Web Conferencing Solution Enhances End User Satisfaction for intoCareers

intoCareers has proudly provided their users with first-class career development training for more than 40 years. intoCareers’ career information system (CIS) is utilized in over 35 percent of the nation’s state-sponsored schools to provide high-quality career information to teachers and counselor nationwide.

A sudden price increase in their web conferencing software led intoCareers in search of a more reliable and cost-effective web conferencing solution. intoCareers turned to PGi and, after a free trial of GlobalMeet®, the company was sold.

intoCareers relies heavily on virtual training sessions to educate new CIS operators and update current employees of revisions in curriculum. With the help of GlobalMeet, intoCareers was quickly able to streamline their virtual meetings and enhance the efficacy of their virtual training, ultimately increasing end user satisfaction.

“With GlobalMeet, our users just expect seamless training sessions, and that’s what they get!”Susan Roudebush, Consultant and Master Trainer

Ready to see how GlobalMeet can take your company’s meetings to the next level? Try it for free today.

3 Tips to Easily Schedule Online Meetings in Outlook

Scheduling meetings, especially last minute ones, can get a bit tricky if you’re meeting with a large group of people or with people in different locations. From finding a time that works for everyone to including all the appropriate contacts and materials, scheduling can be a hassle.

Microsoft Outlook makes scheduling online meetings a little easier. Here are three tips guaranteed to make scheduling your next meeting simple and stress-free for both you and your guests.

Scheduling Assistant: First and foremost, you’re going to need to see when everyone is available. By using Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant, you can choose a time when everyone can meet by looking at the invitee’s free/busy information in Calendar.

Simply enter the desired contact name in your Address Book, and your free/busy grid will show the availability of the attendees. This works especially well for scheduling online meetings with guests in different locations.
Color Coded Messages: We all have pack calendars, so what’s an easy way to keep track of type of online meetings you have scheduled? Use Outlook’s Color Coded messages feature. The benefit of this tool is you can mark a meeting as private, personal or confidential, or you can tag it with a high or low importance.

Tracking: After you have sent out your proposed times and have set a definite time for your online meeting, send out an invite to your guests.

With the tracking feature, you can take the guest work out of who has responded to your invitation. Using this feature, you’ll be able to quickly see who has responded.

To use the tool, click on the desired meeting and click the tracking icon. The list of invitees will display along with their response. This way, you’ll make sure the appropriate people aren’t missing out on your online meeting.

These tips will help you fully utilize the features of Outlook, but to further your online meeting experience, try PGi’s iMeet®, free for 30 days. iMeet® conveniently  connects to Outlook so you can schedule and join your next online meeting with ease.

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When Should You Use VoIP for Virtual Meetings?

Many conferencing solutions now offer you the option to connect via VoIP or your phone, but which is best? When should you use your computer and when should you use your phone to connect to virtual meetings?

Wait, What Is VoIP Again?
Essentially, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is when you connect and talk through your computer on a connected microphone instead of through your phone. Because voice information is digitally transferred through the Internet, there are no additional costs to call via VoIP, as opposed to a traditional phone line.

VoIP streamlines the virtual meeting experience, eliminating the need to rotate between devices or applications to connect. This additional access method helps virtual meeting technology better support the plethora of ways employees work today, outside of the office, across the world and on the go.

How Would You Like to Talk?
VoIP has improved virtual meetings by leaps and bounds, but it still has limited reliability. Here are some guidelines on choosing between your computer and phone to connect:

  • When you’re at your desktop computer, try VoIP. The seamless experience provides more convenience than switching between devices, and reliability doesn’t suffer so long as you’re hard-wired to the Internet.
  • If you’re working on Wi-Fi, opt for a traditional phone line. You could experience occasional lapses in audio if you’re not on a high-speed, wired Internet connection.
  • When you’re out of country, connect via VoIP. VoIP typically offers better global availability and lower prices for international phone calls than traditional phone lines.
  • Skip VoIP when you’re mobile. If you don’t have a dependable connection or enough bandwidth, your connection could drop.

Both VoIP and public switched telephone network (PSTN) connections give users options to choose the best way to connect to virtual meetings, which is why the best virtual meeting solutions offer hybrid audio. Without sacrificing audio quality, security or functionality, hybrid audio networks seamlessly connect a variety of access methods and endpoints to accommodate users no matter where they are and what device they are on.

Learn More

  • Brush up on the basics. Learn more about what VoIP is.
  • Read more about the importance of having a hybrid audio network for better user adoption.
  • Find out how hybrid audio integration improved Northwestern University’s VoIP-only web conferencing solution for online learning programs.

How Do I Enhance My Video Conferencing Room?

Business meetings once centered on conference rooms, from in-person introductions to video conferencing with branch offices around the world. Because business collaboration has evolved beyond the limits of space, video conferencing technology that is dedicated to conference rooms no longer fully supports the demands of the modern workforce. Collaboration now happens right from workers’ desks, on tablets and smartphones and on the go.

But those expensive business investments don’t have to go to waste. With a video room connector, businesses can seamlessly integrate more mobile, user-friendly and robust video conferencing solutions into their existing video room investments. Easy setup and seamless integration with popular video room systems and endpoints minimizes any additional investments of time and resources getting started.

Why Do I Need a Video Room Connector?
If your video conferencing room rarely gets used or is a constant source of bad meetings, it’s time to connect your technology to a better solution for better meetings. Here’s how a video room connector can solve your video conferencing room woes:

  • More Mobility: A video room that inhibits mobile workers from joining your meetings isn’t going to cut it anymore. Teleworkers are now the norm, and your remote and on-the-road employees need video conferencing to stay connected and engaged with the rest of the company. Integrating a video conferencing solution accessible from any device ensures your meetings never miss an important source of knowledge and creativity outside the office.
  • A Better User Experience: The latest video conferencing solutions make it easier than ever to join online meetings and navigate the technology, maximizing meeting time. If you want to reduce late starts and eliminate awkward pauses during meetings, connect your video room to a better way to meet.
  • Robust Functionality: Video conferencing solutions no longer limit your options to collaborate via video only. All-in-one audio, web and video conferencing features allow you to collaborate on a conference call, share content on a web conference or schedule a virtual meeting outside the conference room.
  • Crystal-Clear Audio: Not every video conferencing provider specializes in both technology and telephony, but with a video room connector, you can upgrade the quality and reliability of your audio using a conferencing provider that’s known for their industry-leading, global, hybrid audio network.

