a business.
The psychological cost of starting and running a business is incredibly high – capable of plunging entrepreneurs and leaders into stress and even depression. Roughly half of all new businesses fold within the first five years, so the odds of being a success are low at the best of times. Of course, these aren’t exactly the best of times.
The more observant amongst you may have noticed a bit of a health issue sweeping the globe and, unless you’re in the hand gel or homeschooling business, the COVID-19 pandemic has been bad news for almost all businesses everywhere. In the US alone, almost half a million businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic. The impact isn’t limited to the US, nor are the pandemic’s repercussions only being felt by start-ups and smaller companies. In the UK, more than 10,000 high street chain stores or branded hospitality and leisure venues closed their doors during 2020.
With the margins between failure and survival never narrower, companies must seek ways to lower costs, increase efficiency and boost their productivity. Leaning into virtual meetings could be the necessary catalyst for improving your bottom line and your business on the whole.
1. Virtual meetings are efficient
The time and cost of traveling to and from meetings with clients can really add up. On average, businesspeople lose around five days per year just traveling for meetings, without accounting for the extra hours lost to scheduling those meetings and planning or booking the travel. That’s a whole week that a salesperson could spend approaching potential new clients, a creative agency could use to create winning campaigns, or a recruiter could dedicate to interviewing candidates.
Virtual meetings mean no time lost to travel or even traipsing from meeting room to meeting room. As such, employees can focus more on getting the job done than figuring out how to get there.
2. Virtual meetings are productive
Our State of Meetings report discovered that 89% of professionals consider ineffective or poorly-organized meetings to be one of their biggest working frustrations. One of the major advantages of virtual meetings is that they tend to favor organization and productive discussion over chit-chat and brainstorming. In-person meetings often have a “make it up as we go” feel, with meetings often running over schedule. Virtual meetings are more tightly structured and managed.
One-third of busy professionals are frustrated by attending meetings that don’t have the necessary decision-makers in the room to create impactful next steps. Again, the flexibility of virtual meetings means it’s much more likely to have those necessary decision-makers present, so meetings become more fruitful and constructive, rather than needing multiple rounds of follow-up meetings to arrive at decisions.
3. Virtual meetings are easier to schedule
The days lost each year traveling to meetings are trivial in comparison to the time lost trying to schedule them in the first place. If your company is fortunate enough to all be on the same email and calendar tool, such as Outlook or Google, for example, then you’ll be only too aware of how much their integrated time suggestion features have helped eradicate the endless email back-and-forth for internal meetings at least. However, the email tennis begins again any time you need to schedule meetings with clients, suppliers, candidates, partners or external stakeholders.
This is where platform-agnostic scheduling tools like Doodle are worth their weight in gold; providing the same set-and-forget simplicity you find in your internal tooling but for external parties too. Better still, Doodle’s integration with Microsoft Teams and Zoom means that virtual meeting links are automatically generated with every meeting invite, so you never have to worry about providing a last-minute meeting link again.
4. Virtual meetings streamline internal communications
While a lot of the focus will go on external factors, such as acquiring new business and cleaning up supply chains, research by McKinsey suggests that organizations with clearer internal communications will be best set to survive the pandemic and associated economic downturn. Strong management and development along with positive reinforcement of the company’s purpose and strategy will keep employees focused and delivering, while competitors see morale slump.
Virtual meetings allow managers to create and stick to a regular cadence of team meetings and one-on-ones, which sometimes lose consistency when faced with the trials and tribulations of office life. Creating online town halls can also allow employees from all corners of the globe to tune in and hear from senior leaders, maintaining the feeling of connection throughout the whole organization.
5. Virtual pitches make perfect
In those halcyon pre-COVID days – yes, there was a time before all this – creative agencies could spend as much as €83,000 on pitching to a single client when time, travel and resources were all factored into the equation. The pandemic has shown everyone the advantages of online meetings: companies no longer feel the need to travel to every single meeting with a client or a potential customer, while even the customer themselves prefer the freedom and flexibility of a virtual meeting. However, that means that your virtual pitch meetings need to be perfect to cut through.
Before getting creative with whiteboards, virtual breakouts or polling, consider the basics first. Executives also told us that, in their opinions, the critical elements of successful meetings were:
Setting clear objectives (72%)
Having a clear agenda (67%)
Not having too many people in the room (35%)
Visuals, such as videos and the presentation (27%)
With most senior executives reporting that they spend 20 hours or more in meetings, simply get these flawlessly correct and you’ll already be above most of your competitors. The one step that should not be missed is practice, practice, practice. Making sure your presentation flows is key, even in virtual pitches. Then it’s time to let your expertise shine.
6. Virtual meetings are the gifts that keep on giving
What do virtual meetings have that the majority of in-person meetings lack? Other than zany Zoom backgrounds? They can be easily recorded, which is a functionality that not enough professionals use to their advantage.
If you’re pitching a potential new client, by recording the meeting, you can not only send the target a recording of your presentation that they can share with other key stakeholders, but you can re-watch it yourself to fine-tune your skills and boost the likelihood of closing future business.
If it’s an internal team meeting, record it and store it somewhere easily accessible so employees who are on vacation can catch up on the salient points when they return, or new employees can watch recent meetings to get up-to-speed even quicker.
Training and demos are particularly good use-cases for recording meetings, saving time in the future by being able to share a recording rather than having to repeat the training time and again.
7. Virtually increase your company’s reputation
The COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for much of the conferencing and events industry, but many key industry get-togethers have successfully managed the move online over the past 12 months, with some professions preferring this state of play.
This means that the same software and setup that your company uses for virtual meetings can be used to get your senior managers and thought leaders out there and in front of the industry media and potential customers. They can present at online conferences all around the world, take part in online discussions they’ve never been able to access before or even appear as guests on some of your industry’s leading podcasts. Broaden your definition of what an online meeting entails, and you’ll see awareness of your company boom.
Companies that lean into all facets of online meetings and collaboration, virtual town halls and digital conferences will find that they don’t just come out the other side of the pandemic fitter, leaner and more productive, but that they transform into an organization that’s set to embrace the new future of work.
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