Remote meetings: They’re convenient, you don’t have to leave your couch, and you can even be wearing pajama pants. Of course, they also get co-workers updated on each other’s progress, provide a platform for troubleshooting, and allow teams to plan for the future. But they can be a huge waste of time if not done properly. If people come unprepared, if the meeting lacks direction or the lack of physical proximity invites distractions, then the costs may outweigh the benefits. The secret to running productive, effective, engaging meetings? Keep reading.
We all know communication is key, but making it happen requires intentional planning. Find a day and time that works for your team and stick to it, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, so that employees can plan around the meetings and prepare for them.
Next, find a frequency that works for your unique remote team. If they’re too often then team members won’t have enough info to bring to the table; not frequent enough, and they’ll take forever and leave you more overwhelmed. Find the right balance where you’re getting the info you need without taking away from work time.
Too much time gets wasted in meetings on topics that are only relevant to one or two people. Instead, many companies have found success with the ‘Progress, Plan, Problems’ model. The idea is for each employee to write down what they’re working on, what their plan for the next day/week/month is, and any problems they’ve encountered—before the meeting starts. The idea is that things are conveyed better and more concisely when they’re written down than when they’re explained verbally. The task of reading the briefs can be assigned before the meeting or at the start of it. Either way, updates will be presented more efficiently.
Another benefit to this method is that updates will be documented for future reference. Whether something goes wrong and you need to check in, or something goes right and congratulations are in order, you can easily search for who was in charge of a specific task. Before assigning new projects you can refer back to the brief to see what team members are currently working on or to check who has extra time and needs more tasks delegated.
Nothing wastes time like not having a plan. Write down each topic that needs to be covered beforehand. That way you’ll have a roadmap of where to go and won’t forget anything. You can rank topics by priority in case time starts to run out. Be sure to prioritize topics that concern most or all members of the meeting, and save individualized ones for one-on-one chats. Better yet, frame topics as questions so that team members know not just what but why.
Just stating points to be discussed during the meeting can leave team members unclear about what is expected of them, or frustrated that their opinion isn’t being taken into consideration. By clearly delineating what is simply an update, what employees should provide feedback on, and when opinions should be weighed takes the guesswork out of it.
If you’re wondering how to make virtual meetings more interactive, the secret is in the platforms you use. In order to effectively manage remotely, you’ll have to carefully choose tools that make up for the distance between you and your employees. Always choose video above audio, as it creates a more meaningful connection and increases the likelihood of members staying on task. Beyond that, look for tools with a track record of good quality video, audio and maintaining the connection, plus features like screen sharing. Here are a few widely-suggested tools:
Appear.in: This app allows you to create a permanent video chat room with a custom link. That way anytime you want to hop on a call you only need to visit the link. The room will always be waiting for you.
Google Hangouts: Hailed for the way it combines multiple platforms, Google Hangouts has features ranging from video chat, instant messenger, screen sharing and photo sharing. Plus it’s already part of Google drive, so set up is simple.
Join.me: Another great platform for video calls and screen sharing. The premium version even allows you to hold meetings with up to 250 members and record them for later use.
GotoMeeting: This platform allows video calls in high definition, so you won’t waste time waiting for your screen to unfreeze. Plus you can launch meetings from platforms like email, not just the app. Screen sharing is available too.
Zoom: This is the one-stop shop for phone calls, video calls, document sharing, audio files, you name it—Zoom’s got it.
This is kind of a silly one, but try to avoid moving around or doing crazy gestures over video chat. Movement lowers video quality and can create delays, so just save it for in-person meetings.
This should go without saying, but plan around the time zones that remote employees are working in. An easy way to remember and keep track is with Google’s clock-sharing feature. Just download the plugin and share like you would a Google doc. That way you can compare right on your screen before you schedule a meeting.
Too often large meetings are dominated by a few while others stay quiet. By going around the table and giving everyone a chance to chime in, ask questions or solicit help, you make sure concerns are addressed by importance, not who’s the loudest in the room.