Drive higher adoption of your technology by giving employees universal access to a single video conferencing solution for all of your company’s collaborative needs. Experience real-time collaboration with iMeet® VRC (Video Room Connector).

Request a live demo today to see how connecting your video room to iMeet will better connect your company.

How to Get the Most out of Virtual Meetings

Working remote may be a leisure for some, but according to a survey done by the London Business School, more than half of the workforce will be working remote by 2020, meaning virtual meetings will become the norm for conducting business.

Virtual meetings are practical, cost-effective and essential for businesses as remote work continues to rise in popularity. And getting the most out of virtual meeting experiences is crucial for hosting productive assemblies. Check out these features that will help you get the most out of your next virtual meeting:

Audio: Audio is a key element to any virtual meeting. Having clear audio through a virtual meeting application is crucial for communication purposes, and it also helps cut costs. If you’re using a VoIP calling feature, instead of relying on PSTN (public switched telephone network), you’ll be able to cut carrier costs on both domestic and international calls.

Video: Oftentimes virtual meetings rely heavily on video. Why? Because non-verbal cues through webcams are crucial to truly understanding each other. From eye contact and facial expressions to how someone is dressed, these cues establish a type of communication that we would otherwise miss with just audio conferencing. Video also keeps meeting attendees engaged, prevents multitasking, and keeps the whole team connected throughout the meeting.

Document Sharing: Leverage the power of document sharing to collaborate in real-time. Document sharing within a virtual meeting can give attendees access to files like meeting agendas or hand-outs relevant to the meeting. They can also upload and share documents with all those attending the virtual meeting.

Chat: Use a live-chat feature to encourage engagement among those participating in your virtual meeting. Share ideas and ask questions for all participants to see, without interrupting the audio during the meeting.

Note Taking: Note taking, available on virtual meeting tools like PGi’s iMeet®, allows anyone participating in the meeting to start a virtual notepad. You can take notes on the meeting, write reminders for a follow up and create to-do lists for the group.

Recording and Share: Just like a DVR that records your favorite shows at home, virtual meetings can also be recorded, depending on your software. Virtual meeting solutions like iMeet allow users to record and send the meeting through a URL. All video, audio, document sharing, chats and note taking are recorded so no one misses anything important.

As remote work becomes more popular, virtual meetings will evolve from being a tool that’s “nice to have” to a necessity for everyday business practice. Ready to make the most of your next virtual meeting? Try PGi’s iMeet, free for 30 days, to take advantage of all of the features mentioned above.

Can’t get enough information on remote and telework? Check out PGi’s second annual Global Telework Survey. You’ll get insights about trends and perceptions of telework around the globe.

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How to Get Social with Virtual Meeting Participants

Today, professionals are connecting with each other online more than ever through tools like virtual meeting solutions and social media. What happens when you merge the two? Meeting magic.

Social media helps you establish and build long-term business relationships by making meetings more personal and providing a forum to continue the conversation after the meeting. Your social media profiles give guests a more holistic view of who you are: what you’re interested in, what your values are and even how you communicate. And when participants can learn more about each other, more meaningful conversations come out of each virtual meeting.

Telecommuters can bond over vacation photos on Flickr, marketers can share inspiring links they find on Twitter and sales teams can compare LinkedIn connections. Social features are incredibly beneficial not only for your internal team meetings but also for external meetings with partners, video interviews with candidates and sales meetings with prospects.

The ability to socially connect right from your virtual meeting room makes it easier to draw brand advocates to engage in your company’s online conversations, to nurture sales leads and to grow your own social audience (because let’s face it, these days everyone has a professional brand). And once you see that the other person in the meeting room shares a connection with you, it makes it much easier to forge authentic connections when you meet someone for the first time.

How to Connect Your Social Profiles to iMeet

PGi’s virtual meeting solution, iMeet®, offers social integration with the most popular social networking sites so you can build your connections within your meetings. Setting up your social networks in your virtual meeting space is a simple process.

To seamless integrate Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn or Twitter, follow these steps:

Facebook:

  1. Click on the app, and if you’re not already, sign in to Facebook.
  2. Click “Okay” to give the app permission to connect your personal profile with iMeet.
  3. Facebook will open in your browser. Click “Okay” to give iMeet access to your profile.
  4. Click “Okay” or “Skip” to let iMeet post on your behalf.

Flickr

  1. Click on the app.
  2. Enter your Yahoo! ID and click “Share.”
  3. Optional: Click the Flickr gear icon to share private albums, too.

LinkedIn

  1. Click the app.
  2. Click “Okay” to authorize iMeet to connect with your LinkedIn profile.
  3. LinkedIn will open in your browser. Sign in, if you’re not already.
  4. The following page will have a security code. Enter it into your iMeet app and click “Submit.”

Twitter

  1. Click the app.
  2. Click “Okay” to give iMeet permission to connect with Twitter.
  3. Twitter will open in your browser. Click “Authorize app” to give iMeet access to your account.
  4. The following page will give you a PIN number. Enter it into your iMeet app and click “Tweet Now.”

With the apps enabled, now guests can expand your cube to preview your social media profiles. For example, they can see your Facebook friends and photos; they can browse your Flickr photos; they can preview your job title, location, industry, past experience and education from LinkedIn and they’ll preview a snippet of your last tweet.

In addition, you now have the ability to easily connect with others, post your personal virtual meeting URL to social media and export social media contacts to Outlook, all from iMeet.

Tips to Invite Your Meeting Participants to Connect

iMeet social appsSocial media is meant to be a two-way conversation. So how do you encourage everyone else in the meeting to connect their profiles, too? The best thing you can do is lead by example and show, don’t tell, how it’s useful.

