Successfully lead large-scale virtual meetings during COVID-19

Written by By Adam Preset
Gartner, Inc.


With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing employees around the world to work remotely, executive leaders are no able to speak to employees in the same room at the same time for all-department or all-company meetings. Yet these large-scale events are essential for leaders to address the crisis at hand, communicate organizational changes and share their vision and strategy. Many organizations are turning to live video as a solution. 

Live video is the state of the art for executive leaders who want a more engaging and interactive way than audio conferencing to communicate with and hear feedback from far-flung teams in virtual meetings. However, companies vary widely in their ability to produce and use high-quality, live video assets in their communications.

Some leaders and teams are eager to deliver quality live video events, and their workers are able to join and interact in real-time. On the other hand, some more traditional organizations are still using massive audio conference bridges to keep people informed at scale. Most organizations are in the middle: they’d like to do more with live video, but they feel ill-equipped to meet audience expectations for engaging content, anywhere consumption and quality production.

To bridge the gap between desire and execution of large video-based meetings, leaders should take three key actions.


  1. Prepare engaging virtual meeting content

Large-scale events offer a rare opportunity to send a clear message, but only if leaders carefully hone the content for optimum engagement. On-screen leaders should prepare and practice their talk track so that it sounds polished, but not wooden. Leverage the same presentation techniques that keep in-person audiences engaged, like planned pauses, vocal emphasis and physical gestures. Use images, audio and video clips to complement and illustrate the ideas.

Leaders might be tempted to take a shortcut and instead simply narrate over slides, but the more static approach feels less personal and will promote less engagement. Well-prepared, live content encourages audience interaction and content contributions from the audience. Live video meetings can integrate tools to enable questions from the audience, such as live polls, real-time chat and live comments — all critical sources of audience interaction and content generation. 

The interaction should not end with the close of a live stream. Leaders should continue to participate in chat, through crowdsourcing and via social channels to hear what people care about after the video event ends.


  1. Identify accessible virtual meeting environments

In an ideal world, all team members would be able to attend video-based all-company meetings at the same time. That’s not always possible in widely dispersed organizations, or in departments such as customer support that require a portion of the workforce to be maintaining operations during the meeting. 

Ensure meetings are recorded and accessible on-demand so people in different work environments and time zones can watch when they’re available. Include audio transcripts if possible. Maximize distribution to as many platforms as possible, including desktops, mobile screens, and digital environments such as the company website, messaging applications on social media or in workflow applications. 


  1. Procure virtual meeting talent and technology solutions

Quality live video events require the right people and the right technology to execute. Simple events may need only an on-camera leader delivering content, whereas longer events with more segments may require a moderator to balance contributions, manage time, and ensure that questions and feedback are acknowledged. Off-camera teams also seed questions, solve off-screen technical problems and provide audience “service” to ensure the event runs smoothly. 

On the technology side, there are two options companies use most often to capture and deliver video for meetings: Meeting software that allows participants to join and watch a live-streamed presentation, and enterprise video content management platforms that support live and on-demand delivery for both internal and external audiences. Companies might also post nonconfidential videos to sharing platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, or work with a webcasting company when the goal is to deliver a consumer experience.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the right solution is likely the simplest. The middle of a crisis when people really need to hear from leaders is not the ideal time to figure out a new technology solution. However, take note of any technical challenges with your current meeting solutions technology to potentially revisit once the crisis has passed.

If you use a meeting solution for small meetings, check whether it can do large-scale ones as well. If you use a platform for training and marketing videos, see if it can do live video as well as on-demand. If you work with a unified communications vendor, service provider or system integrator already, they might have options to help you communicate at scale.

IT leaders can learn more about how to lead organizations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center, a collection of complimentary Gartner research and webinars to help organizations respond, manage, and prepare for the rapid spread and global impact of COVID-19.

Adam Preset is a Senior Director Analyst for Digital Workplace at Gartner. He researches and advises on topic areas including future of work; meeting solutions, technologies and practices; cloud office collaboration, email and on-premises enterprise groupware; workstream collaboration and instant messaging; live and on demand video for enterprise communication and training; and internal communications technologies to support workforce engagement.

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Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) delivers actionable, objective insight to executives and their teams. Our expert guidance and tools enable faster, smarter decisions and stronger performance on an organization’s mission critical priorities. To learn more, visit

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