05/17/2012 04:09 pm ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

Tips for Having Great Virtual Meetings

New technology and the reality of working in global organizations means we are replacing traditional in-person meetings with travel-free, technology-enabled, face-to-face collaboration that can occur at anytime, with anyone, anywhere in the world.

The virtual workplace has many advantages, but it also introduces new challenges. We work with people we've never met before, and we cannot bond in the same way we do when we are sitting across the table from them.

The three most important ingredients of a successful virtual meeting are trust, communication and ready access to information. Here are a few tips to help you succeed:

  • Before the meeting, make sure attendees have all the preparation materials they will need and the time to review them.
  • Begin with a quick warm-up. For example, start the meeting by asking remote attendees to describe what's happening in their country, town or office.
  • During "blended" meetings, where some attendees are gathering in person and others are participating virtually, address remote attendees first and then offer the opportunity to speak to in-person attendees.
  • Identify in-person attendees. In-room speakers -- whether presenting or making a comment -- should introduce themselves so that remote attendees know who is speaking.
  • Ask remote attendees to be vocal. Emphasize that it is their responsibility to let in-person people know if they cannot hear or follow the discussion.
  • Don't assume everyone is comfortable with the virtual collaboration technology. Communicate and publish the location and guidelines for the tools you're using.
  • Rotate meeting times. Ensure that each time zone has a meeting scheduled during normal business hours.
  • Solicit participation. Regularly ask remote attendees if they have comments and encourage participants to post a message.
  • Assign a meeting monitor. Keep an eye out for questions, IMs or chat postings and interjections from remote attendees.
  • If your virtual team includes customers, partners, suppliers or vendors, ensure the security of your documents and corporate information.
  • Avoid colloquialisms, acronyms and corporate-speak if you have nonnative speakers.

Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese are the authors of 'The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization's True Potential'.

Copyright © 2012 Cisco Systems, Inc.

Excerpted from The Collaboration Imperative by Ron Ricci and Carl Wiese. Published by Cisco Systems.