Once you connect all of your social apps, let your participants know that they can ask you questions or stay in touch after meeting by connecting with you directly from iMeet. This demonstrates the relationship-building functionality without having to set rigid guidelines for your guests.

And to show everyone how enriching and fun it is to show your personal interests on social, bring it up in conversation. As an aside, talk about a recent trip that everyone can see on your Facebook or Flickr photos. Mention an interesting article you read and just posted to Twitter, or broadcast a LinkedIn group you just started that others can join.

Mixing personal profiles with business meetings may not seem appropriate to some people, but once you demonstrate the benefits of getting social, it’s much easier to drive the change.

If your current virtual meeting solution is missing that social sauce, try iMeet free for 30 days. Invite your entire team into the room to see the difference a more personalized experience makes in your virtual meeting.

3 Tools to Create Visuals for Your Online Meetings

Adding visual content to your online meetings is a great way to keep participants engaged and interested. Far too often it can be difficult to find the right stock image, slide design or font to customize your presentation with traditional tools. Instead, using online (and often free) visual creation tools is a great alternative to design those custom visuals.

Check out these three tools that can help you customize and create engaging visuals for your next online meeting:

Custom graphics:  Looking for an easy way to grab your audiences’ attention during online meetings? Canva is a free online tool that creates designs for Web or print. This tool gives you all the elements you need to create custom graphics for your blog posts, online meetings and presentations, social media profiles, flyers, posters, invitations and more.

Canva has a very user-friendly interface which is accessible both on a desktop and on an iPad. During the creation process you’ll be able to drag and drop images—either uploaded by you, or one of Canva’s free and premium images—into the design template. You can also edit these pictures by adjusting brightness, contrast or filters. Need to add creative font to the image? Canva has thousands of fonts that aren’t available in traditional design tools like PowerPoint or Word.

If you’re not sure where to start with creating the perfect visual for your next online meeting, Canva offers easy-to-follow tutorials in its “design school”. You can also see what other users are creating to spark your creative mind. Once you’ve created your masterpiece, you’ll be able to download and save the files to your computer so you can easily access them for your online meeting.

Infographic: Infographics are also a great way to engage your audience during online meetings. If you’re in need of an infographic and don’t want to pay a third party to create it, try Easel.ly. The online tool features thousands of free templates and design objects to create a completely customized infographic.

The site is easy to use with drag and drop elements, an extensive library of premade templates and the ability to upload your own graphics for backgrounds. The design tool features “vhemes” or pre-designed themes and objects like icons, shapes, text and charts. So, if you’re feeling creative, you have the ability to completely customize an infographic for your online meeting.

When you’ve finished your infographic, you can either save your design online for future edits or download your creation to your computer as a low or high quality jpeg, or as a PDF.

Simple graphics with text: Incorporating simple graphics into online meetings can clarify key takeaways while boosting audience engagement. If you’re looking for a simple tool to create a graphic with text for your online meetings, try the Over app available on iTunes and Google Play. This tool is strictly mobile, and doesn’t feature as many tools as the previously mentioned online tools, but if you’re constantly on the go and need to create something quickly for an online meeting, this is a great alternative.

Over lets you choose from photos or graphics from a variety of artists and gives you the ability to add unique text or icons. In the app you can size, rotate, fade, center and copy your artwork and text. When you’re done you have the ability to save your image to your camera roll. While this tool is not necessarily ideal for large-scale visual design, it’s great for mobile workers who need to create engaging visuals.

Now that you have some great, easy-to-use tools for creating a visually stimulating graphic for your next online presentation, why not try them out with an online meeting toolTry PGi’s iMeet free for 30 days and see how easy it is to share presentations, graphics or infographics with colleagues, partners and clients.

 

How to Use Visuals to Engage Virtual Meeting Participants

You have an idea that needs to be heard, a problem that needs to be solved or a room of workers that needs to be inspired, but if no one’s fully paying attention, you can’t get the results you really want.

Engagement is always a challenge when you’re hosting meetings. Whether you’re in a conference room or a virtual meeting room, guests will check out if they don’t feel compelled to pay attention.

Your best solution: using visual content to engage virtual meeting participants.

Why Visuals Are Powerful
People understand what you’re saying faster and remember it longer with visual aids. About 65 percent of the population learns best through visuals, which demonstrates the transformative power that they can have on your meetings.

Images and videos condense information into smaller chunks, and when you choose the right visuals, they provide more clarity than longer copy or spoken presentations. People also more easily associate emotions with visuals, which make what you’re saying more impactful and memorable than words alone.

On top of improving learning, visuals also mix up your format to keep guests on their toes. When no one knows what’s coming next, they’re more apt to pay attention.

Use these ideas to incorporate more visuals into your virtual meeting experience.

virtual meeting visuals

Share Your Screen
First, share your screen to incorporate presentation slides, show and tell with graphs, or share videos.

  • You can turn your entire meeting into a presentation with simple tools like SlideShare, or just intermittently integrate slides to denote the beginning, middle and end of your presentation and turn it into a story.
  • Instead of listing your latest results or growth goals, plot the numbers on a chart or graph. It’s much faster and easier to understand the bigger picture when you can see everything at once.
  • Play a video clip or share an image that will excite your audience.

Present a File
The ability to upload a file into your virtual meeting room is a convenient way to not only share large files but also engage your meeting participants.

  • Instead of sending out presentations or meeting agendas ahead of time, upload it to your meeting room so participants have to be present to get the information.
  • If you’re giving feedback or constructive criticism in a meeting, display documents or collateral with your edits and comments.
  • Upload a leave-behind visual to your meeting room. Make it a simple, powerful diagram that communicates the single most important part of your meeting – your goal, the next steps, astonishing results or a vexing problem to think about.

iMeet Online Meetings

Turn on Your Webcam
Finally, and most importantly, turn on your webcam. So many workers miss out on one of the most engaging visual components of hosting virtual meetings – the ability to actually see each other in real time.

