How to Conduct a Stress-Free Virtual Meeting

5 tips for delivering effective online meetings

Running virtual meetings, presentations, or trainings can be super stressful. You must corral the attention of people hidden behind their screens, engage them, answer questions, solve technical problems… all while trying to get through your content. If it sounds like a lot for one person to manage… that’s because it is. Anything can go wrong when trying to juggle technology, interactive virtual tools, and… getting attendees to participate!

But don’t despair. There’s a surefire way to take the burden off yourself and be freed up to conduct a more seamless, confident presentation or training that lets your ideas shine. So what’s the secret? Enlist a producer, colleague, or essentially anyone that’s tech-savvy as your “co-pilotto assist you in the meeting.

Producers manage technical details… so you don’t have to

What exactly is a producer? A producer is a second person in a virtual meeting who runs all the behind-the-scenes tools, jumps in when there are technical glitches and, generally, helps manage the administrative details of the session. This provides instant relief for the meeting facilitator, much like a co-pilot would. The benefit? The primary presenter is able to focus solely on presenting, instructing, interacting with, and responding to the learning needs of participants.

Producers stay ahead of issues before they become disruptive

Imagine you’re running a virtual meeting with 25 people. One participant is having difficulty using the whiteboarding tool (despite the fact that you carefully explained and demonstrated how to use it). Does it make sense to completely halt the meeting? Probably not. You’d be at risk of frustrating people who will quickly begin to multitask… and good luck getting them back. Now imagine having a producer in the meeting that can immediately jump in and help the confused participant. They can tackle this one-on-one (via private chat) and ensure the facilitator stays on track with content and timing.

Now let’s address one of the most stressful, worst-case scenarios as a presenter:YOU lose your internet connection. Your frozen face is sitting there helplessly on the screen as the real you scrambles to get back online. The truth is, your participants will most likely log off if you can’t fix this quickly. But if you have a co-pilot to stand in for you, they can rescue you temporarily by opening up a relevant discussion to keep folks engaged or presenting on your behalf until you get back online (more on this below).

Producers encourage participation and liven up the meeting

Sometimes it’s not technical problems that bring things to a grinding halt—it’s the audience. There’s nothing worse than trying to encourage interaction from your virtual crowd and being met with *crickets*. You might start to think: is my content resonating, are they multitasking? Unresponsive audiences are unbearable, but they can happen to any presenter—even the most skilled.

There are three ways a producer can be a big help here. First, your producer can emcee the meeting, ushering things along and allowing you to concentrate purely on the content. Second, they can offer another active voice in the meeting and help encourage participation. Just one person modeling engaged behavior can really get the ball rolling. And finally—if they know your content well enough—they can actually co-present, allowing a more “talk show” style delivery. Having this second, trusted voice of authority in the meeting is hugely comforting. Not only can they help explain your ideas, they can even present on your behalf if you suddenly lose your connection. (It is not unheard of for both your presenter and backup computers to lose connection.)  

Producers supporting you like this will increase your confidence and audience engagement. And even better, it will ultimately influence how your presentation skills are perceived.

Increase your confidence when you unleash interactive tools

You probably know by now that interactive tools help you create a two-way dialogue, meet your audience’s needs, and have an overall more successful virtual meeting. However, unleashing interactive tools with a larger audience is risky if you can’t process their feedback all by yourself. Having a producer is the best solution because it allows you to design for larger audiences without the headache of managing everything on your own.

In addition to providing technical support, producers can help you launch and report out on poll responses, set up breakout sessions, manage Q&A, and moderate chat discussions so you don’t get flooded. Together, the two of you can eliminate unnecessary pauses to keep your presentation or training session flowing smoothly.

Producers can range from being a colleague to an outsourced production crew

There are countless ways a producer can assist you. Perhaps they join for only the first 20 minutes of the meeting to ensure participants successfully join audio and video. Or, you might want them to stay the entire time to help you post links, upload resources, monitor chat, queue up questions, etc. They can also help capture useful participant data—like chat logs, poll responses, attendance, etc.—which can be particularly important when you’re testing new content.

Producers are typically only needed for large audiences

While it never hurts to have backup, having a producer for small virtual groups may be unnecessary. The larger the audience, the more likely technical difficulties will occur. Not only that, but when you try to use interactive tools with large groups, the onslaught of audience feedback will likely overwhelm you. Producers provide you an indispensable safety net.

Our advice? Don’t take the chance

The time and productivity cost of meeting disruptions—which happen all the time—far outweigh the cost of using a producer. Having a “co-pilot” will help you avert these disruptions. What’s more, presenting with a team—rather than just one lone person—simply looks more professional, especially when conducting a training or formal presentation. Not to mention, it can be more fun, too!

And one final thing to consider… if you’re looking to grow your team, there’s no better way to train a new presenter than having them be your co-pilot. When one day they fly solo themselves, they will have greatly benefited from learning the session flow, content, common questions and problems, and most effective tools. Win-win!

So don’t risk it. Plan ahead and set up this simple yet critical component for your next large virtual meeting. That way, when those problems (inevitably) creep up, they can be handled in the background by your trusted partner while you make your content shine and your audience happy.

Virtual training that’s just as good as face-to-face

At TPC, our virtual trainings are delivered by a facilitator-producer team. In fact, our virtual delivery model (from instructional design all the way to seamless delivery) is so well-refined, survey feedback is just as positive as our onsite workshops. You read that right: participants find our virtual workshops just as engaging, informative, and valuable as our live classroom training—without having to leave their desks.

Ready to take the next step in your virtual meetings and trainings? Since 2004, our Virtual Presentation workshop and producer resources have armed teams at the world’s top brands with strategies and tools for creating a two-way dialogue online. Contact us to learn more.

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