Most people would argue that there’s no substitute to meeting face to face, and for good reason. Communication is about more than words — tone and body language are key, and this can often get lost outside of face-to-face conversations. However, it’s not always possible or practical to be physically present for every discussion, whether due to restrictions on travel (thanks to Covid-19 or otherwise) or for reasons of cost or convenience.
At Remedica - a sister company of The Corpus, both part of AS&K Group Limited - we have planned and run countless successful medical meetings, both physical and virtual, and we can tell you that virtual meetings — done right — are a great solution.
Don’t leave success to chance
If a face-to-face meeting is changed into a virtual meeting in a rush, the chances are it won’t be as successful as it could be. Virtual doesn’t have to mean second best though. In fact, a well planned and executed virtual meeting can provide advantages over a physical meeting, which we will explore here.
1. Engagement is key.
If you’ve attended a webcast, you know what it’s like to be talked at, and how difficult it can be to maintain concentration. Attending a meeting remotely doesn’t give the same sense of inclusion as sitting in a room with other people, so it’s critical to focus on engaging virtual meeting participants. How? Talk to them. Involve them. Right from the start, encourage them to use whatever tools are available to make their presence known. The ideal virtual meeting will involve a small, intimate group that everyone feels part of, ideally with everyone using their webcam — being able to include the visual element of communication is a huge advantage. If it’s not possible, encourage comments via text, annotation tools, polls or whatever else is available.
2. Make it an experience.
Don’t just think about the information that is being directed at your participants, think about their experience from the moment they enter the meeting to the moment they leave. Design the meeting with engagement at its heart. You can’t influence the distractions in participants’ local environments that might be competing for their attention, but you can design a virtual meeting so good that they won’t want to pay attention to anything else.
3. Get the timing right.
Face-to-face meetings can last several hours or days, but that’s generally possible because the participants have travelled and their time is already committed. Given that engagement is everything, you need to make your virtual meeting as short as possible to avoid disengagement. It’s no coincidence that sessions at physical meetings are rarely longer than 2.5 hours — ideally nor will your virtual meeting be. And it’s important to avoid long periods without participant interaction, which means thinking about how to deliver content in smaller chunks with frequent audience involvement.
4. Focus on what’s important.
Make sure the time allocated to the meeting is focused on making the most of the fact the participants are together. If it’s important to deliver information, consider doing that before the virtual meeting (via pre-reading, videos etc.) so that the meeting itself is all about the interaction between attendees.
5. Use a facilitator or moderator.
Since it’s so important to engage participants right from the beginning, it’s vital to make it someone’s job to do just that. Time should be dedicated to explaining how participants can interact via the available tools. Minimising the barriers to interaction will increase engagement, and in turn the value of the meeting.
6. Choose the right digital platform.
Design a great virtual meeting first, then find the platform that complements it. There are a lot of options, and while most offer a standard set of tools, there are key factors to consider when making a decision: number of participants supported, number of hosts and presenters supported, number of microphones/webcams supported, the audio and video quality, the devices supported, whether installation of files is required, the available interactivity tools, and whether technical support and meeting facilitation are offered.
One such option is offered by our partners at The Corpus — they have designed and built a bespoke platform for small, highly engaging medical meetings, offering simple access via browser across all devices with no installation required. Key features of the platform include two-way audio and video for full group discussion, chat functionality, instant or pre-/post-meeting polling, screenshare, breakout rooms, different screen layouts optimised for presentations and discussion, full support in designing and running virtual meetings, as well as live online technical support both for set up and during the meeting.
If you want to learn more about The Corpus platform or how Remedica can help you to run a successful virtual medical meeting — whether you’re looking to take a face-to-face meeting and deliver online, or want to design a virtual meeting from the ground up — you can reach us on +44 (0)20 7428 2903 or using the contact form below.