  • Leverage your own eye contact and body language to better narrate your story.
  • Turn your webcam on a live visual like an idea map or diagram drawn in real time.
  • Set up a science fair-style display to guide your participants through the meeting in a non-conventional manner.

Communication is more non-verbal than most people realize, so without the right visuals, without the best video quality, your virtual meeting participants aren’t quite receiving everything you’re trying to communicate.

However, with full stage, HD video, you now have the capacity to reach and engage your meeting participants like never before, no matter where they are.

For a more immersive, engaging face-to-face meeting experience, try iMeet® now.

Featured Image Source: Gratisography

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What’s So Special about Screen Sharing Software?

Online meeting tools and screen sharing software are a vital part of business collaboration for many types of companies. Through screen sharing, marketers can showcase new products, sales professionals can host quick demos and HR teams can present training sessions. This type of innovative software gives professionals the ability to take their presentations to the next level.

So, what features make screen sharing software so special? Let’s take a look at the different types of screen sharing software and their features:

Basic Screen Sharing Software
The primary purpose for screen sharing software is to enable a host to share a presentation with a group. With basic screen sharing software, a user can grant participants access to see his or her presentation by sharing their desktop. Hosts can utilize any type of slide presentation tools, share videos and showcase documents to the meeting participants.

Though basic screen sharing is a great option for business professionals who may not need advanced features, there are potential security issues with allowing participants to view all of the host’s desktop. Sensitive information, like emails or instant messages, could accidently be viewed by those attending the presentation.

Integrated Screen Sharing Solution
A screen sharing solution that is integrated with an online meeting tool can take your presentation to the next level with a variety of advanced features that basic screen sharing software does not have. A tool like PGi’s iMeet has features that allow a host to share not only their entire screen, but specific windows or applications. This helps avoid potential security issues or distractions during the screen sharing experience.

Most screen sharing software not only allows a host to share a presentation, but enables the host to pass the controls to guests to share their screen as well. This works especially well if a team is meeting together to showcase multiple presentations. And because screen sharing is already integrated into the online meeting tool, there’s no additional downloads for hosts or meeting guests.

Teams can also enhance productivity and cut down on multitasking by collaborating on documents together. By keeping your audience engaged with the presentation, you’ll avoid losing them to multitasking.

Screen sharing is an incredibly powerful tool to help maximize productivity within an organization. Regardless of how advanced you’d like your screen sharing software to be, you’ll be able to make the most out of your meeting or presentation, and reduce travel costs while you’re at it!

Try PGi’s iMeet screen sharing software free for 30 days, and learn more about making your next presentation unforgettable with PGi’s free eBook, The Little Black Book of Presentation Ideas.

How Do I Schedule a Meeting with Outside Participants?

Meetings are a part of your everyday life if you’re working in a corporate setting, and with new online meeting tools, it’s easier than ever to meet with anyone, at anytime, anywhere. But one constant inconvenience with meetings is scheduling. If you’re working with several employees or external participants that are spread across various time zones, things can get a little tricky when trying to appease everyone’s schedules.

There are, however, plenty of scheduling tools available to help ease the pain of coordinating meetings with multiple participants. Microsoft Outlook®, for example, has a feature called Scheduling Assistant in which you can view meeting participants’ calendars to make sure there’s no scheduling conflicts. The major flaws in Outlook’s application lies in that it’s only useful internally and is not mobile friendly.

For those looking to schedule meetings with outside participants, consider using a scheduling app. These applications use a simple polling system to find the best option for meeting times between participants.  It’s important to note that most of these scheduling-only applications, like Doodle, are only available on web browsers and may end up costing you in subscription fees.

While these scheduling tools are great in theory, for anyone who constantly relies on their mobile devices to conduct business, having an app that is accessible on any device and works with any email service is the most ideal. That’s where smart calendar apps come into play, with features such as Free/Busy Polling.

Free/Busy Polling is a feature similar to the scheduling applications mentioned above, but the real difference is that you can control all aspects of scheduling meetings—both for internal and external purposes—right inside the app.

This feature is a smarter way to take on the task of scheduling meetings. Instead of getting buried in endless back-and-forth email chains, guests can select the times that work best for them in an easy-to-use web interface, or directly within the app itself. Once the participants respond with their preferences, majority of the work is done, and you can easily determine the best meeting time for all respondents.

If you’re ready to learn more about the Free/Busy Polling feature, download PGi’s Agenday smart calendar for free in iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Apps.

What Are Some Reasons Your Meetings Fail?

As much as you try to regularly meet, collaborate across aisles and juice those interactions for big ideas, your meetings just don’t seem to deliver any “aha” moments. Does this sound familiar?

From subpar online meeting software to flimsy meeting structures, there are many reasons your meetings fail. One huge problem you likely encounter is that you have…

No Engagement.
Boring presentations kill your meetings. Instead of guiding readers and sparking curiosity, poorly designed slides lose attention. Top that with an unprepared speaker or host without good presentation skills, and you’re left with a multi-tasking audience checking their phones or inboxes instead of learning, asking questions and sharing ideas.

Poorly organized meetings without clear agendas or with unstructured conversations also lack engagement. When one bad idea, overly critical voice or unrelated tangent overtakes the meeting, you cannot have productive brainstorming.

If you’re holding the same old, routine meeting in the same place or with the same hour-long timeline, attention slips through your fingers. When meetings are too long or you never switch up your format or venue, people stop caring and fall into routine bad habits.

Clearly, without engagement, you can’t achieve the goals of your meetings whether it’s generating new ideas, finding solutions or resolving conflicts, and so everyone’s…

Time Is Wasted.
When you haven’t set objectives and desired outcomes, it’s difficult to progress the conversation. If you don’t set your meeting intentions ahead of time, it’s too easy to get off track and let a few voices dominate the conversation and squash other opinions.

Would an email suffice instead of meeting? You may be wasting time meeting too often, then, or not meeting enough. And think about it: does everyone on that invitation actually need to go? Consider whether you have too many people in the meeting to be productive.

