Online business meetings
Meetings are a part of business. Avoid meetings, and you lose potential business. Rather than questioning whether to host a meeting, the real question nowadays is whether you will host your meeting online or in person. Of course if you are unfamiliar with holding meetings over the Web and are more accustomed to face-to-face interactions, then it’s natural to wonder if online business meetings are for you.

Many companies, from small local businesses to global corporations, are taking advantage of technology to host their business meetings remotely over the Internet. In this article I will present some facts about both forms of meetings and look at the benefits that meeting with others online can provide.

The Cost of Meetings

If you work for a company that has multiple locations or that works with other businesses around the world, you probably spend a lot of time and money traveling to hold business or sales meetings. Such travel eats greatly into your work hours, which is a huge and expensive loss for any business. In the days before online meeting software, it was not uncommon for salespeople to travel all day traveling back and forth for a 2 hour meeting – I personally did this at the start of my career. Such a meeting would cost the company an entire work day, multiplied by the number of employees invited to the meeting. If you simply consider the cost of the actual time spent on such a traditional meeting, this cost alone is in the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Then on top of that, you have the actual travel cost e.g. car, train, flights, hotel accommodation, etc.

Even if you are just driving to the other side of town for a client meeting, you are likely to waste a great deal of time in traffic. In 2014, traffic jams in the U.S. resulted in 6.9 billion hours of delayed person-hours. In addition to this, gas isn’t exactly cheap, and not everyone is reimbursed for the miles that they drive for business.

Of course, online meetings cannot simply replace all face-to-face interactions. As the founder of an online meeting company, I’m the first to admit this.

However not all meetings need to be in-person. Sure, from a sales point of view, if you are on the brink of closing a big deal it’s highly important to have a sit down with the client in person, shake their hand, and use that opportunity to convince them that your business is the right choice.

After that, meeting in person to discuss every detail of your proposal, contract terms, etc., is quite unnecessary. These discussions are easily covered by hosting the business meeting online. I’m a firm believer of this, and so are the millions of online meeting users worldwide.

Piggybank on laptop

Furthermore, substituting some of your traditional sales meetings with online meetings is cost-effective for your clients as they save great amounts by not traveling as well. This is a great selling point and a competitive advantage.

Changing at least a few of your out of office meetings to an online format is a great way to save costly time that you would otherwise use for travel and traffic. They also help save travel expenses and they can even be more convenient and cost-saving for the other participants.

Productivity and Business Meetings

Traditional meetings can take away valuable productivity time. It is thought that up to 50% of executive management spends their time in meetings. In a survey conducted by Industry Week, 30% of executives believed that attending meetings were a waste of time. That’s no surprise considering that traditional meetings consume vast amounts of time, which aren’t even spent on the agenda topics – think about the time spent by a meeting host in arranging a conference room, setting up the equipment, testing that the projector works, etc. Then there are the attendees who must stop their work, move to the conference room (sometimes on another office floor or even another building), wait for each other to arrive, etc.

On the other hand, an online business meeting does away with all this wasted time. As long as your presentation material works on your computer (which of course it does) then you’re ready to present. There is no great deal of work time lost for attendees, as they can join at the drop of a hat from their desk and continue to work until the presentation begins.

Other than the time saved before or after the meeting, there is another way in which online business meetings will boost your productivity – during the meeting itself. Regular hosts of web meetings, including our customers, tend to find that their meetings online are shorter than traditional meetings. The online nature of the meeting facilitates the attendees in sticking to the agenda and the allocated meeting time. The reason behind this is due to an online meeting’s single focal point. During an online meeting, all attendees are focused on the presenter’s screen and material. There is less opportunity for distractions amongst attendees and there is no “sitting back” by attendees – during discussions, if people don’t speak up, the silence of an online meeting becomes deafening. Attendees and the host are all urged into action. This results in quicker decisions, moving through the agenda topics with greater pace, less time wasted, and hence shorter meetings.

Meetings online are a great way to save time during your busy day. If you’re looking to increase your productivity, you might want to consider switching from traditional meetings to online business meetings. You could start out by moving just one or two of your weekly meetings to the Web to discover just how much time it saves.

