Common sense tells you that moving from onsite programming to virtual meetings is going to save you and your company a lot of time and money, all while reducing your carbon footprint.
So how do you ensure the success of your proposed virtual meeting initiative?
1) Make a Business Case
Go beyond belief to solid proof. How do you make the business case for your idea to launch a virtual meeting initiative?
Collect information on a sample of past onsite programs. How many attended? What were the travel costs? How long did it take to plan the meeting? To what amount did the venue and associated costs equate? How much travel time did the attendees have to endure, on average, to participate in the program? What was the average cost of travel? What was the carbon footprint of the program?
Take those same attendance numbers, and create a retroactive metrics report using virtual meeting costs of money, planning and travel time, and the associated carbon footprint. Compare the onsite program to the virtual program in all areas, and demonstrate the 80-90% reduction in cost and time. Be sure to demonstrate the carbon savings associated with the virtual programming. The TerraPass carbon footprint calculator is a useful tool.
This takes your proposition from a subjective idea to evidence that a high-quality virtual meeting initiative is a solid choice for your organization. Numbers don’t lie; the math will back your suspicions that this was a great idea all along. (But you already knew that.)
2) Caveat Emptor
Remember the Brady Bunch episode about ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware), where Greg learns the valuable lesson about making sure you know what’s under the hood before buying? Let’s all learn from Greg’s lesson. You need to research your options, ensuring that you’re truly getting what you’re paying for.
The big reason that there is resistance to moving to programming heavily reliant on virtual meetings is that there are so many flawed virtual meetings taking place. A few reasons that this happens:
- Self-Service Meetings: Organizations look for the lowest bid for virtual programming, which ends up coming from ‘self-service’ providers (i.e., they license you the technology, and then you run it.) Clients who have taken part in virtual meetings in the past may not recognize all the work required to execute a polished, seamless, technically-sound, effective virtual meeting. For a small, internal virtual discussion, this option can work well. For externally-facing meetings, this ends up being a death knell for virtual programming. It’s simply not executed well.
- Limited Service Meetings: Organizations opt for companies claiming to be ‘full-service virtual meeting’ providers, but the ‘service’ is limited to only technical support of the platform. There is no planning and discussion of program goals and the programs are mostly didactic presentations that are death by static PowerPoint. As the client introducing a virtual meeting initiative, you’re unaware of all the moving parts and details which need attending to execute a virtual program that will meet your expectations. Attending to those details is a full-time job. Don’t you already have one of those?
- Unreliable Technology: You’ve got a full-service provider who takes care of crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s for your program to be executed. The day of the program comes, and…
…their server crashes. …the custom virtual meeting app won’t launch. …users need special downloads and are firewalled from doing so. The list of technical reasons that negatively impact some virtual meetings is endless.No matter how great the service, if the technology doesn’t work, your program will be added to the discard pile of ‘failed virtual program initiatives.’ Ensuring that you have reliable technology and 24/7 provider support for it are critical to the success of your initiative.
3) Show, Don’t Tell
You’ve found the perfect provider, the platform is amazing, and you’re ready to launch this initiative globally! You send out an email to a few colleagues inviting them to start using your newly-approved preferred provider… and you hear nothing but crickets. Why isn’t everyone at your organization jumping on this great opportunity?
Seasoned industry vets have seen virtual initiatives come and go, and may be resistant to moving from onsite programs to virtual. How do you win support for your great innovations? Show them, don’t just tell them, about the provider and the initiative. Some ways to do this:
- Internal orientation webinars
- Vendor open houses
- Presentations at study team and brand team monthly, quarterly, and/or annual meetings
- Communications and demonstration programs coordinated and facilitated by internal client stakeholders
- Case studies of successfully executed programs
It’s easier said than done, but support of your innovative idea is built with persistence. This brings us to our next point.
4) Lead by Example
Telling everyone you’ve got a solution and showing them the solution are great ways to start generating interest. If you really want to get buy-in, you need to be the champion of your idea by demonstrating its effectiveness.
Plan programs, execute them, and audit the results of the program through evaluation of pre-determined KPIs. Share your results with colleagues through emails, case studies, and reporting of the program parameters. Going beyond believing and saying, “This is a great idea,” to, “Watch me prove how great this idea is,” goes a long way in getting others to embrace change.
5) Don’t Give Up
A theme you’ve surely noted from the points above, is that most introductions of new and innovative approaches aren’t automatically embraced by people on an enterprise-wide, or even team-wide level. It takes proof, persistence, and perennial effort to on-board and maintain a cost-saving, time-saving, and carbon-saving virtual meeting initiative.
Feeling discouraged with the lack of enthusiasm? Don’t lose heart; ask your provider for assistance with change management, and ideas on promoting and integrating virtual meetings into the culture of your organization. A solid full-service provider will have experts in how to introduce, execute, and grow a groundswell of support for your virtual meeting endeavor.