Of course, there’s always the latecomers. Every time someone shows up late to a meeting, those minutes lost rack up big time.

And most likely some of your biggest time sucks are due to…

Bad Technology.
If calls drop, attendees can’t log in to your online meeting room or it’s too confusing and time-consuming for guests to join, you need better online meeting software.

Plus, now that you’re accommodating mobile meeting guests, some may have trouble switching devices during the meeting. And between mobile attendees and large audiences, background noises are more prevalent and distracting than ever.

As you can see, hosting successful meetings isn’t as easy as getting everyone to show up (and even that’s not simple). Search PGi’s Collaboratory for smart, creative solutions to better meetings, and to solve your technical meeting dilemmas, explore PGi’s portfolio of collaboration solutions like smart calendar and mobile meeting apps to get you there on time and more personal, engaging online meeting software to forge better connections.

How Virtual Meetings Can Save Your Business Money

There’s no denying that the business communications landscape has changed drastically over the last few years. New and progressive technologies are empowering companies to become more productive and efficient. While any innovative technology can be an investment that moves new business forward, virtual meetings are one of the most cost-effective and lucrative tools your company should be taking advantage of.

You’ve probably heard of virtual meetings before, and thought, “My business doesn’t really need a complex and advanced tool like that! I’m only meeting with clients and employees a few times a week, and phone calls or face-to-face meetings are sufficient enough.” But with virtual meetings, you can enhance those meetings and cut some of your largest business costs.

Travel: Let’s be honest – travel costs for a business can be prohibitive, but with the click of a virtual meeting link, you can gain access to a digital tool that helps maintain quality relationships both internally and externally without requiring people to be in the same room.

Hotels, plane tickets, car rentals and food expenses can really start adding up when your employees are traveling for events, meetings or trainings. Utilizing a virtual meetings tool can help you control and decrease your meeting costs by bringing everyone together online.

Overhead: Daily operational costs like utilities, materials, and office supplies are a reality for all business owners. A solution to high overheads could be as simple as allowing employees to telecommute. Research shows that if a typical business allowed its employees to work from home just half the time, it could save on average $11,000 per year. Those employees would personally save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year on work-related and transportation costs. What employee wouldn’t be happy to save money?

Speaking of happy employees, those who telecommute report greater productivity while working from home, and according to research done by Connect Solutions, 23 percent of those telecommuting are willing to work longer hours, with 52 percent less likely to take time off when working remotely.

The benefits of telecommuting end up being a pretty simple equation: allowing flexibility with telecommuting means employees will be more productive and more likely to stay with their employer, increasing retention rates and saving you money.

Time: A final invaluable cost that you can save by using virtual meetings is your time. Without the hassle of planning travel, finding meeting spaces and making sure there’s enough coffee to fuel your meeting, you’ll save hours of work that can be used more productively.

Telecommuting and the use of virtual meetings may not be right for every business. But if you’re a business owner looking to cut costs, you owe it to yourself – and your business’s finances – to give it a test drive.

If you’re ready to try cost-effective and collaborative virtual meetings, sign up for a free 30-day trial of PGi’s iMeet®. Looking to learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting? Check out PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin and Yang of Telecommuting”.

What’s the Best Way to Join a Mobile Meeting?

The ability to join a meeting from any location increases your productivity by leaps and bounds, but despite all the increasing connectivity and access to information, your mobile device still poses limits to work productivity.

To enhance your device’s collaboration functionality, you need a mobile meeting app.

What’s Limiting Your Mobile Productivity

Whether it’s mobile conference calls or web conferences, joining a meeting on the go presents challenges to effective collaboration. As a mobile worker, you probably multi-task and deal with background noise more often than at your desktop (shouting baristas, flight attendants over speakers, barking dogs, honking cars, etc.).

Additionally, navigating your mobile device isn’t as easy as a desktop. Between the smaller screen and toggling between tabs and applications, it’s difficult to quickly find information. Although your smartphone is bursting with information right in your hand, everything is separated into applications, gated by taps and swipes.

However, just because mobile devices have their limits, you won’t see them disappearing from workers’ hands. Already, 51 percent of employees use mobile devices — laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets — to remotely work, 22 percent of which use them to remotely access online meetings, according to the 2014 Sage U.S. SMB Survey on Mobile Devices.

Outsource the Details to a Mobile Meeting App

What your mobile device can’t do, though, a mobile meeting app can: consolidate meeting information on a clean interface with small screens in mind and provide one-touch conference dialing.

For instance, PGi’s iMeet meeting app for the iPhone, iPad and Android makes joining a meeting as simple as tapping the “Join a Meeting” button from your contacts, which are automatically synced across your devices. For guests without an iMeet account, just enter your contact’s consistent, personalized meeting URL to log in for free.

Other integrated applications also simplify entry into mobile meetings, like PGi’s smart calendar. Agenday builds on that easy entry by putting all of your calendars, and all of your meetings, on a single app.

Set up meeting notifications that you can tap to join and avoid typing passcodes. Customize your call settings to save more time. You have the option to set dial-in or VoIP as your default to join, or you can choose to have the meeting call you or have Agenday ask before each meeting.

Agenday also provides local call routing using PGi patented technology to auto-detect your location and present available local call-in numbers. Helping you avoid toll-free and international numbers, Agenday lowers your costs.

You’ll never miss a meeting because you can’t find the information, helping you stay productive while you’re away from the office. Download iMeet meeting apps and Agenday now to experience better meetings.

Featured Image Source: Death to the Stock Photo

Why Does My Team Need Virtual Meeting Software?

For entirely virtual teams, the benefits of virtual meeting software are obvious, but why does your team need it when you work together in the same building?

The secret to creating a successful team is building a culture of teamwork. Collaborative values, tools, places to meet and forums to share information in real time are the framework.

However, when employees occasionally work from home, travel and work on the go, your go-to collaboration routines in the office may not support these workstyles, halting teamwork. So to keep your team happy and productive, you need digital tools and tactics to keep the engine moving.

