Today’s workplace has changed drastically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have had to adapt to new ways of working and engaging with their customers, with remote meetings quickly going from a rare occasion, to a must. 

Hosting a successful remote meeting doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience, and can ensure your business thrives in the new normal.

Gartner predicts that by 2024, in-person meetings will account for just 25 percent of enterprise meetings, a drop from 60 percent prior to COVID-19.

Preparation is key

While physical meetings allow you to get attendees up to speed during those early morning conversations at the coffee machine, a well-thought-out agenda is a must in the virtual space. Your meeting agenda should be short and easily digestible, yet detailed. It should help attendees understand what to expect and prepare accordingly. Inserting an opening question surrounding the topic of discussion on the agenda can promote engagement, while specific titles will stimulate interest. Sharing a carefully crafted agenda before the meeting can also ensure the meeting is attended by the right audience.

Top tip: Generate audience participation by leaving some time in your agenda for feedback and a summary of the discussion.

Once your agenda is ready and your audience has been invited, it’s time to set up your device for the meeting.

Your emails should not be visible and audio notifications muted; if you’re planning on sharing your screen and opening your browser, remember to hide your bookmarks bar – your latest Amazon purchase can become quite the distraction for your audience!

It’s also important to update your presence on your instant messaging platform, so that your colleagues don’t disturb you during this time.

Top tip: Test your audio and video with a colleague half an hour before the virtual meeting to avoid unnecessary delays due to technical issues.

No one likes awkward silences, especially at the start of a remote meeting. While small talk may work with a small group of people, ice breakers are a great way to fill the silence while waiting for everyone to join the call.  A simple riddle or a short quiz set a positive tone for the call and help you pass the time in the few minutes before the beginning of your meeting.

Top tip: Don’t shy away from informal ice breakers – emoji reactions and images are perfect to get some initial engagement from your audience.

Following the ice breaker, remind your audience of the meetings’ goals and expectations. Understanding what people want to achieve, or explaining how they are expected to behave, is vital. Being open and honest at the beginning will make for a more productive meeting.

From making sure you have the right video tools, to setting out rules and expectations, preparation is key to hosting a successful remote meeting.

The winning formula for remote demos

Begin with clarity and don’t underestimate setting the scene – explain exactly what the audience is looking at. While you may be familiar with the product, it may be the first time for your audience member. It’s important to take a few minutes to explain what the screen is showing and to highlight the key features you will be discussing during the demo.

To ensure interest and engagement, you should avoid a long monologue and divide your demo in smaller sections. Begin by focusing on a specific feature, how to use it and what it does. Then move on to its impact – how it is going to help your customer?

Finally, engage and interact with your audience by asking questions related to the feature you just presented.

A remote environment shouldn’t mean your product demo will be any less engaging or useful to your audience.

Engaging the audience

Continuous engagement throughout an hour-long remote meeting is very hard to achieve. Repeating the winning cycle of feature, impact and engagement throughout the demo is a great way to ensure your audience has continuous stimuli and doesn’t lose interest along the way. Including a case study to show similar customers in similar situations will also make sure your audience can visualise themselves using the solution, and understand its positive impacts.

Although asking engaging questions can be tricky, it’s key to keep the meeting lively and your audience alert. Questions such as “Would this help with your problem?”, “How would this impact your company?”, or simply “Is this relevant?”, are perfect to gauge people’s interest in the discussion and adjust your presentation accordingly.

Finally, you should avoid asking open-ended questions which can result in “dead air”. How many times have you asked an audience if anyone had any questions and all you got back was an awkward silence? Asking targeted questions to a specific member of the audience can solve this issue and help stimulate the discussion. However, it’s important to set the audience member up for success  – note down their name and job title once they enter the discussion, or have a list of attendees on hand, so that you can call them by name and make them feel at ease; then set up a question with a thorough explanation which will avoid catching them off guard and will help them formulate their answer.

While in a physical setting it’s easier to feel and feed off of the audience’s energy, the lack of audience interaction is one of the main issues presented by a virtual environment.

A confident close and follow-ups

Thanks to the versatile and flexible aspect of remote meetings, the sales process has shortened drastically, which means a decisive closure and a detailed plan for its follow up could make or break the outcome of your meeting.

At the end of the call, you should make sure the mutual end goal set up at the beginning was achieved. Reminding the audience of the end goal once more and briefly explaining how this was achieved during the call will help them understand how to move forward from the remote meeting.

After the meeting, don’t lose momentum. Decide who is going to own each follow up action, including emails, managing expectations for the next steps, and arranging a second meeting.