[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I have to admit, I was very unhappy at the beginning of the pandemic. Not because I was stuck at home watching cat videos on TikTok, but because I thought our strategy practice could go to hell. After all, I am paid to run meetings with large groups of people in confined spaces.

But what I’ve learned over the last few months is that there really isn’t much you can do in person that you can’t do virtually. In fact, people are doing all kinds of things online that they shouldn’t be doing at all.

There are some things you will never do as well in a virtual environment; there’s a certain texture to being in a room with the people that you’re going to battle with. Yet the virtual environment does provide some opportunities:

Include more people

The virtual environment allows you to include layers of management that you might not otherwise. As a result of the pandemic, companies have quickly migrated to cross-functional teams to solve problems. You can hold online meetings at different hours to accommodate a global audience, and for shorter periods of time. The days of every single meeting being an hour long are dead. Working groups can tackle key strategy problems like market analysis, SWOT and technology utilization.

Use interactive tools

There are fun things you can do in a virtual setting that would be difficult in person. In addition to breakout groups, you can use polls to engage with and entertain your audience, and chat for references. It’s also easier to display multiple screens in a virtual format.

Be more agile

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about virtual meetings, it’s that they have to be much shorter than in-person meetings. Our own meetings, which tend to run two full days or more, need to be managed in bite-sized chunks. As a rule, never hold online meetings for more than four hours. Three is even better. Schedule frequent breaks to keep your audience alert.

In an online session, people are more likely to get straight to the point!

Utilize collaboration software

Today’s collaboration suites provide the opportunity to manage projects and documents in parallel, and in real time. In some cases, this may actually be more productive than huddling around the projector in a conference room.

Celebrate unique workspaces

While we’ve seen enough tacky backgrounds and bad lighting to last a lifetime, there is something to be said for being able to celebrate various workspaces and getting to know your team as people. You can plan exercises around having your participants talk about their workspace or home country.

Save money on travel and conference space

Running meetings virtually is far less expensive and taxing from a travel standpoint. There’s the added benefit of not having to eat rubbery chicken, or sleep in unfamiliar beds in Peoria or Des Moines. Like they say in the Viking Cruise ads– you can spend less time getting there, and more time being there.

Keep your team safe 

Holding a meeting online also sends an important message that you are putting the safety of your team first. Virtual meetings are the ultimate health precaution, and better for the environment.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]