Nurturing Teamwork with Virtual Collaboration

Ongoing collaboration, information sharing and group problem solving are crucial for team cohesion and made possible by implementing tools for support, like virtual meeting software. No matter where your team is — at home, on a plane, across the Atlantic — you have the ability to bring everyone together for real-time collaboration.

Virtual meetings help you maintain your regularly scheduled meetings even when everyone can’t be in the room together. You’ll also be able to quickly schedule impromptu meetings, like ad hoc brainstorming, instead of searching for last-minute conference rooms.

In addition, virtual meeting software lets your team meet with stakeholders that may be outside your vicinity. Without physical limitations, your team can pitch ideas to your out-of-country branch, dig for insights from another department or link up for cross-functional projects, thereby extending your team’s presence within the organization.

As an added bonus, virtual meeting software helps your team mix up boring meetings to keep everyone engaged and productive. Use it as a place to share wins and losses or test out virtual team building activities.

Teamwork’s Resiliency in the Shifting Workplace

The workplace is changing. Workers now telecommute, organizations are more distributed and Millennials are shaping new work cultures.

Despite these transformative trends, collaboration remains critical to the success of teams. The increasing trend of working apart allows employees to tap into newfound productivity, but working together to combine ideas still produces greater levels of engagement and innovation. That innovation is the new way businesses compete.

And while many workers thrive on productive, focused environments that telecommuting affords, 62 percent of workers also find it isolating when face-to-face contact is absent, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll.

Plus, even though Millennials are digital natives, they don’t just want to work alone behind a screen. They still prefer a collaborative work culture – 88 percent, in fact, according to Intelligence Group studies.

Teamwork and collaboration still matter. They just happen in different ways now.

Download PGi’s new, free eBook now, Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, to discover more ways to build a culture of teamwork in your organization.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

 

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Using Virtual Meetings to Train Employees

One way virtual meetings serve businesses of all sizes is with better employee training.

In-person training events successfully engage employees but cost time and money. Passive online training (such as emails, slideshows and online documents) offers flexibility but limits interaction.

Today’s online training tools offer the best of both worlds, including interaction and efficiency. Here’s how virtual meetings solve both problems.

Interaction: Face-to-Face Online Training

The nuances of communication — gestures, tone, body language — are not lost in virtual meetings. When used for employee training, attendees experience the same personal connection as in-person events.

Online training software provides a variety of ways for attendees to interact, like real-time and streaming video, screen sharing, public and private chat, polls and surveys. With ample opportunities for employees to ask questions and participate, they engage more, and this increased engagement leads to higher knowledge retention.

That interaction also offers companies the means to get feedback to improve training programs, as well as easily analyze the ROI of online training events. In addition to seeing who joined and how long they attended, post-event reports sum up levels of engagement.

Efficiency: Convenient, Cost-Effective Training

Moving training online means companies don’t have to stop the engine to transfer new information to workers. In fact, virtual meetings accelerate training with quicker deliveries of information.

Because no one has to leave their work location to attend, they can quickly return to work once training’s over, resulting in less downtime and increased productivity. This also makes training more flexible and convenient for mobile employees like telecommuters and professionals in the field.

By offering anywhere, anytime access to online training, virtual meetings save companies money on travel, venues and print collateral for training events. Instead of booking flights and conference rooms, over 100 people meet at once online, and these live sessions can be recorded and repurposed for on-demand viewing or intranet archives.

Virtual meetings are easy enough for anyone outside of IT to host themselves: human resources can onboard employees, sales managers can update entire sales teams and marketing can share new campaigns with sales professionals in the field.

Plus, security features ensure that training documents, videos and sensitive internal information are accessed by only the appropriate people.

Capturing Engagement Online

Some business educators argue that online training can’t hold attention as well as meeting in person. However, just like all virtual and in-person meetings, the level of engagement isn’t entirely determined by the method of delivery but also by the event structure.

Since employees in online trainings are less visible, they have more freedom to multitask. Just like when minds wander during in-person events, however, it is the host’s role to employ all the tools and tactics available to demand full attention. No matter where employees meet to learn, they always need constant activities to stay engaged, as well as content with a narrow focus to retain information.

How to Evaluate the Features of an Online Meeting Tool

According to a recent PGi webinar survey, everyone spends at least a quarter of their days in meetings, whether in a conference room or via an online meeting tool. Wouldn’t it be great if that time was actually well spent?

Unfortunately, meetings (online or in person) are all too often unproductive. In that same survey from “Hitting a Home Run With Collaboration,” nearly 28 percent said they’re productive half the time in meetings, and about 17 percent said meetings are mostly a waste of time.

Some of that misfortune is a result of holding onto old attitudes and unproductive habits in the way businesses run meetings. But sometimes technology is the culprit of bad meetings.

In fact, those respondents reported big frustrations with the user experience and features of online meeting tools. Nearly 41 percent hate downloading software to enter meetings, about 21 percent find meeting software too confusing, another 21 percent dislike poor audio quality and 16 percent hate a lack of mobility.

To ensure a more productive meeting experience for your team or enterprise, you must thoroughly assess the user experience and features of an online meeting tool before making major commitments. Between the robust features available and the range of use cases, though, how do you predict what everyone really needs?

Matching Features to Your Meeting Needs
If you’re evaluating the in-meeting features of a solution for your own team or department, it’s important to identify your most pressing meeting needs to determine which features most efficiently support them

Meetings serve a variety of functions, goals and audiences. They may facilitate one-on-one discussions or group presentations, information delivery or problem solving, relationship building or decision making, and there’s a feature to support each need.

For example, if you plan to share documents with external partners, you’ll need screen and file sharing. To host engaging presentations, on the other hand, polling and real-time chat would be most important.

Make Evaluations a Team Effort
Since collaboration’s not a one person job, bringing others into the evaluation process is a smart way to ensure an online meeting tool really serves everyone’s needs – especially if you’re selecting a tool for a small business or an entire enterprise of employees.

