Working with remote teams is a challenge even for the most savvy team leader. Having people from around the world working together can be both a blessing and a challenge. On one hand, you have access to a global workforce, which allows you to enroll the most suitable candidates. But on the other hand, there are lots of obstacles to overcome. In this article we are going to discuss about virtual meetings, one of the hurdles of working remotely, and offer some advice to help you get past it.
Best practices for a successful virtual meeting
Here are three of the most important things that you should always do in order to increase the efficacy of your virtual meetings.
1. Always have a digital agenda
Going into a meeting without an agenda dramatically decreases efficiency. Things can easily spin out of control and right into chaos. Staying on the subject and touching all the important points is very important, especially in a virtual meeting, where it is harder to control the discussion.
Therefore, you need to make sure that everybody is aware of the meeting’s purpose and the topics that need to be covered. Include presentation materials and links to all resources.
A couple of days before the meeting takes place, send the agenda to your team and store it in a location that is easily accessible for everyone.
The agenda must include details about the technical sides: how to join the meeting, what kind of device to use, which team communications app and where to get it etc.
Next, it is extremely important to list the speakers and make clear the time allocated to each of them. Though, it might be useful to leave enough extra-time for issues that might arise on the spot, as well as free discussion time, and Q & A.
2. Designate clear roles
As with any meeting, virtual meetings need clear roles in order to be successful. Assign roles way ahead of the meeting and make sure people are comfortable with the role they are going to carry.
Even if you are looking to flatten hierarchies in your team, as most millennial startups do nowadays, there should still be a monitor in charge with enforcing the agenda. The monitor should bring up the main discussion topics, track the time, and make sure every voice is being heard. The latter is extremely important in remote teams, as it prevents people from feeling left out. And what’s more, every opinion is important, boosting creativity and overall team performance.
Another important role in a virtual meeting is that of notetaker. The person in this role is in charge of writing down the decisions made during the meeting, and other issues that need to be remembered and discussed later.
3. Set protocols
First and foremost, you should have a backup plan that everyone is aware of. What happens if someone loses their internet connection or has other technical difficulties during the meeting? What happens if that person holds a key role in the meeting? Set up a contingency plan and let everyone know what to do if things go south. Go ahead and decide:
- how long is everyone going to wait
- whether the meeting can still go on or needs to be postponed
- what other lines of communication can be used, and so on.
Other useful protocols for a virtual meeting have to do with the discipline of communication. Keep in mind that even if you know most of the people you are working with, some of them might not know each other very well.
If you are having a voice call, ask people to identify themselves when speaking. If directing questions to specific people, these should always be called by name. Last but not least, a hand-rising protocol will help the monitor.
Things to avoid during a virtual meeting
Now that we have covered the Dos of virtual meetings, it is time to talk about some of the things you should avoid, in order to ensure the success of your meetings. Here are three of the most important Don’ts.
1. Don’t forget about timezones
When working with people from all around the world, it might be hard to find a good time for everyone to participate in a meeting. Setting a meeting at times that would make some people get out of bed in the middle of the night is inconsiderate and not very productive.
One way to avoid that is by asking everyone to mark in a calendar their available times for meetings – even if outside of the regular working hours. This will make it easier to find a time suitable for everyone.
However, if the time differences make it impossible for some people to be available at the same time, there are two options to be considered:
- Have different meetings – regional teams can meet to discuss the same topics at different times and then swap conclusions via written communication.
- Record the meeting – take a video capture of the entire meeting, so those who couldn’t make it can review and send in their opinions at a later time.
Keep in mind that working remotely is more about bringing people together than dividing them. Even if time difference is an issue, there are solutions to overcome the problem.
2. Avoid background noise
Poor audio quality is one of the worst enemies of a virtual meeting. When working remotely, you should do your best to use quality equipment – such as headsets with microphones that reduce background noise.
There is nothing more disturbing than hearing children yelling, dogs barking, or loud TV sounds while in a virtual meeting. Avoid this unpleasant experience by asking all participants to mute their microphones when they are not participating in the discussion.
Participants should also avoid busy places, such as coworking hubs or cafes. These are not only creating background noise, but can also be distracting for all people involved.
3. Don’t keep it all about work
While it is important to stay on track and follow the agenda, virtual meetings are the ideal way to help remote teams grow cohesion. Designate 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning and at the end of every meeting for personal discussions.
Start by asking each participant to say a few words about themselves. How they are feeling that day and whether they have any special mentions regarding the proposed agenda.
At the end of each meeting, ask everyone for feedback. Make sure every team member understood the discussion and their role in the plans or strategies agreed upon.
Having a remote team that works well together takes extra effort, that’s a fact! So keeping everyone happy and encouraging bonding should be some of your top priorities.
How are your virtual meetings?
What is your experience with virtual meetings? Tell us about the problems you encounter most often and how you overcome them in the comments section below. And don’t forget the funny moments that make the best out of any virtual meeting 🙂