Improvements in Information Technology have gradually increased the use of online meetings for some years now. While the current COVID-19 situation has seen an increase in its use, has it really made communication easier, effective and efficient?
Online meetings have provided a number of advantages especially to the business world, being able to communicate with colleagues and associates situated at remote locations or working from home, without leaving your comfort zone, but still, allow us to discuss business strategies and issues face-to-face. But while there are advantages to online meetings there are also some disadvantages.
So let’s look at the pros and cons of online meetings.
While discussing the advantages and disadvantages of online meetings it is a good idea to actually be informed about what an online, or virtual, meeting truly is. Online meetings are organised between two or more participants based at different locations. In order to communicate face-to-face in online meetings computers are used along with an internet connection and web conferencing apps and/or software, Skype, ezTalks, Zoom and the new Google Meeting are just a few and require each participant to share access using voice and webcam.
Over the last 10 years or so, web conferencing or online meetings have become more sophisticated and numerous digital companies have come up with a wide range of options. In our current social and business distancing environments, webcasts, webinars, teleconferencing, VoIP, Podcasts and video conferencing are able to make business meetings cost-effective and efficient. In these online meetings, the host plans the meetings and participants are invited by the host to attend the meeting.
After becoming familiar with the term online, or virtual, meeting let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of online meetings.
Advantages of Online Meetings
Online meetings have become an extremely helpful and effective communication tool for a business if used efficiently, offering a strong and effective platform for participation and communication between two or more remotely placed individuals or groups. Online meetings allow the entire presentation created by the professionals to be accessed by audiences across the globe.
EASY OF ACCESS:
The expense and logistics required for people to attend business meetings in person can be complicated and chaotic. Online meetings are easier and much more cost-effective to ensure all the stakeholders are at one place without compelling them to move out of their office or home. Everyone can attend these meetings face-to-face in just a few clicks of their mouse.
All participants of the online meeting can interact with each other, which may not be possible if a physical meeting is arranged. In fact, participants of a meeting of more than 10-12, are not usually able to interact with all the participants, online meetings make it possible to do so - even in a short time frame.
Being able to invite experts and guest speakers, you would not usually have access to, makes a difficult possibility more easily become a reality. The host is easily able to invite anyone to access the meeting without physically travelling to his place of business.
Disadvantages of Online Meetings
The host may not always follow a format that is agreeable to all participants. Some people appreciate a certain structure, whereas others may respond better to a freer collaboration of information. Some of the formats may be rather juvenile, while some participants may be annoyed by other peoples perspectives. Participants may need to adjust to avoid unpleasant situations and it may take time for your participants to adjust to a particular format.
The performance of some participants within the online meeting environment may not be as good as the host would expect; some may discard others due to their performance. Having said that, limitations of technology, at times, may have cause for even good performers to perform badly.
VALUE OF FACE TO FACE:
The presentations of remote participants may not be accepted by the host or manager of the online meetings, and not necessarily due to a weak presentation, but to the differences in their personal contact.
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE:
Participants may take time to embrace new techniques or technology, making the online meeting environment an anxious experience. Some embrace the technology and the freedom it brings, while others may become annoyed with those who learn more slowly.
Online meetings cannot be successful if the host or senior participant behaves foolishly, or lacks knowledge or technological prowess.
VALUE FOR MONEY:
I recall a board director telling me back in the early '90s, that the other businesses in the incorporated body having email addresses was just a "flash in the pan, it will never take off", and look where we have come since then.
Many company leaders see online meetings as an obstacle in the progress of their business, and many view online meetings as an upgraded cartoon instead of an important tool for their business. If the negative opinions at the top are strong, the online space, in general, will cease to be effective, even if it provides considerable scope to the exchange of ideas and information.
So looking at our pros and cons the conclusion is obvious, well to me it is. The new method of communication can be fruitful if you are using the right tools and come into it with the right attitude. Make sure your participants are well versed in the technology, have the right tools and your host or presenter behaves in a dignified manner to ensure the best possible outcomes for your business.
Embrace what's new and move forward with it, your business will prosper and be viewed positively in the long term.
Software & Apps
Skype - Offers a free and a paid version, for multiple video participants you will require a paid version.
ezTalks - Is also free with numerous other options and also provide hardware and setup assistance.
Zoom - Has had a rocky time recently with numerous reports of hacking, do your research.
Google Meeting - Personally I love Google, but I may be biased. Their new Meeting function also allows you to add text transcript as each person speaks, admit or deny entry to anyone, does not allow anonymous users and has been very quickly picked up by telehealth, banks working with loan applicants, retailers assisting customers remotely, and manufacturers interacting with warehouse technicians.
At the end of the day, do your research and choose what is best for your business or organisation.