17
The Future of Engaging Virtual Meetings

You now have the latest and best practices in virtual meetings. If you apply the ENGAGE method, you will be in the top 20% of all virtual meetings. You can be proud of mastering the current technology and best practices. Before now, face-to-face meetings always had the reputation for having the best engagement and most people preferred them to any form of virtual meeting. While they may still prefer them, most people must make new choices. When I say people, I mean that the entire planet is making the same choices now. For most, that choice is virtual.

This is one of the most exciting times in the history of virtual meetings. With everybody on virtual, the need for innovation is extremely high. By the time you read this, you will see more innovation in this industry than in the previous 20 years. As humans, one of our best traits is our adaptability. It's in our DNA. The saying “necessity is the mother of invention” could refer to virtual meetings; this is their time. I want to share with you my view on the future of engaging virtual meetings that can help prepare you for rapid change that is ahead. I want to help you get excited for the upcoming changes and help you find a way for you to lead the future. Here are my guiding principles for the future of virtual meetings.

Suddenly Everyone Is Interested

I predicted over 20 years ago that virtual meetings were going to be a big part of work. A partner and I built a company and attempted to sell training. It never sold. In March 2020, the coronavirus changed the entire world in just a few months and suddenly everyone is interested in virtual meetings.

Everyone around the world is having the same experience. Stay-at-home orders. Work from home. No travel. School from home. All of these factors mean that the entire population of Earth, currently at 7.8 billion, is interested in virtual meetings. This sheer demand means that the supply of virtual meeting tools is now very small, leading to new products and new innovations.

Be curious. Be interested in new platforms that come out. Join groups of like-minded people who will help keep you up to date. Watch the news for new companies with features that fix your current problems or enhance your company's capability. Do everything you can to be one of the most interested professionals/people; that's how you stay ahead.

Virtual Is Here Even If There Is a Cure

It's very possible that if a miracle cure for the coronavirus is found in the future, the world could return to its former state of traveling, eating out, and meeting in person. If this happened, it is possible that virtual will die or shrink again as face-to-face meetings regain in popularity.

There is significant research that even if a miracle cure is found, many people have seen the benefits of virtual and they are ready to make that a core part of their business.1

Snapshot of a textual representation that reads, benefits of online conferences.

Snapshot of an analysis report that depicts the spending in typical conferences.

Most of the conference resources used to go to the venue, food and beverage, and equipment. Now, virtual meeting planners can spend more on program design and speaker fees, meaning better education and networking.

Snapshot of a textual representation that reads, benefits of digital communication.

With the best virtual practices, attendees are finding equal or higher levels of engagement compared to in-person. We are humans; we are designed to connect. We want engagement. If we can find it in new ways, we will choose it. Imagine as a salesperson that you can do all of your sales meetings, sell as much or more than you did before, and save all the time and money on your trip.

With this research, I believe that virtual is here, even if there is a cure.

The Hard Stuff Is Easy, the Soft Stuff Is Hard

What does this quote mean? The hard stuff is technology such as networking, cameras, microphones, monitors, and more. The technology is now “easy,” meaning companies know how to iterate and innovate to provide more and more and more. The 2020 iPhone has 7 million times the storage and 100,000 times the processer power of the Apollo 11 computer that landed humans on the moon. Expect to see rapid innovations at lower and lower prices that will bring this technology to you.

The soft stuff is human challenges such as networking, collaborating, innovating, brainstorming, relationships, diversity, conflict resolution, teamwork, and leadership. These issues did not disappear with virtual meetings. In fact, many of these issues got magnified. Often, it created new issues that we didn't yet know about, such as virtual meeting etiquette. This soft stuff was hard in the face-to-face world. It's even harder in the virtual meeting world.

