Advancements in visual technology have advanced significantly in recent years, to the point where real-time communications with high-quality audio and visual is the standard across most video conferencing solutions. That means individuals and businesses alike can connect with people remotely – anywhere, anytime. The technology is so ubiquitous and streamlined that you can now connect via your desktop, tablet, laptop and even your smartphone. In our guide to VMRs, we explore virtual meeting rooms as a powerful business tool, and dive into the VMR products that deliver the best service.
What is a Virtual Meeting Room (VMR)?
In simple terms, a virtual meeting room (VMR) is a cloud-based application that creates a digital space where attendees can collaborate remotely. Depending on the software being used, users can set up meetings in the VMR via a web browser or through the meeting host’s local or remote server. Think of this virtual meeting space as the digital alternative for meeting in a physical location.
Every VMR session has its own virtual address – called a uniform resource identifier (URI) – and by joining the VMR meeting through that link you can connect with other attendees with video and audio. Joining by your desktop or through the mobile app, all you need is a working microphone and webcam, although video isn’t essential for the meeting. You can also call into the meeting on your phone, which obviously only allows for audio communications.
Once you are in a session, you will be able to ‘see’ all the other people in the virtual meeting, including the meeting organiser who
might be attributed the title of ‘host,' 'presenter,' or 'organiser.' Depending on the software used, the person who is speaking is usually shown in the main portion of your screen.
You can mute yourself at any time, and switch off video and audio as needed. You can also leave the session without impacting the meeting, though that is not always the case if you are the host. With some software, the VMR session will end when the host leaves.
5 Tips for Creating a Great Virtual Meeting Room
You understand the technology and you have an idea about the VMR solutions you want to use to improve your business. The next challenge is figuring out what it takes to run a great virtual meeting. Obviously, you want to keep participants engaged and informed over the course of the meeting, but you also need to ensure the technology is user-friendly and can overcome any potential hiccups. Here are some top tips for making your virtual business meetings better:
1. Test, test, test!
There’s nothing worse than putting all that time and effort into setting up and sharing an event if it’s delayed or – worse – doesn’t even work. Make sure you’re familiar with the VMR software beforehand by doing a test-run meeting. Also outline how to get into the meeting for all attendees – particularly those who may not be particularly tech-savvy.
2. Leverage the power of video
You can make it feel like everyone is in the room at the same time by enabling video in your VMR. This will create a more personal environment and bring a sense of ‘realness’ to the meeting while keeping participants engaged.
3. Make sure people can dial-in
While video is always best, sometimes attendees will be on-the-move or in an area with poor internet connection. In these cases, a VMR video conference will not be possible for them. The solution is using a program that allows people to dial into the session. They will be sent a specific number to call and, usually, a unique password to enter the right VMR conference.
4. Keep it succinct
Of course it will depend on the type of meeting you’re putting on, but shorter is almost always better. Lengthy presentations that drag on will lead to disengagement, and perhaps even participants leaving the session altogether. You can use visual aids (e.g. charts, polls, screen-sharing, etc.) to support your meeting in order to keep everyone on the same page and invested in the meeting.
5. Get feedback in real-time
Are people enjoying your VMR meetings? Are they finding the video and audio quality sufficient? Could you see greater engagement by using visual aids or sharing your screen more often? The power of virtual meeting rooms is that you can get feedback to these questions in real-time – no matter where participants are around the world.
Best VMR Solutions for Your Business
The reasons for investing in VMR solutions are vast. Maybe your business needs to become more digital-first to keep up with the competition. Perhaps the effects of COVID-19 forced you to reassess your business model and adopt new technologies to streamline your offering.
Whatever the case, a modern workspace transformation should be taken holistically. That means not just implementing a more flexible and mobile design for your office, but also integrating smarter technologies that are both highly secure and highly collaborative.
In support of your change management strategy, here are some VMR services that are easy to adopt for any business:
- Microsoft Teams Rooms: Microsoft Teams is already well-regarded as one of the best collaboration platforms on the market, and this continues for virtual meeting rooms thanks to Microsoft Teams Rooms & Voice. Whether it’s a catch-up chat, staff meeting or an important call with a client, Microsoft Teams provides fantastic audio, video and chat functionality – plus lots of extras. Features include scheduling assistance, note-taking, desktop sharing, uploading files, chat messaging and the ability to host sessions with up to 10,000 attendees.
- Skype for Business: Going beyond the simplicity and effectiveness of the traditional Skype platform, Skype for Business has the added benefits of security, compliance and total control. Connectivity and collaboration are the name of the game here, providing the most streamlined solution for communication and sharing ideas with co-workers, stakeholders and customers. Keep in mind however, that as a premier Skype for Business integrator, we only recommend transitioning to Skype for Business as part of a journey to Microsoft Teams voice, from a service like Lync, or OCS (S4B predecessors). If you are moving from a PABX solution (phones on desks), we recommend Microsoft Teams as our solution of choice.
- Office 365: Office 365 is an all-in-one suite of business solutions that cater to your organisation’s every need. From typical Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, to the collaborative SharePoint Online and Exchange Online for your email needs, day-to-day business has never been easier to manage. Even better, both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams are part of the Office 365 suite of products, meaning you won’t have to look to third-party solutions to enjoy high-quality virtual meeting rooms.
