Planning to get away from the office no longer means getting away from work. No one knows that better than you. A recent survey of 500 small business owners conducted by Cisco WebEx indicated that almost half plan to work remotely for at least two weeks while on vacation this summer. 

Since you can’t afford to be away from the office for too long, blending work and vacation time is essential. As a result, wherever you go these days access to the internet is a must. Online, you can take advantage of new tools such as cloud-based storage solutions to access company information. Web collaboration and conferencing tools and a headset also make it easy to meet virtually when an in-person meeting isn’t possible or essential.

Seven tips for effective virtual meetings

The meeting facilitators and training experts caution that it’s a mistake to think that influencing people online is the same as meeting to face to face. People tend to respond differently when they are interacting virtually

To make sure that your virtual meetings with employees, customers or partners are successful here are some tips to follow:

  • Advance preparation: Provide attendees with necessary background materials well enough in advance of the meeting so they have sufficient time to review them.
  • Test technology: Make sure the technology is working properly and that you know how to use all the features and functions.
  • Ground rules: Ensure there is no background noise. Turn off smart phones and tablets and close out email. Decide if you want to employ the mute button, which has its pros and cons. If someone is working in a noisy environment, mute is useful; on the other hand, keeping participants off mute may encourage more flow in the conversation.
  •  Identify participants: Everyone should have an opportunity to identify themselves, but don’t stop there. Give everyone a chance to say something interesting about where they are – the weather for example – to help break the ice.
  • Keep things moving:  Jump in when necessary to keep the agenda on track and ensure that you cover what you set out to discuss.  Don’t let one person dominate the call.
  •  Solicit participation: Ensure that everyone is engaged. Regularly ask attendees if they have comments and encourage participants to post messages.
  • Short and to the point: Being on the phone and staring at a computer screen for too long can be taxing. Ideally, a virtual meeting should be about an hour. If you can’t accomplish everything in that time frame, have a series of meetings.

Are you planning to take your business with you this summer on your vacation? What conferencing tools will you be using?