The popularity of online meetings and other web conferencing events open to everyone has been steadily increasing for some time, and has accelerated since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our research has found that the number of meetings attended on the web has tripled for most of us since travel restrictions, new rules around social distancing and broader community concerns around large, open gatherings have seen many of us move to remote working, changing our business habits as well as our social behaviour.
On average, two in three of us now attend more than six virtual meetings a month, with around a third of us attending more than 10, according to the 2020 Redback Report.
The move to online meetings is only expected to increase, especially at larger organisations where almost nine out of 10 employees expect web video conferencing to be the preferred meeting medium even when people return to workplaces following the pandemic.
You can browse through the different parts of our article for online meetings here:
- What are advantages of online meetings?
- What types of digital events are we attending?
- Live or on-demand?
- What type of format for your online meeting?
- What is the best day for your online meeting?
- What is the best time of day for your online meeting?
- How long should your online meeting be?
- How do you keep your audience engaged?
What are the advantages of online meetings over their traditional face-to-face counterparts?
One of the most obvious advantages of online meetings over face-to-face events is overcoming the increasingly considerable challenge of travel and organising larger gatherings.
Online meetings not only reduce travel and accommodation costs but also cut down on lost productivity time involved in having people lining up at airports, sitting in traffic and generally being out of the office (whether that’s a remote office, or not).
Whether you’re interviewing new talent, hosting a free life skills course, launching a product or service, presenting a creative brief, or helping students to learn a new song over the web, easy-to-use video conferencing helps to improve efficiency and create a more collaborative working environment.
Real time interactive tools such as chat, screen-sharing, desktop sharing, messaging, whiteboards that everyone can access, virtual breakout and meeting rooms, online polls, surveys and live Q&A sessions also promote collaboration and allow information to be shared easily by everyone in a team or at a business event.
In times of crisis, or when an urgent message needs to be shared immediately – especially with larger groups over longer distances, video conferencing is becoming the first choice for most organisations when it comes to collaborative meetings and other virtual events.
But make sure you choose the best video conference service that meets your needs.
While using meeting software from companies such as Zoom, Skype, Google or Microsoft can be cheaper or free in some circumstances, you can’t guarantee the quality of the video, and users have to download a plug-in before they can join your meeting.
They also lack the live support and technology that providers such as Redback Connect offer. Depending on your type of meeting, it helps if you’ve got high definition audio and video, the correct video conferencing bridge, and equipment such as large screens, multiple HD cameras, and video conference phones.
Some providers will let you record your event which avoids any issues around miscommunication and provides you with a verbatim record of your web meeting.
What types of digital events are we attending?
Not only are we participating in more virtual events, the types of meetings we’re attending is also expanding.
For most organisations, webinars, internal company meetings and interactive workshops are the most common meeting types being held.
Webinars are a popular choice for professional development, sharing learning and education resources and communicating with customers because they offer an interactive, cost-effective way to bring a message to life, engage and educate an audience, and generate leads and nurture a prospect through the buying cycle in real time.
On the other hand, video conferences are being increasingly utilised for effective business meetings where everyone needs to have a say and collaboration is key.
Also becoming increasingly popular are briefings, meetings with customers and virtual conferences – both externally and internally.
Live or on-demand: what is the best way to broadcast your event?
When it comes to broadcasting your event, there are a few ways you can go about it.
Pre-recording your event allows you more time and flexibility when it comes to booking presenters, organising a panel of participants, or booking a fireside chat-style interview with the CEO, especially if you’re operating across different time zones.
It also gives you the chance to make sure everyone’s internet connection is reliable enough to support the audio and video quality you require.
Some organisations now choose to pre-record an event and then broadcast it live at a pre-determined date and time to build anticipation. This also means you can still measure ‘live attendance’.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has seen significant growth in the number of live events people are attending which reflects the rise in remote business and corporate meetings, strategy days, team meetings and other events that are being held online.
You can also get more mileage out of live events such as conferences, webinars or workshops by subsequently making them available on-demand. You can also edit and re-package them in bite-sized pieces to run across all your marketing channels.
A blended approach — where you play the pre-recorded gathering and at the end, have one speaker and a moderator appear live to answer questions — may also serve your needs.
What type of format should I choose for my online meeting?
Changing attitudes to the effectiveness of remote meetings and other virtual events has also seen the expectations of event attendees grow. Now that we’re taking part in so many online events, it’s easier to spot the difference between a good meeting, and one that’s not so good.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to get your audience’s attention from the word go, or you’re likely to miss them altogether as they drop out.
