Online meeting basics

In an online meeting, also known as virtual or web meeting, traditional face-to-face communication is replaced by remote communication via electronic channels, mainly internet.

The first important advantage of online meetings is cutting travel costs. This is especially true for virtual teams in which people are spread over multiple geographic locations worldwide.

Besides saving money on travel, an internet meeting is also a good practical solution for many business situations when a meeting is needed but people cannot be put in the same room at the same time. In particular, when the discussion needs to involve an expert or some other important person who does not have time to travel to the meeting location.

In some cases, it is also possible to use web meeting software to enhance regular meetings. For example, while most members of the meeting group are sitting in the same room, some invited external consultants or other guests are involved via online meeting tools.

Another relevant situation is when you need to have a group discussion on a very short notice, and the urgency does not allow enough time for the participants to make reasonable travel arrangements. In this case you may want to first discuss the issue online.

Due to recent technological developments it is now easier than ever to conduct a meeting online. Yet, while good technological support is an important condition for successful web discussions, it does not guarantee by itself the meeting success.

Even in face-to-face gatherings it can be difficult to keep the discussion focused and productive. Web meetings are not easier in this respect. The organizers still need at least the same skills of planning and organization they would need for traditional meetings.

One challenge of virtual meetings that requires more care is making sure that people stay engaged. Many people cannot resist the temptation to multitask during an online meeting. The can start doing something else, like checking emails, without giving enough attention to the discussion.

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