Managing your remote staff can be a challenge, especially when it comes to communicating with the team. Here are some simple and easy-to-follow tips for effective meetings that you can apply to your next scheduled conference with your remote staff.
Compromise on meeting schedules
One of the first tips for effective meetings with your remote staff is to compromise on meeting schedules. With a remote staff spread across different time zones, you will have to manage teams with working different hours from you. It can be a struggle to find a common meeting time, but it is essential for you to set a time where everyone is available to meet.
To get everyone on the same page, ask for their respective schedules and note the best time for a meeting.
Essentially, it's best to schedule meetings in advance and come to an agreement with you and your remote team about when it is best to hold a meeting based on everyone's schedules.
Set the agenda early
For productive team meetings, always plan your agenda ahead. Here are some key guidelines to remember as you create your meeting agenda:
- Focus on one main topic. Sticking to one main topic throughout the meeting will help people to focus all their mental resources on how they can contribute in relation to the meeting's agenda. On the other hand, covering too many topics may overwhelm your team, and worse, confuse them as to what has to be accomplished by the end of the meeting.
- Include your expectations and goals for the meeting. This also helps you and your remote team to stick to the subject at hand.
- Only include the participants who are relevant to the meeting's agenda, or adjust the agenda itself by adding a secondary topic―this is often done to save time.
Though it is important to stick to the agenda to be discussed throughout the meeting, this doesn't necessarily imply that you should be stringent with the agenda.
This also relates to other tips for effective meetings, that will be touched on later in this article.
Choose the right tools
There are plenty of technologies that make virtual meetings easier, more engaging, and collaborative―the question is which one of these tools would be more effective and efficient for you and your remote team.
There is a lot to consider when deciding which tools to use in meetings with your remote staff. To help you out, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What type of meeting will you have?
- How many people are participating?
- Do you need to see everyone's reaction during the meeting?
- Do you need everyone to watch a presentation or a demo in real-time?
- Do you need to share screens, photos or documents during the meeting?
That said, research says that communication through body language is important. According to a 1967 study by Mehrabian et al, 55% of communication is through body language, 38% is through the tone of voice, and only 7% is through the actual words spoken.
Communicating with your remote team and seeing them face to face is a challenge. This is why it can be very helpful to utilise technologies which enable you to hold video calls with your remote team. Here are some popular tools with video call features:
- Google+ Hangouts
The fourth tip for better meetings is to always check the tools you and your remote team will use. This includes the internet connection, web cameras, microphones, speakers, and the software or app to use (e.g. Skype, Google Duo, WhatsApp).
It's advisable to always double-check in advance if the tools to be used are working well so as to avoid any technical failures that may jeopardise the scheduled meeting or hinder it in any way. Conduct test calls fifteen or thirty minutes prior to the actual meeting time with all the people involved.
Share the meeting materials beforehand
If you are presenting a powerpoint or other forms of visual materials that will be discussed in the meeting, it's imperative to share it with all the participants beforehand. It's best to send the materials a day before or a few hours prior to the scheduled time to ensure that everyone has time to review the materials. There are also those that might need to download the necessary software to read the materials you shared.
Stay on track
Staying on track aligns with one of the previous tips for effective meetings, which is to set an agenda. One of the many ways to stay on track throughout the meeting are as follows:
- As much as possible, follow the agenda that was already shared amongst you and your remote staff.
- Assign roles, such as a facilitator, a time-keeper and scribe, to some of the meeting attendees.
- When someone starts to ramble on, politely cut in and steer the meeting back on track.
Always start and end on time
Similar to the tip, stay on track, starting and ending on time aligns with following the meeting's agenda.
This is one of the tips that is very simple yet expresses a lot about how you value and respect the time of your remote staff. That said, as much as possible, stick with the scheduled time from start to finish.
Be mindful of simple meeting etiquettes
Though there are different rules for every group conducting their meetings, there are basic etiquette practices that everyone has to follow to ensure a smooth online meeting experience. They are as follows:
- Introduce everyone during the meeting―this is usually done at the very beginning of meeting your remote staff.
- Give everyone a chance to contribute.
- Don't interrupt other people when they are presenting or talking―avoid talking over them as well and simply wait for your turn to speak.
- Don't stare at or use your phone while other people are presenting.
- Don't work on other tasks within the duration of the meeting.
Put your phone and other gadgets on silent.
Keeping the team engaged
Every aspect of planning a meeting is important, but these are all ineffective if the team isn't engaged. That said, keeping the team engaged is one of the important tips for effective meetings with your remote staff. Here are a few meeting tips and tricks to keep the entire team present.
First: have time for casual conversation with your remote staff. A few minutes of a friendly exchange amongst your team can help in building a good rapport and ultimately keeps the team engaged when the conversation during the meeting jumps from casual to business.
Second: encourage them to participate in the discussion. Asking open-ended questions throughout the meeting or asking specific questions aimed at certain people ensures your remote team are engaged and are paying close attention to the discussion.
Online meeting follow-ups
And lastly, in order to have an effective meeting, everyone in your remote team must have a clear objective afterwards. The following are the things which every member needs to know:
- What are the next steps and the deliverables?
- Who is responsible for the following items or tasks?
- When is the deliverable due?
- When will be the next meeting?
When dealing with your remote staff, don't forget to check in with them and ask for their feedback regarding the meeting and how well it went. These can be done by either conducting a survey afterwards or having a one-on-one conversation with each member of your remote team.
Hearing their opinions and feedback is a big help and gives you ideas on how to further improve how you and your remote staff conduct your meetings in the future.
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