Connecting with Customers Virtually

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In research prepared for The Hilton Family, Richard Avery, PhD, found that 77 percent of people see offsite meetings as a necessity and not a luxury, and that 85 percent of people see in-person meetings as essential to breakthrough thinking. When its not practical or affordable to meet clients face to face, virtualization technology can facilitate that in-person meeting.

Benefits of Making a Virtual Connection

During a face-to-face meeting, all parties can observe one anothers facial expressions, demeanor and tone, as AiccOnline.org explains. Sometimes when trying to convey complicated ideas in an email, your client perceive an angry tone that you didnt intend and decide to seek another service provider. In a face to face meeting, he would have been able to see that youre calculating risks as opposed to venting, and remain your satisfied client.

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Additional benefits of meeting face-to-face include:

Ease in persuading some members of the team to adopt a different approach,
Ability to ensure that all parties interact in real time,
Faster facilitation of deadline-driven meetings.

Tools You Need for Running Virtual Meetings

Whether you need a virtual technology for allowing telecommuting employees to remotely attend meetings or to connect clients across the globe, ease of use is paramount. If your IT guy needs to spend half an hour fussing with the system every time you want to host a virtual meeting, youll quickly go back to conference calls.

To ensure a successful meeting, you need to amplify the sound and visually connect. If you plan on one-on-one meetings, the webcam built into your computer should suffice. For smaller group meetings, look for a compact standalone webcam that can scan the room. PCWorld recommends the Brother NW-1000 or the Logitech Conference Cam. While there are hosted videoconferencing platforms, including GoToMeeting, WebEx and Elluminate, low-cost tools like Skype also work well. With these tools, strongly consider whether you need a screen-share option and how many employees youll need to license under the product. If your customers are even a little tech-savvy, you might find Google Hangouts provide all the functionality you need.

If you plan to participate in webinars, phone meetings and conference calls in addition to video conferences, all parties will also need a dedicated headset that offers a built-in microphone and supports VoIPthe protocol used by many videoconferencing solutions.

As you explore virtualization options, look for a technology that is user friendly, affordable, and flexible enough to operate in a range of settings. For example, if you generally present deliverables using slides, a videoconferencing system that allows for monitor sharing may be your best bet. If you often present on-the-go, then something portable, low-weight, and easy to set up is key.

Use programs and software that are versatile with multiple systems and platforms. For example, important information such as finances can be tracked by Intuit accounting software available from anywhere. Trusted and versatile software can keep virtual meeting running smoothly. You dont want to be stuck in a presentation and have your software not work.

For any virtualization technology, slow internet speed can limit the connection and make it extremely challenging for all parties to participate. Latency could cause one speakers words to be delivered with several seconds of lag time, which could frustrate the group and complicate decision-making. Verizon recommends FiOS coverage for companies that need reliable high-speed internet.

If youre using the technology to communicate with telecommuting employees, mandate that they have reliable high-speed internet as well. Without the proper technology on all sides, your virtual connection will stall.

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