To evaluate the features for a range of roles, departments and use cases, you can:

  • Distribute surveys on which features employees would use most and what types of meetings they would use them for.
  • Create a team comprised of varying lines of business to make the evaluation process a joint effort.
  • Invite colleagues to test a free trial version and offer feedback.

Don’t Just Save Costs, Add Value

Most importantly, the features you need most are the ones that will grow with the changing pace of business collaboration, support productivity and foster innovation.

You need a meeting tool that gives your team more room to think big; that acts as a natural extension of how you collaborate and that supports the workplace of more movement, interaction, flexibility and freedom.

Whether you’re aiming to be a more customer-centric enterprise or a fast and agile small business, choose a tool that removes barriers and makes it easier to access every resource and expert in your company.

You don’t just need an online meeting tool – you need a partner in innovation. Learn more about PGi’s intuitive online meeting solutions for every business now.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Virtual Meetings

Think online meetings are a fad or novelty? Then you’re missing out on major benefits that this growing business trend offers.

Benefits of Virtual Meetings

Three of the biggest benefits of virtual meetings are time, cost savings and increased productivity.

The capabilities to support large meetings and online events allow you to communicate with huge, dispersed groups for a variety of functions — sales presentations, benefits communications, employee training and much more. Plus, the ability to record your meetings expands your reach even further with on-demand participation.

You’ll say sayonara to conference room reservations, airline tickets, hotel fees and event space expenses, but you can still connect with your team on the road when you have to travel.

If a virtual meeting was a superhero, productivity would be its power. Without all the planning, costs and travel involved, you can meet, collaborate and communicate even more with teammates, customers, external agencies and partners.

Using this simple and efficient tool, you can make decisions and deliver information faster, speeding up project completion. The mobility supported by virtual meeting software eliminates the need to reschedule or delay meetings, as well, and also supports productive workstyles like flex work and telecommuting (and increased flexibility and work options, in turn, promotes engagement and productivity).

As opposed to other ways to communicate across a distance (like conference calls or email), virtual meetings facilitate more engaging conversations and personal connections with the use of video.

Option or Necessity?

The debate on whether online or in-person meetings wages on, as business professionals realize that some of the benefits of meeting in person still outweigh the benefits of meeting online in certain situations.

However, virtual meetings are quickly evolving beyond a “nice to have” option into a necessity for the virtual workplace of the future.

Worker mobility may still be a perk for some, but not for long. By 2020, more than half of the workforce will operate remotely, according to a survey at the London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit.

Virtual meetings also support our rapidly evolving business world of global operations, instant access and connectivity.

Businesses will continue being outsourced and off-shored, making virtual communication not only practical but also essential to cost-efficient operations. And virtual meetings also deliver the fast, efficient information stream that both consumers and workers have come to expect.

Easier to use than ever, virtual meetings are integrated into daily workflows and have a permanent place among worker productivity tools.

Ready to learn more about how virtual meetings can benefit your bottom line? Check out PGi’s blog on virtual meetings now.

When Face-to-Face Meetings Trump Virtual Meetings

Thanks to advances in technology, virtual meetings are more personal and engaging than ever before, but the in-person, face-to-face meeting is never going away.

Increasingly, workers are more comfortable using video and audio conferencing technology, and companies recognize the benefits of online meetings, such as greater reach and efficiency. Along with affordability, better user experience and other factors, online meetings seem more popular now than ever.

However, some studies prove that dramatic or complete cuts to business travel result in profit loss. This is because in-person meetings still offer a value that virtual meetings can’t (yet).

What’s Missing in Virtual Meetings

When do face-to-face meetings trump virtual meetings? In-person meetings triumph when the costs and logistics of travel outweigh the costs of what virtual meeting software cannot deliver.

So what’s missing in virtual meetings?

• Uninterrupted Presence: Online meetings facilitate simultaneous interaction, but you’re not in the same physical environment, which means environmental stimuli will cause distractions on one end that the other side does not see. Technical mishaps and online meeting functions also divide focus, so instead of devoting attention to the dialogue, hosts and guests mute background noises or fumble with audio.

• Full Body Language: Your eyes, mouth, brows and other facial features reveal more than what you say, but there are many more types of body language that you may not see through a webcam. This is especially important for high-stakes meetings like closing major deals for sales professionals or final interviews for human resources. In person, the host can see whether someone nervously taps their foot or where they place their hands, and even outside of the meeting room, the host can see when they arrive and how they treat others in the office. These clues give sales professionals better control over meetings with clients or human resources a richer understanding of candidates.

• Interpersonal Trust: In between, before and after meetings time is built in for pleasantries and personal small talk, and by traveling to a location or sharing lunch, we make investments in professional relationships. In-person meetings also offer a richer sensory experience that helps cultivate trust. For example, our sense of touch, like shaking hands, communicates emotions we omit from professional conversations.

Virtual Meetings Still Shine
When you need absolute attention, more participation and all the communication tools you can get, in-person meetings deliver. However, virtual meetings still share a variety of benefits as in-person meetings, such as:

• Engagement: Distractions continue to be a challenge for online meeting participants, but the solution is in the way we run meetings, not due to technological limitations. Online meeting software now offers so many features that allow for just as much participation as in-person meetings. With enhanced visibility, live chat, polls and surveys and even sub-conferencing features, guests can easily ask questions, gain clarity, brainstorm and collaborate together. It’s just a matter of finding what works for your meetings.

• Non-Verbal Cues: While we can’t always see a person’s entire body language in a virtual meeting, we do see their facial expressions. Non-verbal cues such as eye contact, smiling, leaning forward or even the way someone is dressed communicates so much that we miss with only audio conferencing.

• Connection: Unlike email and chat, video helps us connect and put a name to a face so we can build better relationships with clients and team members.

Face to Face Versus Virtual Meetings: Final Thoughts
Companies need to recognize the importance of balance and diversity when it comes to meeting. Marketing may want to meet in person with an agency to establish congeniality but move ongoing meetings online to save time. Likewise, while online meetings allow sales teams to nurture a larger net of leads, in-person meetings may work better when it’s time to close.

