Now that the world is moving largely online as a temporary replacement for in person contact during the Covid19 pandemic, there are questions popping up about how to adopt the tools needed and how to use this way of connecting effectively. I noticed that there is a large amount of practical content being written about how to use online tools at the moment but its harder to find information about what makes an effective strategy is to conduct high quality meetings or training online. Information on how to minimise the disadvantages of online training and meetings versus in person meetings is also a lot harder to come by. In this 3 part series about online meetings, training's and events, I will try to address some of these deeper questions. We'll start with the defining the key features and look at their advantages in this post. In the second post we will look at how you can make the best use out of the advantages so you can get the maximum value possible out of moving your events online and in the final post I will discuss some of the disadvantages and how to deal with them
Why you should read about online meeting features and strategy, not just how-to's:
At About Inbound, we have a lot of experience with conducting online meetings and training. More then 90 percent of our work for clients is done online. Our work ranges anywhere from inbound marketing projects, assisting with Hubspot maintenance and migrations, to coaching and training and even managing departments . Due to the international nature the organisations we work with, we don't meet many of our clients face to face. Our sales, delivery and aftercare of services are generally conducted through online tools. As a result of our experience with different types of online meeting tools we can be very flexible in the way we connect with our clients. We allow our clients to pick and choose their preferred meeting channels and tools so that they can be as comfortable as possible when we connect. This means that we are constantly learning about new tools and features and get to experience the advantages and disadvantages of these tools first hand.
During my time in IT services, where I provided support and managed IT infrastructure for clients, I got to know learned how technology could enable great online meetings and that badly implemented tools or issues with devices and procedures caused major hindrance to productivity which lead to many other frustrations. In many cases the problems that arose when teams were asked to switch from connecting in person to online meeting tools were actually caused by managers and IT departments looking at the technical side of implementing these tools and forgetting about the user experience and perceptions. When teams don't understand why something might add value or how, they will not have an interest to learn the skills they need to effectively use an online meeting or training tool. This is where we hope these posts might assist.
To start with let's have a look the major benefits that can make meeting, coaching and training online a great alternative to in person meetings.
Key features of online meetings and training tools and their advantages over in person options:
Some of the advantages of online events have become very clear lately; Firstly, the fact that you can't infect another person with a virus such as COVID19 if you do not have to meet them in person and secondly, you can continue to have contact with your colleagues or audience without without sharing a space with them. There are many other advantages that are less considered by those adopting to this way of working. Here is a list of the main advantages that we find conducting online meetings and training has for our business:
1. Meeting clients or colleagues through online tools can be done anywhere:
This feature seems obvious but the fact that you don't have to travel to any location and that you can meet your clients regardless of the location brings a whole list of other advantages:
- Online meetings save time which allows for more productivity.
You can connect with more clients in a day if you don't have to travel to and from each location. You can meet more colleagues in a day if you and they don't have to travel to and from a central locations such as a business premises. The time that can be saved on travel can be substantial. Especially for meetings or events with larger audiences.
- Online meetings allow for more flexibility.
You can engage with clients and colleagues while on the move which allows you to fit them in dynamically with your other activities. This freedom gives you more usable time within your working hours. You are able to conduct a meeting from anywhere with an internet connection, so you can be available for contact at times that you couldn't be if you had to meet in person. This opens many possibilities as it makes it easier to conduct business across time zones and over long distances.
- 0nline meetings are more convenient
It is a lot more comfortable and quicker to accept an incoming meeting request than to have to travel to a location. This makes the barrier for having a meeting lower. This can have a huge positive impact on sales meetings as a lot of the time and effort that your prospects might have to put into meet in person is not needed when you can meet with them online. Your clients or colleagues can also be more flexible when meeting online making it more convenient for them to join.
- Online meetings can provide more comfort.
Attendees can meet from the location of their choosing instead of having to go somewhere less convenient or comfortable. being comfortable within chosen surroundings often has positive impacts on peoples attitudes and can help make online meetings more informal.
- Use of online meetings instead of in person meetings can reduce cost.
You don't have to pay for a meeting room, training room or occupy valuable space at a business premises. while you might have to spend a bit of money and resources ensuring your participants have access to the right applications and devices, the savings over time will largely exceed the cost of using and maintaining these tools.
2. Using online meeting or training tools allows you to keep and share digital notes in real time:
A major (but sometimes overlooked) advantage of various online meeting or webcasting platforms is that they allow for interaction other then audio and video chat. They usually provide a common chat window where written instant messages and files can be shared by all participants. This can provide some major benefits over in person training because it encourages everyone in the "room" to share their observations. Here are some major advantages digital shared notes bring:
- Online meeting and conferencing tools allow people to interact directly without having to step in front of "the room" through chat.
Having a central chat window in a meeting or training is not often considered as anything special but it is actually a major advantage in leveling the playing field between the introvert and extrovert attendees. The emotional barrier to writing something in a common chat is a lot lower than voicing an opinion in a physical room where introverts are often uncomfortable with attracting attention. Many shy people already feel more comfortable with with participating in voice conversations when they are not in the room with their peers. Having a chat channel allows them to overcome their inhibitions even further.
