By Andrew Millard, Director of eCommerce, Citrix Online.

As the economic downturn continues, canny businesses are looking to a relatively new technology spurred on by the credit crunch: online meetings. But can meetings really be effective if we can’t make eye contact, or read the body language of the client, supplier or colleague that we’re talking to?

Here are seven top tips on how to run the most successful online meeting:

1. Make sure people know who’s talking

Let’s start with the basics. It’s hard to recognise voices in a virtual meeting, so make sure people introduce themselves by name so people know who they are when they’re talking. Some of the more advanced virtual meeting tools actually help by indicating on participants’ screens who is speaking, and handy annotation and drawing features will assign a different colour to each person taking part.

2. Show dynamic content with screen sharing

The ability to share your computer screen with anyone will make your meetings very productive. For example, you can work with a colleague based at home, or in another office, or even at the airport, to create a presentation together in real time. You could also present a new concept to a time-pressed business prospect who is hard to pin down to a face-to-face meeting, or edit a contract in real time with a customer once you have clinched the deal.

3. Gather more feedback with online chat

Virtual meetings allow ‘sub-conversations’ to take part between participants. It can be harder to ask ‘obvious’ questions when you can’t read the body language of participants, but online chat allows you to gather more response from your remote audience without disrupting the meeting.

4. Interact with your meeting participants by giving them control

Interactivity can be dramatically improved if you are able to hand over control to anyone who is involved in your meeting. For example, others can take control of your presentation, guide you through a complicated diagram or bring up a document on their own computer for anyone to view. In fact this facility offers greater collaboration potential than many face to face scenarios because you are all focused on the document in question — rather than simply talking about it.

5. Bring your meetings to life!

Spice up your presentations by enabling meeting attendees to interact directly with your computer screen. Electronic drawing and annotation tools like highlighters or arrows give participants the opportunity to quickly illustrate areas of a document they wish to draw your attention to.

6. Reduce your costs with VoIP

Voice-over-IP is the ideal way to allow your meeting participants to join your online meeting the instant they start the internet session, reducing time spent dialling telephone numbers and passcodes. And VoIP calls don’t cost anything for participants and in this economic climate they will appreciate the savings!

7. Have an agenda

It may seem obvious but an agenda will ensure meetings stay on track. Just as with face-to-face meetings, in order to be as productive as possible, it is beneficial to keep meetings short, sweet and to the point.


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