Until workers can hologram-in to meetings, a combination of virtual and in-person meetings supports long-term collaboration and relationship building.

Technology is getting us there, though. Current limitations in online meetings will continue to fade, and eventually virtual meetings and video collaboration will be just as immersive and interactive as meeting in person. Other limitations will dissolve once workers change the way they run meetings. Simply turning the webcam on instead of relying on a static photo transforms the way we meet.

But, you don’t have to wait around for futuristic technology to change the way you meet online. Check out some of these related posts to find out how to host better meetings now!

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What to Do When Good Meetings Go Bad

Preparing for and scheduling meetings is hard work. Wrangling schedules, preparing slides and practicing your pitch all can take up a considerable amount of time, so your online meetings have to go off without a hitch. But what do you do when your meeting starts to go off the rails?

Here are some common ways good meetings can go bad, and how you should handle them:

Problem: Getting off Track
While an icebreaker conversation about the past weekend or the big game last night is encouraged to get your meeting started off, it’s important to stay on track and on task to make the most of everyone’s time. If your meeting starts to veer too far of course into off-topic conversations, or if one voice starts to dominate the conversation and steer the topic away from the meeting’s intended purpose, collaboration and productivity can suffer.

Solution: Bring it Back to the Agenda
A formal, minute-by-minute agenda isn’t always required, but at the very least you should have a breakdown of the topics to be covered in the meeting and the expected outcome. That way, if things start going off track, you have a visible, agreed-upon document to fall back on and get everyone back on task.

Problem: Technical Difficulties
Technical difficulties are one of the most common reasons for delayed starts for online meetings, particularly if your meeting tool requires lengthy downloads or has confusing invitations. And even after the meeting starts, there are additional technical considerations that can disrupt your meeting, such as noisy meeting guests that can’t find their mute buttons or software problems that impact file or screen sharing.

Solution: Learn the Technology
The most important thing you can do to mitigate technology’s impact on your meeting is to familiarize yourself with the tool ahead of time. If you can confidently navigate your online meeting software and manage its features, you can walk your guests through any joining difficulties, mute noisy participants and manage any problems that may arise, letting you and your guests focus on the conversation, not the technology.

Looking to familiarize yourself with PGi’s online meeting tools? Visit the iMeet Community or GlobalMeet Community today for guides and answers to common questions.

Problem: Complete Meltdown
Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to accept the fact that your meeting isn’t running productively or its intended purpose isn’t going to be met and throw in the towel. If a key document isn’t ready yet, key stakeholders are unable to attend or the meeting’s overall purpose is unclear, even the most well-intentioned meeting can quickly turn into a waste of everyone’s time.

Solution: Cancel and Reschedule
While a mid-meeting cancellation and reschedule can be awkward, sometimes it’s the best course of action. However, it’s important to remember that cancelling a meeting doesn’t have to be a negative experience. If you clearly communicate the next steps in a positive way, just like you would at the end of a normal meeting, the next time you get together you can have a more productive interaction.

For example, if a key document is missing or incomplete, reschedule by saying something like, “I think it would be more productive if we reconvened once you’ve had a chance to finalize and review this piece.” Striking a tone such as this keeps things professional, doesn’t turn the conversation overly negative and allows everyone to get on with their day.

Bad meetings usually aren’t a lost cause, however; with these tips in hand, you’ll be ready to roll with the punches and get your meetings back on track.

3 Things to Remember When Managing Large Virtual Meetings

Whether they’re in-person or online, hosting and managing large meetings can pose a number of logistical problems. Normal virtual meeting nuisances—confusing invites, late starts, technical difficulties or noisy guests—become compounded by sheer numbers, leaving hosts struggling to wrangle their guest lists and conduct a productive meeting.

Luckily, there are a number of tools, best practices and choices that can make managing large meetings a breeze. Keep these three things in mind the next time you’re managing a large virtual meeting:

1. Keep Annoyances to a Minimum
A larger number of guests unfortunately brings with it more opportunities for bad meeting habits to annoy the rest of your attendees. While in a meeting of 5-10 people you might have one noisy, non-muted guest, when those numbers grow exponentially, suddenly those noises completely disrupt your entire experience.

Before heading into your meeting, familiarize yourself with common features like muting and even removing guests. You might even consider muting everyone as the default with a polite announcement that you’ll unmute when it’s time for interaction or Q&A.

Also, if your meeting has entry and exit sounds, consider disabling them for larger meetings; otherwise, your meeting content may be drowned out by an endless series of “dings.”

2. Facilitate Mobile Meeters
When hosting a large event like a webinar or webcast, it’s important to offer multiple ways to join both the audio and web portions of your meeting, particularly if you’re trying to drive attendance or leads. In the age of mobile meeters and BYOD, your meeting guests will have their own technology preferences and you want to cater to them.

You’re far more likely to get your attendance numbers up if your virtual meeting tool provides mobile access, allowing people to join from their smartphone or tablet through an app or their device’s web browser. In addition, allowing for alternate audio connections such as VoIP offers even more freedom to your guests to join however they see fit.

3. Straightforward Invitations and Entry
Large meetings means large groups. Large groups mean that you, as the host, are outnumbered, and can’t possibly troubleshoot each and every technical problem your guests encounter when trying to get into your meeting.

Ensure that your meeting invitations are straightforward, easy to understand and include all the necessary information that your attendees need, regardless of how they’re joining the meeting. Any dial-in numbers or passcodes should be front and center, and your meeting URL should appear both in the body of the invite and the “location” field (if applicable).

Your virtual meeting should offer easy one-touch or one-click entry via the desktop browser, email invite or mobile application, and audio connections should be automatic through VoIP or dial-out. Otherwise, your meeting may be doomed to start late, or not at all.

Managing large meetings doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right planning, practices and tools, you can provide a seamless meeting experience for hundreds, even thousands of attendees.

To learn how to access these features and more in PGi’s products, visit the iMeet Community and GlobalMeet Community today.