- Most online meeting and webcasting tools allow you to save your entire conversation including written and drawn notes
Many conferencing and meeting platforms allow you to share your screen or draw on shared virtual whiteboards. Most of these tools also allow you to share presentations and some also allow you to open and work together on documents such as spreadsheets or other files during meetings. This can be hugely beneficial because you can actually go into detail and get tasks done with there and then instead of just talking about the tasks and assigning participants or staff to do them later. It also allows all your notes and their context to be readily available to review after the meetings.
- Online meeting or training tools give more flexibility in receiving and providing feedback to your participants.
Because most online meeting, webcasting and conferencing files and chat history can be saved automatically, it becomes easier to follow up on outstanding points and also provide and get feedback on any topics discussed. This can help you deal with questions that participants might have after the event because you can refer back to notes where they might have missed information that they were looking for. This brings us to the third major feature of online meeting tools:
3. Many online meeting or training tools allow you to record voice, video, chat and other activities within one timeline for later use:
A very powerful feature of online meeting and conferencing tools. especially when you provide workshops and training in this way is that they allow for the entire meeting including it's entire audio and video timeline to be recorded. This allows for some very powerful re-purposing allowing you to turn an event or training into multiple assets after the fact.
- Recordings of meetings can be used for reference and to provide context to notes.
Have you ever looked back at your notes from a meeting or training and not been able to make full sense of a key point you wrote down? Imagine being able to rewind and reply the bit where you took the notes and see exactly what the context was when you wrote them down. This provides a very powerful aide to the memory of all participants and will allow attendees with access to the recording to go back and remember exactly what the context was.
- Recordings of training can be shared online and re-purposed as marketing materials.
Another powerful thing that you can do with a training or webcast recording is to share the recording with your business audience. You can publish the recording to your intranet if it is a company meeting. Publish it to your teams work space if this is a team meeting or publish it to your audience through video platforms such as YouTube and/or your own website if the this was a webcast for your external clients. Have a look at this blog post we created for about inbound. It was created after a sales event where we presented a workshop around inbound sales for startups at the European headquarters of Hubspot. This particular event was conducted both with an audience in the room and an online audience through zooms online meeting tool. We added one camera in the room and then created a video around the event. This workshop video was then shared by Hubspot for their startup audience. We then re-purposed the audio, the video footage, the Zoom recording and original presentation to create marketing assets. The resulting assets included a separate audio recording for podcast style listening. Various images from the presentation and a run through blog post. Almost all created and recorded presentation materials were re-purposed and put to use. They were share with all the participants and provided a range of marketing assets benefiting both Hubspot and About Inbound. With a bit of imagination and creativity the sky is the limit when it comes to re-purposing content.
- Online training sessions can be re-purposed as self paced training for your employees or clients
At about Inbound we often provide copies any training materials used and recordings of our workshops to our clients. This allows them to reuse these assets when training up new hires. You could build entire training courses by re-purposing webcasts, brainstorming sessions and online workshop recordings over time. As an example think about how re-purposing some content from team meetings could help with new hire training. You'd be surprised how much time you could save if you used some content from the team meetings where you discuss and create your team procedures and define your tasks as new hire training. This not only saves time but it also allows your new hire to see how things work within your organisation teaching not only how to do it but also the why it came to be done in that way.
4. Using online meeting and training tools allows you to keep a clear record of outcomes and progress:
Another big advantage of using online meeting/conferencing and webcasting applications is that many of these apps provide integration options with other platforms. There is a big hidden power within this as now the meeting or training can literally be integrated into the processes that allow you to accomplish your business goals. You take away the need to process the results of each meeting and to spend the extra time mapping the outcomes to the various systems if these systems are already directly integrated with the meetings applications. This can have a huge impact for modern businesses that use Agile and Inbound based frameworks where continual feedback loops require regular meetups to check progress on SMART goals.
- Online meeting tools can be integrated with anything from productivity, CRMs, or HR applications to learning management platforms (LMS)
As an example there are many powerful integration possibilities with Hubspot, including several online meeting or webcasting apps such as Zoom . These allow you to schedule meetings with your contacts, track attendance and several other important attributes straight to your CRM records. You can find information on how this works here.
This blog article is a part of a 3 part series about online meetings, training's and events. The next post in this series is due soon and a link will be added here as soon as it comes available. In the meantime, for more resources on tools, apps and integrations have a look at the below list.
- For a list of Hubspot Integrations including options for online meetings visit - hubspot.com/ecosystem
- From Hubspot's new Adapt 2020 series - How to switch to a virtual event strategy
- A useful guide on - How to use Hubspot's Zoom Integration
- A list of remote tools that integrate with Hubspot
NB Please share your experiences and learnings
I would love to hear your thoughts about using online tools for your meetings, trainings and events. What advantages and disadvantages are you uncovering? Are you finding any new opportunities? Let me know in the comments below👇
Please leave a comment below and let me know so we can learn from each other's experiences during this time.