- Other options: Not every organisation is the same, and sometimes, whilst standardisation is imperative for user adoption, we also need to take into account how you will use your virtual meeting rooms. Will you be only using them with internal collaborators? Will you need to engage with external stakeholders? What systems are they on? Will some be in actual physical meeting rooms? How will those integrate with your virtual meeting room or video conferencing system? These questions are all very important to get answers in order for us to partner with you to ensure you have the best user experience possible with your VMR.
VMR Training and Support Services
For businesses that aren’t already adept at VMR software, or even those who may need a quick VMR training refresher, we have support available to help you get the most out of your virtual meeting rooms.
As a Gold-Certified Microsoft Partner, IComm delivers best-in-class support for all your hardware and software needs. In addition to prioritised technical support as part of your Microsoft Premier Support package, IComm ensures:
- Service delivery backed by Microsoft.
- Fully customised solutions to meet your needs.
- The ability for IComm to open and manage support tickets for you – so we deal with issues until they're resolved.
- Training and change management programs designed to suit your business, and ensure the highest adoption rate for your investment.
As well as full managed services for all of your unified communications needs, including video conferencing and virtual meeting rooms, we have a full suite of change management, training, and adoption and enablement programs available to suit any size organisation, and any platform. Our APMG-certified Change Management Practicitioners have been doing this day in, day out, to ensure that organisations are able to fully utilise their technology investment, including reports on usage and proving your technology ROI to boards and executives.
No matter where you are in your journey: researching, exploring, planning, deployment, or post-deployment, our trainers can assist your users to be more effective and efficient in the use of your technology.
VMR (Virtual Meeting Rooms) FAQ
There are lots of different options when it comes to picking the right software for your VMR video conference sessions. If you only need to make a quick call with very few attendees then a free service like Skype (consumer) or Zoom should suffice. If, however, virtual meetings are the norm for your business and you need to stay in contact with remote parties, a business-dedicated solution like Microsoft Teams Rooms or Skype for Business and will offer you large (or even uncapped) limits on attendee numbers, extended length of conference call, plus the best video and audio quality available.
If you’re on the move but still need to keep in touch with your co-workers, clients or key stakeholders, you need a virtual meeting app that lives on your smartphone or tablet. It’s easy to download business-ready VMR services like Microsoft Teams Rooms and Skype for Business directly to your device so you’re always ready for your next virtual meeting.
There are lots of different VMR services available online, with major benefits for businesses in particular. Some options are free but come with significant caveats (e.g. Zoom’s 40-minute limit on free meetings), whereas paid services like the premium version of Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business allow for numerous attendees in a high-quality video and audio environment. Alternatively, if you have the resources and IT capability, you may decide to build a custom VMR solution for your business.
For individual users, there are plenty of free options when it comes to virtual meeting software. However, businesses that need to ensure high-quality audio and video, unlimited session times, and high participant allowances should choose a dedicated VMR solution for businesses like Microsoft Teams.
Almost every VMR solution has a free version built-in, although it won’t offer you all the services you may need for your business. From Microsoft Teams to Skype to Zoom, and others, you can host a virtual meeting room session through the respective app or desktop program. Depending on the software you’re using, you will also be able to send out invites via email.
Like any video call you would have with friends and family via your desktop or phone, a virtual conference is simply the act of interacting with other participants remotely via virtual meeting room (or VMR) software. Someone needs to set up the virtual conference – referred to as the ‘host’ – and send out invites to attendees, who will be able to click on a unique link to enter the conference. Attendees can join with video and/or audio muted and leave whenever they wish. When the host leaves the virtual conference, the session ends.
For users: it’s very easy to join a VMR meeting. If you plan on hosting the session, simply download the relevant software to your device or create a session through the program’s website (non-download option). You can do this on your smartphone, desktop, laptop or tablet. If joining a VMR meeting space, you’ll just need to click on the invite link from your chosen device.
For organisations setting up actual rooms to connect to virtual meeting rooms for Hybrid Working: if you don't already have it in place, investment in infrastructure is highly recommended. We recommend network assessments, high-quality VC and AV peripherals (cameras, microphones, speakers, and screens), a NUC (mini-computer to run it all), and a console (to allow easy access to one-click join and control of the meeting).
Most VMR conference calls automatically switch on your microphone as soon as you join a session – although you will usually be asked to give permission for the VMR software to activate your microphone and camera. Once you are in the session, simply start talking! If you are in a large conference call, you can reduce noise pollution by keeping yourself muted whenever you aren’t speaking.
Once you decide on the VMR program that best suits your needs, simply download the appropriate software, install it on your system and create an account. While the steps will differ according to each program, generally once you are in the app you’ll be able to click on a button to create a meeting, or click on an invite link to join a call created by a different host.
For more information about leveraging the power of virtual meeting rooms, contact IComm on 1300 881 641.
You can also contact the Cloud Collective on +61 2 8966 1496 or email us at email@example.com. We are a proud Microsoft Gold Partner who understands the value of interconnectedness through virtual meeting rooms.