One way many meeting organisers are achieving this today is by increasing the number of guests they’re featuring in their forums or events. According to our research, most people prefer to hear from at least two voices.
As a result, collaborative formats such as a moderator and a presenter (or presenters), panel discussions, and interactive audience Q&As are becoming more popular with both meeting organisers and participants because they create more opportunities for engagement.
Some web conferencing service providers enable you to host your meeting in a studio with multiple high definition cameras, which means you can use different camera angles to film participants on a panel or a lounge suite, without having to squeeze them inside a single shot.
Most studios also come equipped with professional lighting, and the best come with a producer on a broadcast-quality control panel who is not only in contact with the participants but can also manage other interactions such as switching to remote presenters, adding pre-recorded segments, showing slides or launching polls.
If you’re taking on the role of moderator, make sure you touch base with all the presenters and get familiar with the key points they’ll be making.
Prepare a few questions and anticipate some the audience might ask, to enable your presenters to prepare. If you’re hosting a live event, you can ask attendees to submit questions during the registration process.
Prepared questions will keep your meeting flowing, and are a good way to break the ice and get people involved when you’re trying to stimulate discussion or kicking off a Q&A session.
What is the best day of the week to hold an online meeting?
While different circumstances will dictate when and what type of meeting you hold, if you’ve got time, use it to your advantage by planning ahead and scheduling your meeting for the time and day of the week when most people are likely to want to attend.
Our research shows that Tuesday and Wednesday are the preferred days for participants to attend a virtual meeting, video conference or other web-based event.
Generally, they’re almost twice as popular as the next most popular day, which is
Friday, followed by Thursday and Monday.
Not surprisingly, weekends are a virtual no-go zone, especially with more people working from home and trying to make a clear delineation between their work and home life.
What is the best time of day to hold an online meeting?
When you’re considering what time to hold your meeting, think about what you, and most people generally like to do when they get to their desk in the morning: turn on your screen, log-in, check your email, review your diary, browse a couple of websites, chat with your team, and so on.
Consequently, early mornings are an unpopular time to hold a business meeting, whether it’s online or not — so don’t start your online event too early.
Our research shows most people prefer to join a web meeting mid-morning, so they can take care of any immediate work first up, but they’re fresh enough to absorb all the information they need to take in.
If you can’t accommodate a mid-morning timeframe, the mid afternoon is also a popular time. But don’t leave it too late, because later in the afternoon and evening are the least favourite times if you’re looking for lots of meeting attendees.
How long should your online meeting be?
While the purpose and type of your meeting will inevitably affect how long it will be, it’s often recommended that you keep an online meeting, video conference or other web event shorter than you would for the same event in a face-to-face format.
We tend to get distracted a bit more easily when we’re at home or another remote location looking into a screen, instead of sitting in a meeting room or attending a conference with other participants.
We’ve found that remote or online webinars average around 70 minutes, while studio webinars, on average, tend to be around 25 minutes longer. More complex web events such as virtual conferences generally run closer to half a day, or around four hours.
When it comes to participants, most people tend to prefer online meetings to run for up to an hour, and interest can drop off pretty quick after that which is why it’s important to plan, and stick to, a firm timeframe and agenda.
Alternatively, as users have become more familiar with the technology and effectiveness of video conferencing services and software, online meetings are also tending to get longer with a move away from shorter half-hour events.
For longer events such as conferences, don’t expect people to sit behind a computer for two days.
Instead, consider breaking it up over shorter sessions that run over a longer period, such as four to seven days.
How do you keep your online audience engaged longer?
When it comes to leaving a meeting early – and let’s face it, we’ve all done it at some stage – dropping out of online meetings is a lot easier than sneaking out the back door of a conference room or pretending you’ve got an urgent phone call to take as you rush out of a meeting room.
One of the most common reasons we leave online meetings early is because the content doesn’t meet the expectations of the attendee – so make sure you deliver what you promise.
Another big turn-off is when online meetings or events are ‘too salesy’. Instead try to tell a story and weave your key messages into it. Create a conversation and allow plenty of opportunity for collaboration and you’ll keep your audience engaged longer and create a more memorable event.
Finally, make sure you keep to the specified time, because no one likes a meeting that finishes late.
So while the popularity of online meetings and other events held online continues to increase, choose your formats, duration, time and day of the week, and interactive elements carefully for high attendance — and a satisfied audience.