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Best Practices: How to Hold a Virtual Meeting

The nation suddenly found itself conducting most business online, and Realtors new to virtual meetings aren’t sure where to start. There’s an array of products out there, but which one to choose? What equipment do I need? How do I share documents? How can I share online?

ORLANDO, Fla. – With more than three-quarters of Americans under stay-at-home orders and the vast majority of real estate agents and brokers working from home, virtual meetings have taken off, according to bloggers with Florida Realtors Tech Helpline. 

Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer ways to hold a quick virtual meeting, and services from GotoMeeting to Zoom offer other free solutions as well. But for many agents, all of this is very new, and many have questions.

How do you hold a virtual meeting?

Let’s start with what you need, go over the steps to set up a virtual meeting, including the best way to invite people to your meeting, and some best practices to hold a great virtual meeting.

Getting started
You can use your desktop computer, laptop or mobile devices, such as your phone or a tablet, to hold a virtual meeting. If you’re meeting with more than two people, we recommend using your computer – a desktop or laptop – versus a mobile device.

While most of the virtual meeting services like Zoom and GoToMeeting work well using mobile devices, you get easier access to all the controls when you’re the host, and it’s easier to see everyone on a computer.

There’s a great advantage to seeing everyone – clearly – at the same time: you can see their facial expressions and body language. That will help improve what you say, how you say it, and to whom you say it. That’s why you’ll want to host your virtual meeting on a computer.

Next, you need a way to see everyone. While you can “call” into a virtual meeting, video is a more effective way to communicate. Fortunately, most laptops have a built-in video camera these days, and they work quite well for virtual meetings. That’s a significant advantage of using a laptop to run your meeting.

If you use your desktop computer, you have to add a webcam if it doesn’t already have one. Amazon and other eCommerce stores offer lots of affordable options. Today’s webcams are relatively easy to set up. If you have any issues, contact Florida Realtors Tech Helpline.

Now you’ll need a way to hear and talk to everyone. Most laptops have built-in speakers and microphones, but their quality varies greatly. Newer Mac computers and higher-end Windows laptops do a great job – acting like a speakerphone without the need for a separate headset. But if you have any background noise (traffic, delivery trucks, kids running around or pet noise), a headset or ear pods (like Apple AirPods) with a microphone are a much better option.

Need for speed
You also need a decent internet connection for good quality video. How much speed depends on a few things. If there are other people in your household sharing the same internet connection, and if they are streaming videos or playing online games, that could negatively impact your virtual meeting.

The technical requirement most virtual meeting hosting services recommend is reasonably low – ranging from about 2 Megabytes per second (download and upload) to about 4 MBS as a minimum threshold. You can check your speed online, here: speedtest.net.

Remember to close any programs or apps running in the background before you connect to your virtual meeting. This helps speed up your computer or mobile device’s processor, and that will be very helpful in providing a better virtual meeting experience for everyone.

Scheduling a meeting
While most people plan a meeting on the hour or half-hour – the most common time blocks for business schedules – you may be able to improve your speed by starting your session five minutes early. The current demand for virtual meetings is so great that experts even suggest starting your meeting at 15-past or before the hour, as your virtual meeting may benefit from faster speeds on the meeting provider’s end.

It’s always best to send both a calendar invitation and a separate email to invite people to your virtual meeting. The challenge with sending only a calendar invite depends on the email program. All of the details on the meeting – including the link to connect – may be hidden in the notes section of the calendar invite that you often must select to see on a phone. That’s why it’s best to send an email invite with all of the details too.

Finally, send a quick reminder within one hour before your meeting as a courtesy. We are all juggling family and work duties from home, and this can be very helpful for attendees. 

Sharing content before a call
Technology is great, but sometimes it just won’t work for every attendee. Fortunately, most meeting services offer a way to connect to a meeting by dialing in from a phone. Attendees won’t have video, so they can’t see your screen if you share slides, or images or something in a document.

 A best practice: Send whatever document or file you’re going to share with all attendees in advance of your meeting. You are not hosting a webinar, it’s a virtual meeting, and this allows people who have trouble connecting visually to see the information when you go to review it during your virtual meeting.

 Before your meeting
Make sure you do a test holding a virtual meeting with a friend, family member, or business colleague well before you host your first meeting. This allows you to test the connection process. You can troubleshoot issues, get used to the service or software, and check your audio and video quality. You also can figure out how to share your screen with others, give control or access to screen share with others, as well as stop screen share.

Two things testing will help you fix: technical issues and visual issues.

For technical troubleshooting, if you get stuck, contact the Tech Helpline for assistance. The visual issues you may be able to resolve yourself; but if you can’t, don’t be afraid to call the Tech Helpline for that too.

Interior and exterior light impacts the quality of your headshot more than anything. Overhead lights that your camera captures can also cause problems. It may be best to turn those lights off. Direct lighting from a lamp on the side of your computer that lights your face is often the best solution if your image looks grainy. If you are too dark and there is not enough light, that will also increase graininess. Finally, backlighting – often a window that is located behind you, will cause the most problems, so close the blinds or find a location with a different background.

 Avoid meeting “video bombings”
If you are using a professional video service like Zoom or GoToMeeting, don’t publish the virtual meeting link publicly. If you do, and you add password protection or provide each attendee with a code to access it; otherwise, anyone can come in and “video bomb” your meeting. Zoom recently published a blog of the simple steps you can take going through the Preferences settings to make sure no one can “Zoom-bomb” your virtual meeting.

Again, if you need help going through these steps, reach out to Tech Helpline.

 Best practices for a virtual meeting
Make sure you verbally acknowledge everyone and use their name when you’re talking with them. Don’t get distracted if you have more than one screen by incoming emails, news alerts or other instant messages. Turn off your alerts if you can.

 Video is a powerful medium to make people feel more comfortable. While it can’t fully replace an in-person meeting, it can help you “connect” in a deeper way than a phone call, text or email.

 When you start the meeting, go over the tools for muting, and how to use the “Chat” box to ask questions when someone is talking. If you are going to use the sharing function, review how to share a screen as well. Remember to ask everyone to mute their mic until they are ready to talk, especially when you have more than a few people on the call. Explain that combined background noise can drown out the audio portion of the meeting.

 At the end of the meeting, make sure you shut down the meeting entirely before you step away, so everyone is disconnected – including you!

 Interested in more virtual meeting information? Also check an earlier Tech Helpline blog, “What you need to know about virtual meetings.

And as always, if you have any trouble, contact Florida Realtors Tech Helpline, a free service for Realtors as part of their membership.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®