Small Businesses and Online Business Meetings

Online business meetings can provide a way for you to broadcast a sales presentation anywhere in the world or to meet with your teammates that are located in other branches. This provides an opportunity to access the global economy. If you are a small business and you’re looking to expand, incorporating online meetings in your communications with clients is a great way to close new deals and keep in contact with distant customers. You can even have daily meetings with colleagues in other offices or countries. This means that hiring personnel is no longer limited by geography.

The market is becoming increasingly global, which brings forth exciting changes. The technological advances that we’ve seen in the past few decades have positioned small businesses in such a way that it is both affordable and easy to take your business to new heights.

As a small business, there are no excuses now. If you want to expand, you can. If you want to close deals with distant clients, you can. If you want to hire and work with the best, then you have the tools to do so literally at your fingertips.

laptop on lapOnline meetings provide a way for you to meet with current clients, prospects and employees anywhere in the world. It has become increasingly simple for anyone, regardless of technical aptitude, to initiate an online meeting to present new products, discuss issues, and even provide remote support.

Just imagine if you could jump into a meeting and present your offer to a prospective client when they first call you – this is exactly what small businesses are doing today. I previously mentioned that online meetings can save your clients time and money, and create a competitive advantage. To read how a UK mortgage broker has gained an edge over competitors by inviting clients to online presentations while they are on the go, take a look at the story about Easy Street Financial.

Visual Learners and Business Meetings

Did you know that 65% of people are visual learners and that using visual aids can improve learning by 400%? Think about the last business meeting that you attended. How many visual aids were used? Do you pay more attention when someone uses PowerPoint than if someone is just speaking?

These are some important things to consider when weighing up online business meetings over traditional meetings. While it’s clear from the above that meetings online save time and money, and boost productivity, you might be thinking that a phone call will suffice.

Of course some discussions can be just verbal but if you’re serious about your communications and want to get the right message across to your business partners or clients, can you afford to not utilize visual aids? “A picture is worth a thousand words” is more than just an expression.

Using only the phone might get the job done. But a lack of visual aids can lead to miscommunication and perhaps a few calls are required in order to get on the same page. If that’s your strategy, it won’t hold up well against a competitor who offers sales calls via an online meeting.

Since most people are visual learners, online meetings can be an integral part of your business. Rather than having a discussion with a distant client or colleague using only the phone, couple the call with online meeting software. The screen sharing component of an online meeting enables you to provide visual stimulus that will keep your audience attentive and engaged – far easier to get the message across than using only a phone. (Check out our post on How to Deliver Powerful Short Presentations.)

Online Business Meetings Are Easier Than You Think

One reason people who see the benefits of online business meetings hesitate to make the switch is because they believe it will be complicated. The good news is that as technology has progressed, it’s also gotten very easy to use. Mikogo provides an excellent platform for online business meetings that is straightforward to get started with for first-time users, yet powerful enough for experienced online meeting hosts. One thing that’s great about it is that only the host has to download and install the software. Your participants have the option to join from any browser, without any downloads.

Nowadays, online meeting software is easy to use and feature-rich. Online business meetings can have more than one presenter. You can present any application via screen sharing. You can use a whiteboard and exchange files. You can even record them – this software feature is a fantastic advantage over traditional meetings. The ability to record an online business meeting means that people can playback the recording at a more convenient time if they can’t attend the live version. It also provides an excellent reference tool. Meeting recordings can even be used as training sessions for newcomers to your organization.

Like with any new technology, I suppose it’s just about taking the plunge. We work hard to make Mikogo simple to use, and I believe you will agree. Do try it out and if you get the chance, feel free to leave a comment below on how you found it.

As the founder of Mikogo, it’s natural that I find it easy to use our own software. But I’m not alone. Here is what Dave Oliver, Director of E-Applications at United American Insurance Company, says about his experience of Mikogo:

Dave Oliver

“Mikogo is hands down the easiest to use. I never, ever get a negative comment on it. Everyone tells me how easy it is to use, and how they never have a glitch with it – it always works.”

DAVE OLIVER, DIRECTOR OF E-APPLICATIONS, UNITED AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY

In summary, people and businesses today are constantly short of time, traveling can be costly in terms of both expenses and time, and technology has advanced rapidly to facilitate businesses meeting over the Web. These are just a few of the reasons why online meeting software is making a permanent place for itself in the workplace.

Discussion: If you have recently started hosting your meetings online, leave a comment below and share your experience with others who are looking to use this technology for their own work.