How will we meet post lockdown – are virtual meetings here to stay?

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and meet. But are virtual meetings here to stay? For trade associations, there are pros and cons to meeting virtually.

When the lockdown began, here at The Association Management Company we quickly started using virtual meetings and webinars to keep in touch with the leadership teams of our clients and members.

Over the past few months, we have held video calls, webinars, presentations and even an annual general meeting virtually. We’ve also had Covid-19-secure risk assessments of premises carried out remotely for members of one client.

But how? Well, we use familiar software such as Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams, but there is a range of providers out there. We like this handy summary of video conferencing for non-profits by technology experts TechSoup.

With simple access, recording facilities, break-out rooms, registration, host control and swapping, screen sharing and plenty of other functions, these virtual meeting and conferencing platforms have, albeit it through necessity, really come of age in 2020.

According to BBC News, Zoom saw use of its software increase 30-fold in April 2020 alone and is forecasting a doubling of revenue in 2020 to £1.4bn.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages of holding virtual meetings?

Pros of virtual meetings

  • Inexpensive technology
  • Can host delegates from anywhere in the world
  • No travel time or costs to attend the meeting
  • Meetings tend to be shorter and more efficient
  • Encourages attendance
  • Flexibility
  • Easy to share and present content
  • Can be recorded for those who cannot attend or for future reference

Cons of virtual meetings

  • Possible lack of interaction
  • Not able to read body language
  • Do not get the personal interaction and connectivity
  • Reliant on internet speed and stability
  • More difficult to chair than in-person meetings
  • Possible security issues with virtual meeting platforms

For one of our clients, the leadership team is made-up of 20 volunteers who are based right across the UK – from Dundee to Torquay, Manchester to Portsmouth.

Under normal circumstances, this group would meet in the Midlands four times per year. If all of the volunteers travelled by car to the meeting the distance travelled to and from the venue would be almost 5,400 miles, taking a total of 84 hours. Over the course of one year, almost the circumference of the earth would have been covered and approximately nine working weeks would be lost.

Clearly, the benefits to meeting virtually are obvious, but it is still important to meet physically. Therefore, this association has decided to hold physical meetings twice per year and virtual meeting twice per year.

The Association Management Company has considerable experience in planning and hosting virtual meetings and events. If your association needs help we would be happy to arrange a Zoom meeting to discuss how we can help you and your association. Call us on 01379 788032 or email info@theamc.org.uk.