The pros and cons of virtual meetings: will it work for your agency?
In the most recent years, web conferencing has become a popular alternative to traditional in-person meetings across all industries. It offers a range of benefits, such as cost efficiency, ease of scheduling, and increased productivity. However, it also comes with its own set of disadvantages. In this blog, we will discuss the pros and cons of web conferencing, and explore whether it might be effective for your agency.
Pros of virtual conferencing
One of the main benefits of web conferencing is effective communication. With virtual meetings, you can quickly display visuals, share screens, or take over someone else's desktop, and share files instantly so everyone can follow along. Also, you don't have to deal with getting the projector going or fiddling with other equipment in order to effectively present content. It’s all “compatible” and right there on your screens. Another benefit to video conferencing is the ability to let presenters pick up on cues to see who is engaged, if anyone is confused or has a question.
Web conferencing is cost-efficient, eliminating costs associated with a physical location and time lost to checking in or finding the right location. With that, online meetings mitigate or eliminate employee travel costs. Web conferencing is especially helpful for mandatory meetings or training taking place on an employee’s day off, allowing participation from home and eliminating overtime pay and travel costs.
Web conferencing is an efficient usage of time as it is easier to gather a group of people with varying schedules in different locations, or time zones, if they only need to give up an hour of their time for the actual conference rather than sacrificing valuable work hours to travel.
Finally, web conferencing increases attendance. It's simple to take a meeting from wherever you are, making it more likely for people to attend. Culturally, web conferences are strictly held to the start and end times, holding presenters and attendees more accountable. Meetings can be recorded, making it easier for those who may have missed the meeting to receive the same content, and for anyone to review information.
Cons of virtual conferencing
However, there are also disadvantages to web conferencing. Scheduling meetings with people in different time zones can be difficult. Some people may not be tech savvy, making video conferencing more difficult. Additionally, it may require help to manage large meetings (admitting participants and managing chat Q&A) so the presenter can focus on content.
From a training perspective, some topics may be better presented face to face. Video quality may not be adequate to convey complex visual details. Additionally, some people may be less likely to verbally participate during web conferences. If cameras are off, gauging audience understanding, noticing non-verbal cues, and attendees leaving the meeting early (meaning not all information was received) are issues to consider.
Things to consider
While a “hard cut off” of meeting content is okay, web calls should include a “soft cut off” portion, allowing you to finish any thoughts and include a Q&A to further help attendees understand the content.
Before moving to web conferencing, agencies need to look at IT policies restricting mic/camera or WIFI access to various platforms and examine conferencing software/web security to select the level of encryption your agency requires. Laptops designated for web conferencing can run on a limited network or use a different profile/account to protect wider agency systems.
In conclusion, web conferencing, or a hybrid approach, can be a great option for many types of meetings, but understanding the pros and cons is necessary before deciding when, or if, to use web conferencing.