At Mandel, we’ve been delivering training workshops in virtual environments for more than a decade. In every virtual training experience we deliver, we dedicate a Virtual Meeting Producer (or moderator or facilitator) to act as the Trainer’s co-pilot.
In our training workshops, the Virtual Producer manages the meeting platform functions and mitigates any technical challenges, allowing the Trainer to focus exclusively on the learning and development of the workshop participants.
While we recommend Virtual Producers for any high-stakes presentation, meeting or event, we recognize you and your team may not always have a producer resource available.
As someone who wears a virtual producer hat, here are 5 best practices to help you create engaging virtual meetings, when you don’t have the benefit of a producer.
- Set up a backup device logged into the virtual meeting.
By logging into a backup device, you’ll be prepared to quickly switch and stay in the meeting should you suddenly lose connection. If possible, try to login to a different network or hotspot on the second device. In some platforms you’ll be able to pick up where you left off, but in others you may need to share your screen or content on the new device.
- Take the time to correct audio issues at the beginning of a meeting.
A poor audio or video connection can ruin a virtual meeting. If your voice isn’t coming across clearly, or if you are in a chaotic or noisy environment, you can easily distract attention away from your message. Alternatively, other participants may be difficult to hear or bring in background noise of their own. As your guests enter the room, try to assess their audio, and pause to take the time to address the issue, even if it means waiting a few seconds for them to grab a headset or dial in from their landline.
- Use a second monitor.
As a virtual presenter, having a second monitor is priceless. Between the slides and your speaker notes, along with the participant panel and the chat window, real estate is at a premium. A second monitor will allow you to view everything you need to see without needing to click away from your primary focus.
- Prepare your audience to interact, and be prepared to manage it.
In a virtual environment, you don’t always have the luxury of reading your audience. Prolonged silence from your audience is hard to assess. Have they tuned out and started clearing through their inbox, or are they laser focused on what you are saying?
One way to check the pulse of the audience is to build in interactions. In small groups this may be a simple question or interaction, but in a large group you may need to rely on annotation tools and emoticons. In either case, plan accordingly. Take the time at the beginning of your presentation to let your audience know what to expect. Also, if you’ll be using annotation tools in the platform be sure to show your audience where to find them and how to use them.
- Remember to check and acknowledge chat often.
As you get into the rhythm of your presentation or content, it can be easy to forget to check your chat panel for questions and comments. Keep your chat panel in a prominent location if possible, and try to respond to or acknowledge chats frequently. If you expect a large volume of chats, try to find a colleague who can help manage the chat panel.
Stay calm when things go wrong.
No matter how well you prepare for a virtual meeting, there is always a chance that a bad phone line or a frozen slide deck can pop-up and halt you in your tracks. Or worse yet, your power cuts out mid presentation and you lose your connection. A calm disposition in these situations will make all the difference to the audience.
To get your entire team up to speed on the latest virtual meeting best practices, learn more about Mandel’s Master the Virtual Meeting workshop – if this workshop is a fit for your team, I might even be the virtual producer in your session!
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