In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic gained steam as it swept around the globe, shuttering businesses and grounding flights in its wake. At the time, in response to across-nation and across-industry work from home orders, business travel was forced into a standstill. Many organizations halted travel for employees and cancelled or postponed events (before transitioning them into virtual events) in ordinance with CDC recommendations.

Now, as we prepare to enter another season of adapting to life in the time of COVID-19, businesspeople are reinventing what business travel looks like, thanks to advanced video conferencing technology.

How Face to Face Meetings Can Be Accomplished Without Travel with Video Conferencing Technology

If the continuous restriction of business travel seems like a major roadblock to your organization, it may mean that you have not yet invested in the right video conferencing technology. While it is true that some features of in-person meetings are difficult to replicate virtually— there is no remote technology that can recreate the feeling of a sincere handshake, yet!— in our modern and increasingly virtual world, the vast majority of meetings can be executed without travel.

Pre-COVID-19 (if you can think back that far), video conferencing was already on the rise in many industries. And while it had not replaced business travel altogether, there are many indisputable benefits of meeting remotely that have long been embraced by professionals. 

Remote meetings provide benefits such as:

  • The elimination of travel expenses
  • An improvement of company-wide virtual collaboration
  • Limitless meeting attendee possibilities
  • Accessibility for those unable to travel

If your organization hasn’t already embraced video conferencing technology due to these benefits, chances are you were forced to adapt when COVID-19 pushed employees to embrace remote work. If there is still hesitation within your organization to embrace virtual meetings, you may not yet be utilizing the right remote collaboration tools and video conferencing system.

Virtual Collaboration Tools for Remote Business Meetings

Whether your workforce is spread out over multiple countries or recently spread out over multiple home offices, virtual collaboration tools allow you to stay connected with one another. This same virtual collaboration technology that connects your employees to one another and keeps teams productive from anywhere can be used to conduct successful and important remote business meetings.

Once your organization has made the decision to continue restricting business travel for employees, all that’s left to do is choose the video conferencing technology that is best for your remote meeting needs.

Video Conferencing Platform

To host your remote business meeting, you will need to use a high-functioning video conferencing platform that is easy for those unfamiliar with remote technology to adapt to. Recreating the face-to-face atmosphere of in-person meetings is a crucial factor to pay attention to when choosing the hosting platform for your remote meeting. Remote collaboration and video conferencing platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting offer a variety of additional features, like screen sharing and breakout rooms, to help assist you in reinventing the look and feel of your usual business meetings.

Video Conferencing Camera

For an easy-to-use remote meeting experience, invest in a high-quality camera. Especially useful for meetings with high attendance, the Meeting Owl Pro is a 1080p 360° camera that autofocuses on whoever is speaking. When you use a smart camera to help conduct your meeting, the atmosphere of in-person meetings is reconstructed without any attendees needing to book a flight. One of the key features of the Meeting Owl as it relates to serious meetings that may typically require a cross-country flight is the ability for two groups, both present in-person (and socially distanced) in their respective locations, to meet and see and hear one another, recognizing facial expressions and body language all without having to fuss with a complicated camera system. The Owl eliminates the need to angle a web camera or laptop camera to the person who is speaking or incorporate any manual efforts when operating the device.

Best Practices for Hosting Important Meetings Virtually

Now that you have obtained the necessary tech to seamlessly execute your remote meeting, it is time to reinvent the best practices for hosting your meeting. While many of the traits you bring to the (remote) meeting room table will be similar to how you have led meetings before, there are some process changes you will need to make to efficiently adapt to the new (virtual) reality of your circumstance.

1. The meeting host should prepare as usual.

Hosting a successful remote meeting comes down to your preparation. In the weeks leading up to your meeting, perform your same pre-meeting preparations as usual. These preparations include:

  • Preparing the meeting agenda
  • Assembling the minutes
  • Gathering the necessary reports

Once you have made the usual preparations, the host should make the remote-specific preparations. Before scheduling the remote meeting and sending out the agenda, the remote meeting host should:

  • Review the time zones of attendees to ensure the meeting is held at an appropriate time for everyone
  • Communicate the required software and login information to all attendees so they have time to test their software ahead of the meeting
  • Contact the attendees that will be delivering presentations to ensure they know of their technological restrictions

2. Utilize the appropriate remote meeting software.

As mentioned above, your remote meeting will have a hard time getting off the ground without the correct video conferencing platform and camera in place. In the days leading up to your meeting, run a test with your chosen software to ensure all meeting participants can be seen and heard clearly.

