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As the modern workforce becomes more distributed, virtual team meetings are getting more and more popular.
Similar to face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings require pre-planning and organization to run successfully.
The following tips will help make any virtual meeting more interactive, productive, and effective.
There’s nothing worse than a meeting with no clear focus. A little bit of planning goes a long way when you’re trying to get your team together.
Here are the crucial planning steps to consider before running a remote meeting:
The agenda should assign roles like facilitator, timekeeper, and note-taker, as well as outline the topics that will be discussed, and the time needed to discuss them. Make sure to share the agenda with participants at least a day ahead of the meeting so that they can prepare.
“Have a goal”, says Greg Abel, owner of Tailfin Marketing Communications.
Make sure to consider time zones when looking for a suitable time for your meeting.
If you’re using Google Calendar, you can take advantage of the Suggested times feature to see when several of your team members are all available. This can save you from having to email back and forth to find a time that works for everyone.
Most two-person meetings can be done over the phone. However, if you’re meeting with three or more people, you’ll want to use a dedicated video conferencing tool.
Here are a few options:
Skype - A popular communication tool that’s available for free.
Google Hangouts Meet - A great video conferencing option for teams using the Google ecosystem.
Zoom - A video conferencing app that offers both free and paid options.
GoToMeeting - A good option for large companies hosting large meetings.
Slack - A free chat tool with user-friendly voice and video calling options.
The decision to host the meeting with video comes with a few pros and cons.
Video meetings can make it easier to communicate since they allow participants to observe each other’s body language, which helps with both understanding and turn-taking.
However, video meetings can result in more technical issues and can cause more stress to participants compared to audio-only meetings.
In most cases, you should behave the same as you would in-person during a virtual team meeting. When starting meetings, remember to, well, be human. Greet your team members, ask them about their day, and act naturally.
Your team will feel more relaxed and engaged if you start your meetings by talking about non-work related topics first.
As the host of the meeting, you’ll want to sign into the meeting on time and be ready to welcome others as they connect.
Create an agenda in advance and set objectives for the meeting. Invite only those who need to be there so everyone else can have dedicated work hours.
Decide which platform you’ll use and if video or just audio is required. As a participant, make sure to tidy up around you and dress as if the meeting was in-person.
It’s always a good idea to test your camera, headphones, and microphone before your first virtual meeting. If you’re leading a remote meeting from a corporate office, make sure the projector or any other tool you’re using works.
Bring the group together by sharing your screen while presenting. This keeps everyone on the same page and allows them to see exactly what you’re talking about.
You have an agenda, but you also have to follow it. Check in throughout the meeting to make sure you’re meeting the objectives and accomplishing what you set out to do.
You can even track time to a specific task to ensure that you’re staying on target. Hubstaff lets you create projects and tasks within those projects, so you can see exactly how much time you’ve spent in the meeting and how close you are to getting everything done.
Open-ended questions can lead to many people talking at once, so make sure to promote turn-taking.
Additionally, give your team members time to think. While it’s human nature to speak to fill moments of silence, people may be reluctant to talk in a remote meeting because they don’t want to interrupt someone.
Let your team know you want them to participate and that you may allow for silence so they can formulate their responses.
When asking questions, be direct by calling out people by name. This prevents confusion around who should respond.
Different people handle this differently, so as a meeting facilitator it’s important to look out for people who are uncomfortable butting in, and specifically solicit their opinions. - Andrew Berkowitz, TeamSnap
Remember that noise is one of the biggest challenges of remote meetings. To reduce noise, you’ll want to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. This will make it easier for everyone to hear you.
Additionally, turn off all your notifications so there aren’t distracting alerts or pop-ups during screen shares or talk time. Give your full attention to the speaker and the meeting itself.
Consider time zones and duration when booking so if you run over, it’s not extending late into the evening.
Remember to assign action items before your time is up.
Finally, recognize that, due to video chat latency, interruptions and silent time are inevitable.
While remote meetings might seem difficult to manage, they’re not. A little planning is all you need to ensure a successful and productive remote meeting.
Using tools like Hubstaff Tasks, you can plan your meetings and take the guesswork out of who is supposed to be doing what.
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