On-site vs. Virtual Meetings

Meetings are a necessity for businesses and organizations that need to relay information, gather ideas and move missions forward. When travel costs and time limitations are critical, many groups consider whether to meet on-site or virtually via teleconferencing or video conferencing. At the University of Maine Hutchinson Center, groups often opt to take a “blended” approach, using on-site technology to include remote participants.

Here are some factors to consider when you’re planning your next meeting, retreat, or conference…

On-site meetings

On-site meetings at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, Maine allow participants to network and engage. Side conversations, social opportunities and shared meals contribute to team building. Face-to-face meetings encourage participants to focus on tasks with fewer distractions, and allow presenters and attendees to assess the level of engagement and read subtle body language signals that might not be apparent in other modes. The shared experience also can lead to higher levels of trust among team members.

However, face-to-face meetings may be prohibitive for some participants because of costs, scheduling and time constraints. Coordinating a meeting to accommodate everyone’s availability can be a major effort. Also challenging: finding the time to travel to and from a meeting, inclement weather/driving conditions, and navigating an ongoing pandemic.

Check out our current COVID-19 policies here.

Did you know that we offer facilitation training through our professional development program? It’s true! We offer two facilitation trainings: Building Your Virtual Facilitation Skills and Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills. Learn more about our professional development programs here.

Virtual meetings

Virtual meetings can include teleconferencing and videoconferencing. Teleconferencing can be a convenient and low-cost option when a small group of people needs the same information simultaneously. That can be more challenging with larger groups or if there are difficulties hearing each participant. Lack of visual cues can impair communication if extra care is not taken to ensure everyone is given an opportunity to speak and can be heard.

Videoconferencing is becoming a preferred method of meeting because of its efficiency and effectiveness. The Hutchinson Center has technology to facilitate video meetings, including Zoom. Participants can see each other to exchange of information and ideas, and the presenter can respond more efficiently to questions from the group. In addition to reduced travel time and expense, companies and organizations can achieve better meeting attendance and contribute to improved employee work-life balance. Recordings of meetings make them available for those unable to attend and for training purposes.

Scheduling a videoconference meeting is convenient, but it requires the right equipment and planning to be successful.

“It is critical to test equipment and software from both locations a day or two ahead of an important meeting,” says Hutchinson Center coordinator of technology Sam Overlock. “This way you can focus on your meeting and not your technology.”

This style of meeting, although a visual solution, doesn’t always address the isolation of remote attendees or create the same bonding experience as on-site meetings. An additional significant challenge for organizations may be the initial startup expenses for effective and dependable equipment. The Hutchinson Center can offer both access to state-of-the-art videoconferencing equipment and the “real person” technology support needed for a stress-free remote meeting.

Blended meetings

Initial meetings via videoconferencing followed by on-site meetings can effectively achieve goals in a meaningful way. Blended meetings allow people unable to attend a live event to participate remotely, including a coveted speaker encountering last-minute travel delays. In addition, people by nature build stronger bonds by working with others, which is why combining these participation options may be the best for your group in the long run.

However, even blended meetings come with some caveats. For very large groups, one-way communication works very well, while bidirectional communication can be a bit more challenging. For instance, a presenter can easily address a room of 200 people via a remote connection but may have challenges seeing all the faces in the room or hearing all the questions. But for groups of up to 30 people, a properly configured room can make everyone, whether on-site or online, feel like they are all in the same space.

Accessibility

We’re happy to work with your team to ensure that all meeting attendees are able to participate fully, whether a meeting is in-person, virtual, or blended. Email um.fhc.cs@maine.edu, call 207.338.8002 or stop by 80 Belmont Ave. in Belfast.

Conference Services at the UMaine Hutchinson Center

We offer affordable and comfortable meeting rooms, an auditorium and a large conference center with up-to-date audiovisual equipment that can accommodate on-site, virtual or blended meetings. Our conference service and IT team offer live support and take care of the details so you can focus on your meeting.

Learn more about our spaces, services and technology here.

 

 

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To inquire about event space, click here. We’ll then follow up with you to discuss how we can help you achieve a successful meeting.