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Published on: November 25, 2021 |
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A large percentage of the business world has gone fully or partially remote. And when your organization is scattered across a variety of locations, that means that when you need to schedule a meeting, it’s going to need to be virtual.
Remote meetings can be just as productive and engaging as in-person—but only when they’re managed effectively.
Following some of the virtual meeting best practices outlined here helps you make the most out of the virtual time you have connecting with your team.
Virtual meeting best practices for teams and leaders
No matter what kind of meeting you’re running, here’s how you can optimize your remote meetings. First, we’ll share some remote meeting best practices that apply to all types of virtual connections. Then, we’ll get into the different types of virtual meetings and some best practices for each of those.
Encourage people to turn their cameras on…Video calls are more engaging when you can see people’s faces. So turn your camera on and encourage others to do the same.
…and microphones off. The rule of thumb for group calls should be microphones off unless someone is speaking, to avoid background noise.
Have a note-taker and timekeeper. Ask people to volunteer to help keep the meeting on track and keep meeting notes of what’s discussed.
Keep a manageable timeframe. Setting manageable time limits (and sticking to them) helps avoid the dreaded zoom fatigue we’ve all come to know.
Take a few minutes to break the ice. Start your call off with a structured meeting check-in to get a sense of how everyone is coming into the discussion, and keep up those personal connections that can take a hit on distributed teams.
Let people know ahead if you’re recording. Not only is it a courteous gesture, but if you have people working in different time zones, it can help them know what they have to attend live and what they can catch up on later.
Schedule breaks in your agenda. Especially for longer meetings, it’s important for everyone to take breaks and walk away from their screen. This is especially important for things like brainstorming or strategy sessions, anything that will go over an hour.
Connect with your remote team: Want to better understand your dispersed team’s reality? Try sending them an engagement survey. You can use a tool like Officevibe’s Pulse Surveys to track overall team sentiments, and send a custom survey to ask questions on a specific topic, like remote work.
Best practices for virtual status updates
Keep them short. It doesn’t take long to share status updates, 15-20 minutes is often more than enough. You might even make it a Slack thread, to avoid breaking peoples’ flow of work.
Give everyone the opportunity to speak. Divide your time equally so everyone has the opportunity to share what they’re working on and raise any blockers they’re facing.
Make it recurring. Regular status updates are a must for keeping projects moving forward, especially for dispersed teams. Depending on the project, you might have these daily or weekly.
Best practices for remote staff meetings
Clarify your points. Collect your key information ahead of time and structure it clearly so you can effectively deliver your message. Have a slide deck that highlights these key points so people can keep up easily.
Make time for questions. Your staff are likely to have questions about the updates being presented at these meetings. Offer a Q&A platform where people can submit questions anonymously (we like to use slido), and save time at the end to address them.
Record the meeting and share a recap. Sharing a written recap as well as a full recording is helpful both for people who attend live to retain the information, but also for those who are out that day or otherwise unable to attend.
Reinforce your company culture. Especially for remote employees, those things that tie everyone together like the company culture, vision and mission can start to feel distant. Remind everyone what you’re all working toward to help reinforce a sense of culture for your remote teams.
Best practices for virtual one-on-ones
Make a real connection. Virtual one-on-one meetings are a great moment to connect personally with people on your team. Make time to catch up and chat about each other’s weekend or hobbies outside of work.
Cover the right topics. The time managers and employees have individually in one-on-one meetings is important for covering topics that aren’t meant for a group setting, like performance, career goals, or anything personal.
Set and track goals. Setting goals for employee development helps people feel like they’re progressing toward something, even when working from home. Set smaller action items toward those goals that you can follow up on in future meetings, too.
Best practices for remote retrospective meetings
Address remote work challenges. This is the time to break down blockers together and improve your work methods, so don’t be shy to discuss your remote work challenges during your retrospective meetings.
Make time for recognition. Especially when you’re talking about what’s gone well the last two weeks, it’s a good moment to give kudos. Always reserve a time to give each other recognition for work well done and embodying team values.
Use the right software. Having a space to document what you’re discussing and map out your thoughts makes for a more productive meeting. Try a retrospective software like Neatro, or a simple virtual whiteboard.
How to run effective remote team meetings: 5 steps to success
Like any type of meeting, there’s a process for running remote team meetings effectively. And if you’re the person leading a meeting, you want to understand that process and make the best use of everyone’s time. Follow these steps as you plan and carry out your next virtual team sync.
1. Choose a platform
If your company has preferred virtual meeting tools, you’ll want to host the meeting on one of those platforms. But if you have flexibility to choose your own remote meeting software, you might want to test out some options and make a decision ahead of time.
2. Set and send out meeting details
Once you’ve locked in your video conferencing platform, it’s time to set the details of your meeting. Choose a date, time, and duration, and then send out a calendar invitation to the meeting attendees involved. You can also ask attendees to prepare anything needed or review documentation ahead of time.
Pro tip: Include any key talking points, data, videos, graphics, or presentations you’d like people to review ahead of time. Encouraging preparation can help your team make better use of the time you book together.
3. Draft a team meeting agenda
For any meeting to be successful—virtual or not—it needs to have structure. As the meeting leader, you’re responsible for drafting a meeting agenda. Outline how you’ll divide your time together, the purpose of the meeting, and the output you want from it. You can share this ahead of time or when everyone joins the video call.
4. Check your tech, and encourage attendees to do the same
Virtual calls are notorious for causing tech issues for remote employees. You may have trouble connecting your camera to the virtual meeting software, or your computer’s audio will refuse to cooperate.
Especially if you’re trying a new software or you have a new video or audio setup, do a test run to check that everything is working properly. Encourage other attendees to do the same, so you don’t waste precious time together troubleshooting tech issues.
5. Host the meeting.
The final step is to carry out your meeting! Having followed steps 1-4, you and your team should be well-equipped to make the most of your time together.
Pro tip: Send out a ‘return on time invested’ (ROTI) survey after your meeting to get feedback from your team. Ask how they felt about the agenda, talking points, and output. They might have suggestions for how you can optimize your process next time.
What are the challenges of leading a remote team?
The time your team has together, whether in-person or online, is crucial to keeping everyone aligned, engaged, and productive. Because meetings (both one-on-ones and team meetings) play such a vital role in a team’s healthy functioning, they’re a great place to focus your attention.
Getting a grasp of some of the challenges your remote team is facing helps you make adjustments to your meeting calendar that will have the greatest impact.
Common remote team challenges:
Maintaining regular communication within the team and across departments.
Staying aligned on the common team priorities and objectives.
Dealing with technical difficulties and adjusting to new tools and procedures.
Making up for nonverbal cues that come with face-to-face communication.
Staying connected on a personal level and keeping up workplace friendships.
Keep these in mind as you strive to optimize your virtual meeting practices, so you can address the challenges you’re facing together through making better use of your shared time.
How to lead better virtual meetings for better remote teamwork
When you really understand the challenges your remote or dispersed team is facing in their day-to-day, you can use that to improve your remote meetings. Improved communications make a world of difference for the better functioning of virtual teams, and meetings are a key part of those communication practices.
Whether you’re a manager, team member, or company leader, you can take the initiative to lead better virtual meetings for your team. Start applying some of the best practices outlined in this article and refer to the 5 steps for leading better remote meetings as needed. When you make the most of every meeting time, team success follows.