3. Schedule a pre-meeting.

In the week before your scheduled remote meeting, schedule a pre-meeting with any prominent executives or meeting leaders who will be in attendance. Use this pre-meeting to set the agenda for your meeting (and make sure everyone feels comfortable with the remote technology). Remote meetings can be time sensitive affairs depending on the availability of attendees, so this pre-meeting is essential preparation to ensure that all of your virtual meeting time is spent appropriately. By collaborating on the agenda during a pre-meeting you will ensure your remote meeting stays on schedule and on focus.

4. Create and distribute a meeting agenda.

After your pre-meeting, create a meeting agenda and distribute it virtually to all remote meeting attendees ahead of the scheduled meeting. Your remote meeting time is precious, you don’t want to waste any of it with housekeeping or reiterating information that can otherwise be delivered through the distributed agenda. Your meeting agenda should include brief bios of each attendee and any reports that will be referenced during the meeting so all attendees have the time to review necessary resources ahead of time.

5. Apply the standard meeting protocol.

On the day of the meeting, proceed by treating your remote meeting as if it were happening in-person. Then, after introductions are made, the host should announce standard remote meeting etiquette.

  • Requesting that attendees turn off their cell phones and all nonessential computer sounds and desktop notifications, especially if you are utilizing screen sharing software
  • Providing instructions for members to mute themselves when they are not speaking
  • Demonstrate the protocol for virtual signals such as hand-raising and stepping away
  • Requesting that attendees refrain from checking email or multi-tasking during the meeting 

6. Record the meeting for those who can't attend.

One of the benefits of remote meetings is the ability to easily record important meetings. Recordings allow those who may not be able to attend to watch later and keep a record of what was discussed and decided.

7. Move post-meeting discussions online.

Typically, after a business meeting when people have traveled, there’s some socialization and more lighthearted relationship building that follows. Virtually— you have options for continuing the conversation.

  • Take smaller groups into breakout rooms on Zoom or your preferred meeting software. These can be more informal chats to recap or veer away from talking shop and get to know one another better.
  • Use email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or another collaboration tool to assign tasks or follow-up items. Create an equal playing field so everyone has access to information online, and track all action items with due dates, holding all parties accountable.
  • Have a remote happy hour to relax from the comfort of your home. If you’re trying to secure a pitch and want to recreate the personal touch of buying a round of drinks or appetizers, do a bit of work ahead of time and have food or drinks delivered to your client’s home or work space.

How to Reinvest Your Travel Budget into Remote Technology

While business travel continues to be limited, your organization has the opportunity to reinvest your travel budget into remote technology and IT services. Just as COVID-19 froze business travel, it also created a surplus of new remote tech costs. Here are the two key steps you should take in order to reinvest your travel budget wisely and continue company-wide cost-management efforts:

Clearly define your cost-reduction opportunities.

Take time to take stock of your full range of newly available funds. Are there any associated risks with reinvesting your organization's travel budget? If so, your travel budget needn’t be completely obviated, instead just reinvest the percentage that makes sense for your remote technology needs.

Ways to Reinvest Your Business Travel Budget:

  • For employees who often attend conferences and in-person events, pay for virtual conferences and a home office setup
  • Encourage employees to truly take virtual conference days off from standard work so they can participate in breakout sessions and not be distracted by emails or Slack messages
  • For sales representatives who often take in-person meetings, pay for a home office and equipment like noise cancelling headphones or a headset microphone to conduct sales calls from home
  • For executives and other C suite individuals who typically travel for critical, decision-making meetings, invest in a technology consultant to get them up to speed on remote technology and the power of digital collaboration tools
  • Company-wide, take any savings from business travel and offer paid collaborative, team building, organizational, and project management software that they need to stay productive

Determine your remote tech needs.

When reinvesting your travel budget into remote technology for your organization, invest in your ideal future. What do you hope to achieve through investing in remote tech? What do you want the “new normal” to look like for your employees? In a post-COVID-19 world, what role does remote tech play in your company? Being able to answer these questions and more like them is the first step toward making an informed reinvesting decision.

The future of global business operations is here, and it relies heavily on remote collaboration and meeting technology. The reinvention of business travel is happening at this very moment, to keep your organization on track with your peers, embrace your new virtual reality.

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