While there is something to be said for a face-to-face meeting, you can get just as much or more done at a virtual meeting, especially if you use some of the new tools that let you collaborate across the web. Virtual meetings have several benefits: you can hold them on an ad hoc basis without leaving your desk, and you don’t incur the time and expense of traveling to an in-person meeting.
You can easily “meet” your clients virtually, either by phone or by video. The phone is effortless – everyone knows how to use a phone. Video conferencing, too, has come a long way and is easier than ever before. If you’ve never used Skype you are in for a treat.
First of all, it’s free – our favorite price. Second of all, it’s easy to set up. You just type in www.skype.com, create a free account and download a simple piece of software that automatically installs on your computer. The hardest part, if you want to call it that, is hooking up a web cam (less than $50 at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or Target) to your computer (unless you have a MacBook or one of the latest Windows-based laptops, in which case it is built-in). These days it is almost plug and play.
Once you have all of that set up, you open Skype, test out your video and audio, and you’re ready to make your first connection. Of course, if you have kids away from home, you’ve probably already got this set up. If not, you’ll need to know the Skype “name” of the person you’re going to contact, set a time for the video connection, and then it’s simply a matter of clicking on the name and “make a video call.” Best of all, did we mention it’s FREE!
Or consider using GoToMeeting (www.gotomeeting.com). This service allows you to show the contents of your computer screen to from one to twenty other people. Here is a challenge to you: At least once a week during a phone call consider saying to someone, “hey, why don’t we just take a bit of time right now fleshing this out.” You can send them a link via e-mail, which they click on to open a browser window and it displays what is on your screen. They instantly see everything you type, and you can give control of the keyboard and mouse to them if they want to type something.
We also find GoToMeeting is great for virtual brainstorming sessions. You can write a document or create an outline much more quickly when everyone can simultaneously view and comment on it as the draft evolves. On numerous occasions we have concluded a phone call with a decent draft or outline of a document that normally would have taken many e-mails and redrafts over days or weeks to create.
WebEx (www.webex.com) and Acrobat Connect (www.adobe.com/acrobatconnect) are other widely used virtual meeting products. Pricing for the basic versions of these products is extremely reasonable at around $50 per month. If you avoid just one in-person meeting a month you are more than paying for them. Most of these products share common features, including instant messaging, free teleconferencing through a central number that meeting attendees can use (they pay long distance charges). Many let you share work with both PC and Mac users, and some will transmit video as well.
Either way, by holding virtual meetings you will be making maximum use of yours and your client’s time.