Look for significant innovations here. For instance, there are apps now that can track how much your attendees have participated and can detect automatically if an attendee is talking too much or too little. Video analysis of your virtual meetings will soon show patterns of when your attendees are efficient and when they are wasting time. Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon help with your meeting logistics, do away with chores like taking minutes, and can retrieve hidden business intelligence, which could be new opportunities to generate value and revenue. Look for technology to help with the soft stuff such as assisting and highlighting attendee behaviors that lead to the most business value.2

Think Cinematically

One advantage you have in virtual meetings is thinking cinematically. In face-to-face meetings, you think theatrically. That means that you are thinking about staging, lighting, where a person is located, how the meeting looks from all angles. In virtual meetings, you need to think cinematically because everything is created by cameras, angles, lighting, and how it presents on a two-dimensional screen. A good guideline is to think in “episodes.” Audiences aren't captivated by an hour-long stream of a single camera pointed at a person on a stage. Instead, plan in segments and create a dynamic experience by changing cameras, angles, and views.

When you think cinematically, you pay more attention to what's in the video frame. You can hide items like lighting out of the frame. That lighting is improving what's in the frame, even though attendees can't see it. Think about entries and exits into different parts of your meetings. Think about what you can do with mobile cameras. You can transport your attendees with the right cinematic equipment such as gimbals and other stabilizers and give them a travel experience from their desk that is easy and amazing to watch.

Snapshot of a textual representation that reads, by 2021, it is projected that video, including web conferencing, will account for over 80-percent of all internet traffic.

Thinking cinematically can help your virtual meetings be engaging by changing it up, using the best and unique angles, and bringing the power of a movie into your live meeting. Go to bit.ly/evmrethink to hear eight ways to rethink virtual events for the age of social distancing from Microsoft.

Virtual Is Going to Innovate Rapidly

In the simple economics of supply and demand, I see that there is a huge demand for virtual meetings and the supply is very limited in choices. Attendees can get work done, but now they are starting to ask for more. Companies are starting to respond and you should see rapid innovation for virtual meetings.

Here are current examples:

  • YoTribe.com attempts to solve networking by putting users in control. Attendees can move around and when they enter a circle of people, they join the conversation. This is a way to make networking more interactive and less structured than breakout rooms (Figure 17.1).
    Photo depicts Adrian Segar and John Chen meet up on YoTribe.

    Figure 17.1 Adrian Segar and John Chen meet up on YoTribe.

  • Remo.co creates more real and authentic social interaction by using virtual tables so you can see a preview of who is sitting there. The preview allows you to see what's happening and decide if you want to join the table. Many formats, such as speed networking and conversation cafes, can be used on Remo.co. They also have sponsorship opportunities available to pay for the meeting or generate extra revenue (Figure 17.2).
  • VirBELA.com builds immersive virtual worlds for events, learning, and work. This platform can build a world like a corporate campus that includes boardrooms, conference rooms, halls, and closed meeting rooms. You can walk or run to any location, but you can also teleport to save time. Once you sit down in a room, you can use your mouse to look around the room. This is the first platform that uses stereo sound well. If you walk past someone, you can hear them get louder and then quieter as well as sounding as if they were passing next to you. There are a lot of features, from projection walls to locking doors, that bring the face-to-face metaphors back to the virtual world.

When I wrote my first book, 50 Digital Team-Building Games, there was no dominant virtual platform. Zoom was just being created while Skype was starting to grow. Yotribe.com, Remo.co and VirBELA.com are three examples of new video platforms with potential viral growth. Any virtual platform could be the top platform in the future. Keep up and try new platforms to experience new features and decide which ones you like.

Photo depicts Remo.co allows attendees to choose who they want to talk to by using virtual tables.

Figure 17.2 Remo.co allows attendees to choose who they want to talk to by using virtual tables.

Photo depicts every person in a keynote is an attendee logged in on their computer.

Figure 17.3 Every person in this keynote is an attendee logged in on their computer.

The Theory of Bandwidth

The theory of bandwidth states that as you get more bandwidth, you can have a more realistic experience. Bandwidth is defined as the capacity of data transfer of an electronic communications system. If you have low bandwidth, you can only transfer a little bit of information. A text message of limited size like 140 characters can be sent with as little as 1,120 bits of bandwidth. Browsing a webpage takes on average one megabyte or 1,000,000 bits per page. Streaming audio like a phone call takes more bandwidth, such as 30 megabytes per hours or 240,000,000 bits per hour. Streaming video at higher resolutions (HD or 1080 p) uses 2,400,000,000 bits per hour.

