Top 5 Ways to Ensure Success of a Virtual Meeting Initiative

 Jenn Tontini |  7 November 2017 |  Category: News 

Common sense tells you that moving from onsite programming to virtual meetings is going to save you, and your company, a lot of money, time, and reduce your carbon footprint, in addition to other benefits you’ve identified as being associated with high-quality, engaging, interactive virtual meetings. So how do you ensure the success of your proposed virtual meeting initiative?

1) Make a Business Case

Go beyond belief to solid proof. How do you make the business case for your idea to launch a virtual meeting initiative?

First, collect information on a sample of past onsite programs. How many attended? What were the travel costs? How long did it take to plan the meeting? To what amount did the venue and associated costs equate? How much travel time did the attendees have to endure, on average, to participate in the program? What was the average cost of travel? What was the carbon footprint of the program?

Next, take those same attendance numbers, and create a retroactive metrics report using virtual meeting costs of money, planning and travel time, and the associated carbon footprint. Compare the onsite program to the virtual program in all areas, and demonstrate the 80-90% reductions in cost and time, and show the carbon savings associated with the virtual programming.

This takes your proposition from a subjective idea to providing concrete proof that a high-quality virtual meeting initiative is a solid choice for your organization. Numbers don’t lie; the math will back your suspicions that this was a great idea all along. (But you already knew that.)

2) Caveat Emptor

Remember the Brady Bunch episode about ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware,) where Greg learned the valuable lesson about making sure you know what’s under the hood and what exactly it is you’re buying before you spend your budget? Let’s all learn from Greg’s lesson. You need to research your options, and ensure you’re getting what you pay for, and your expectations of your virtual meetings and your provider are met.

The big reason that there is resistance to moving to programming that is heavily reliant on virtual meetings is that THERE ARE SO MANY TERRIBLE VIRTUAL MEETINGS HAPPENING. A few reasons that this happens:

  1. Self-Service Meetings: Organizations look for the lowest bid for virtual programming, which ends up coming from ‘self-service’ providers (i.e., they license you the technology, and then you run it.) Clients who have taken part in virtual meetings in the past may not recognize all the work required to execute a polished, seamless, technically-sound, effective virtual meeting. For a small, internal virtual discussion, this option can work well. For externally-facing meetings, this ends up being a death knell for virtual programming. Clients expect to run their program on the licensed technology platform, in addition to supervising content creation, managing speakers, planning program calendars, managing other outreach initiatives, inviting and tracking participants, and providing technical support, (oh, and doing THE REST OF THEIR JOB,) and then trying to extrapolate key performance indicators from the program, leading to client teams being overwhelmed, and leaving clients, stakeholders, and participants underwhelmed with the virtual meeting’s effectiveness.
  2. Limited Service Meetings: Organizations opt for companies claiming to be ‘full-service virtual meeting’ providers, but the ‘service’ is limited to only technical support of the platform. This is really a limited service model in disguise. Clients assume ‘full service’ means that the provider will take care of all of the details. For many providers, this simply means ensuring they manage the details of their platform, and the client shows up on program day. There is no planning and discussion of program goals, effective interactions aligned with adult learning, and the programs are mostly didactic presentations that are death by static PowerPoint. (Can you think of a more painful way to die?) Another part of the problem with this limited service approach is that as the client introducing a virtual meeting initiative, you don’t know what you don’t know; that is, you’re unaware of all the moving parts and details which need attending to plan, prepare, and execute a virtual program that will meet your expectations. Attending to those details is a full-time job. Don’t you already have one of those?
  3. Unreliable Technology: You’ve got a full-service provider who makes you feel warm and fuzzy and takes care of crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s for your program to be executed. The day of the program comes, and…
    …their server crashes. …the custom virtual meeting app won’t launch. …users need special downloads and are firewalled from doing so. The list of technical reasons that negatively impact some virtual meetings is endless.
    No matter how great the service, if the technology doesn’t work, your program will be added to the discard pile of ‘failed virtual program initiatives.’ Ensuring that you have reliable technology and 24/7 provider support for it are critical to the success of your initiative.

3) Show, Don’t Tell

You’ve found the perfect provider, the platform is amazing, and you’re ready to launch this initiative globally! You send out an email to some colleagues inviting them to start using your newly-approved preferred provider… and hear nothing but crickets. Why isn’t everyone at your organization jumping on this great opportunity?

Seasoned industry vets have seen virtual initiatives come and go, and may be resistant to moving from onsite programs to virtual for a multitude of reasons (see point 2 above.) So how to onboard them with what you KNOW will be a successful innovation for your organization.

How do you win support for your great innovations? Show them, don’t just tell them, about the provider and the initiative. Some ways to do this:

  • Internal orientation webinars
  • Vendor open houses
  • Presentations at study team and brand team monthly, quarterly, and/or annual meetings
  • Communications and demonstration programs coordinated and facilitated by internal client stakeholders
  • Case studies of successfully executed programs

It’s easier said than done, to be sure, but the wave of support for your innovative ideas is built one drop at a time. Which brings us to our next point…

4) Lead by Example

Telling everyone you’ve got a solution and showing them the solution are great ways to start the ball rolling. If you really want to get buy-in, though, you need to lead from the front, and be the champion of your idea through demonstrating its effectiveness.

Plan programs, execute them, and audit the results of the program through evaluation of pre-determined KPIs through objective in-program polling, voting, and discussion, and though subjective attendee and stakeholder surveys. Share your results with colleagues through emails, case studies, and reporting of the program parameters, expectations, and outcomes. Going beyond believing and saying, “This is a great idea,” to, “Watch me prove how great this idea is,” goes a long way in getting others to embrace change.

5) Don’t Give Up

A theme you’ve surely noted from the points above, is that most introductions of new and innovative approaches aren’t automatically embraced by people on an enterprise-wide, or even team-wide level. It takes proof, persistence, and perennial effort to on-board and maintain a cost-saving, time-saving, and carbon-saving virtual meeting initiative.

Feeling discouraged with the lack of enthusiasm? Don’t lose heart; ask your provider for assistance with change management, and ideas on promoting and integrating virtual meetings into the culture of your organization. A solid full-service provider will have experts in how to introduce, execute, and grow a groundswell of support for your virtual meeting endeavor.

Want to learn more about how you can be the champion of the great idea of saving your organization money, time, and carbon with a high-quality virtual meeting initiative? Join us Wednesday, 29 November 2017 at 1PM ET/12PM CT for MedPoint Digital’s Webinar Wednesday presentation, “New Year, New Initiatives: Being an Effective Change Agent.” You’ll get tips on formulating and developing an actionable plan for introducing and instituting innovation, to setting processes in place for communication and promotion of positive changes, and assessing and monitoring successful innovations for continued use and organizational growth. You’ll leave with a checklist of steps that you can take to help be the recognized change agent to bring real, lasting, positive innovation to your organization.

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