As a virtual meeting uses more and more bandwidth, you can have an experience more like reality. Soon there will be a system so that multiple attendees can talk at the same time and be understood. Systems are using stereo and 3D sound to give the experience of space through hearing. Soon, you may be able to see a 3D image of every attendee. Haptics and tactile technologies may soon allow you to feel during virtual meetings. Maybe someone will innovate smell and/or taste to involve your other senses. You can communicate more information. You can get more work done if you take advantage of the extra information. Look for increases in bandwidth being provided. Many providers are offering gigabit or 1,000 MBps speed to residential houses. This is like having a high-speed superhighway that can carry a lot of cargo to your home. This will translate into more and more realistic virtual meetings that get closer and closer to real life.

Moving Closer to Reality

What you will see is virtual meetings becoming more engaging as they move closer to reality. Watch for augmented reality and virtual reality to redefine meetings for more and more attendees in the future.

Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. This means that the attendee has a device that sees their reality and then augments that reality with computer-generated images. Your desk could look like it has nothing on it, but when you turn on augmented reality, you could see screens, data, files, folders, videos, and any other kind of data. Your cell phone today can do augmented reality.

One of the top apps is Ikea Place. This retailer now allows you to see your home and put any piece of their furniture in your home so you can see what it looks like and if it fits. This app uses the camera on the back of the phone to show the room on the front screen of the phone, augmented by items that Ikea puts there.

I believe augmented reality can help us in day-to-day interactions. Imagine that as you are going to a meeting, you can look up an attendee on the internet and see their work history or recent articles by or about them. As you meet your attendee, perhaps she says she is an expert knitter. You don't know anything about knitting, but your augmented reality shows you the latest trends on Ravelry, a knitting community site. This can help you create rapport and connection with your attendee.

Virtual reality is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. By wearing equipment that changes what you see and what you feel, you can create an environment around you, even though you're just standing or sitting in a chair. You can now quickly change or customize your virtual meeting. One minute, you could be meeting in an executive's boardroom. The next minute, you could be on a beach in Hawaii. Right now, your brain knows it's not as good as reality. You are missing the smells of salt and the ocean. You are missing the feeling of sand on your toes. As the technology continues to improve, this experience will get closer and closer to reality. Solutions such as multidirectional treadmills or other technologies may mean that you can have an experience that is very close to real.

While we can't predict the future, we can hope that technology, such as the holodeck from Star Trek, becomes reality. The holodeck could re-create any environment out of history and time. You could interact with everything in the environment as if it was real. You could have a virtual meeting in virtually any location and any time. When you were done, you could ask the computer to turn it off and exit through the door. If the technology becomes good enough to convince our bodies and our brains that we are there, our virtual meetings can become extraordinarily engaging, allowing us to do things we may not have the chance to do in the real world.

I want you to end Engaging Virtual Meetings on a high note. I hope that you are excited for the future of virtual meetings, as I am. I would love to hear that you got to the end of this book. I believe the future of engaging virtual meetings is connection. Great meetings connect people. I would love to connect with you. I want to hear what you think is the future of Engaging Virtual Meetings. Text (702) 879-8133 and let me know what you think the future of engaging virtual meetings is. I look forward to texting you back and meeting you in the virtual or the real world.

Do you want the latest advice on engaging virtual meetings?

You now have the basics that will help your virtual meetings based on over 35 years of experience.

Engaging virtual meetings change—rapidly. They are based on technology that will change constantly after the publication of this book. I personally invite you to join the community of other Engaging Virtual Meetings enthusiasts by joining the free Engaging Virtual Meeting Facebook group.

facebook.com/groups/EngagingVirtualMeetings

If you have any questions not covered in the book or you need a current answer to your virtual meeting challenge, ask it there and you will have access to a community of people who want to help you, including myself.

In addition, you can experience this book in action at one of our Engaging Virtual Meetings trainings. Register now at:

http://geoteaming.com/engagingvirtualmeetings

Notes

  1. 1   https://www.business2community.com/infographics/the-future-of-virtual-conferences-infographic-02308143
  2. 2   https://www.cisco.com/c/en_uk/solutions/small-business/tech-connection/workforce-productivity/how-ai-will-revolutionise-meetings.html
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