Whether your office went remote due to the pandemic or you've been managing a distributed team since before it was cool, you likely know that running remote meetings offers some excellent benefits and poses some unique challenges. Have you been feeling like your remote meetings have been a bit lackluster? If so, stick with us while we explore fifteen essential tips to run better virtual meetings.
Whether your office went remote due to the pandemic or you've been managing a distributed team since before it was cool, you likely know that running remote meetings offers some excellent benefits and poses some unique challenges.
Considering that many experts predict that work from home is here to stay, it's worth it to master the art of remote meetings.
Differences in time zones, technical issues, and a lack of focus and engagement can plague your virtual team meetings if you aren't careful. Luckily, many of the biggest obstacles presented by remote meetings can be easily fixed with a little planning ahead and organization.
Have you been feeling like your remote meetings have been a bit lackluster? If so, stick with us while we explore fifteen essential tips to run better virtual meetings.
When you lead a remote team, it's easy to get a little meeting-happy. After all, everyone is spread out over the globe, and it is a good idea to be communicative to make sure projects are moving along swiftly.
However, there are many ways you can check in with your team without calling a full-on meeting. Whether through email, text, a short one-on-one video call, or using one of the countless project management tools available for remote teams, you might find that a meeting simply isn't the most efficient or productive use of time.
This is particularly important with remote teams since it can be hard to schedule a meeting time that falls within the workday for everyone involved. Plus, when your team is constantly required to show up for meetings where very little seems to get accomplished, you'll notice their engagement starts to lag. Save meetings for when you really need them, and you'll find that your team is much more likely to bring all they've got to the table.
Ok, so you've decided that you really do need to hold a remote meeting. There are a lot of good reasons to create an agenda ahead of time, including helping to make sure everyone stays on task during the meeting and ensuring that everyone is accountable for showing up prepared.
It's also a good idea to share your agenda with everyone that will be invited to the meeting before you send out your invitations. This also allows your team to give you feedback on the plan or add new items ahead of time.
Getting into a good flow is an essential step for running an effective meeting. This can be difficult enough for in-person meetings, particularly when your team is remote. You can expect that every individual showing up to your video call is coming from an entirely unique place– dealing with a different time of day, a different part of the world, and a different headspace.
Having some icebreakers ready at hand can really help get everyone on the same page quickly. Icebreakers can range from quick questions to full-on games, and depending on the purpose of your meeting and your specific team, you might choose to lean towards one end of the spectrum rather than the other.
You might choose to give everyone an opportunity to share how they're feeling today, to say where they're joining from, or do a simple emoji check-in. Other ideas include asking people about the highlight of their month, what they're grateful for, or asking a random question to get people's juices flowing. For more inspiration, check out this list of fifty team-building questions.
For a more involved meeting, you could play an icebreaker game like hosting a trivia game or challenging each teammate to show up with a creative personal background. Other classic options include Never Have I Ever or Two Truths and a Lie. If you're looking for a full-scale, ultimate icebreaker, consider setting up an online escape room experience.
Since you're already so on top of the ball that you've shared your agenda ahead of time, you can also reap the benefits of gathering questions from your team before the meeting. These can be questions about the meeting itself, the topic, or other points of interest that your team thinks should be touched upon.
This is a great way to get people engaged ahead of time, so they show up ready to bring their all when the meeting starts. It also allows them to feel included, like they are an essential part of the meeting rather than just an audience member (which they are!) When your team feels like they are an essential cog in the machine, there's a good chance they'll be much more present, and the meeting will overall be more productive.
In some instances, it might be obvious who will facilitate the meetings. In others, though, you might need to designate a clear "Captain" to help ensure that the meeting goes smoothly.
This facilitator can help to set the pace of the meeting, ask questions to initiate discussion, and stay on task towards achieving the goals of the meeting. You might also choose to appoint a notetaker who jots down any key ideas, results, or decisions made, as well as a timekeeper to help everybody stay on track.
One of the most annoying things that can happen to throw a remote meeting off course is having tech issues. Of course, you'll want to choose a reliable video conferencing tool, but it's also a good idea to give your whole tech system a test run before the meeting starts.
Once the meeting does start, do a quick tech check before you dive in. Ask everyone to give a signal (a thumbs-up or a wave, for example), signifying they can see and hear everyone else involved. This avoids the truly irritating outcome of getting twenty minutes into a meeting and realizing that an essential player isn't being heard.
Another problem that plagues remote meetings is team members only realizing that they can't access the meeting about thirty seconds before the meeting is supposed to start. Not only is this stressful and distracting, but it's a surefire way to start your meeting late and have everyone show up frazzled.
Send out your invitations and access links ahead of time. Take the time to make sure all of your meeting attendees don't have any problems accessing the proper platform before the meeting starts.
It can also be good to show up five minutes early to field any problems that crop up last minute.
We get it: you want to get through this meeting as quickly as possible. However, speaking too fast can mean that you constantly have to repeat yourself at best or that none of your team members understand what's going on at worst.
Even with the best video conferencing platforms, there is a tendency to have the audio clip out from time to time. When you speak slowly and clearly, you're increasing the chances that everyone can understand what you're saying to avoid meeting disruptions or confusion.
The reality is that remote meetings pose a lot of challenges. For example, it can be more difficult for attendees to read their teammate's body language, and everyone is dealing with their own technical limitations and distractions in their home office. One of the biggest hurdles, though, is that it can be difficult to recreate the enthusiasm and energy fostered in an in-office setting.
If you feel like everyone has been showing up bummed out and low-energy to your remote meetings, you might be missing the most important ingredient: pizza. You'd be amazed how quickly those frowns turn upside down when everyone has a piping hot pizza to enjoy while you plot to achieve world domination (or whatever it is that's on the agenda for today.)
Another thing that can disrupt the flow of your remote meetings is unnecessary background noise. At the beginning of the meeting, give a friendly reminder that people who aren't currently speaking should feel free to mute their microphones. Make sure, though, that you encourage them to unmute whenever they feel they have something to contribute to the discussion at hand.
Have you ever been to a meeting that seemed to drag on forever, only to wonder afterward what the point even was? To avoid this type of existential crisis, it's important to have clear goals and objectives going into the meeting. Share these points clearly with the team, and give a quick outline of how you'll be addressing each of them.
When you're setting a meeting time, it's easy to think about what makes sense in your neck of the woods. When you have a truly distributed team, though, it's important to keep everyone's time zone in mind when you are scheduling your meeting.
Depending on where your team is in the world, you might consider switching up meeting times, so the same person out there in Singapore doesn't always have to take one for the team by signing on at midnight because you have it in your mind that noon EST is the most productive time for a meeting. Be considerate of where your team members will be in their day, and consider rotating the meeting day and time, so no one feels like they're getting the short end of the stick over and over again.
When your entire team works from home, it's easy to get lax with the timing of meetings. However, you know just as well as anyone that just because you're at home doesn't mean that you have infinite time to play icebreaker games or engage in off-topic conversation for the umpteenth time. Setting a time limit ahead of time is an essential piece of running an effective meeting, and it's essential to respect the stop time so everyone can carry on with their work for the day.
According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, there's no reason to schedule an hour-long meeting out of sheer habit. On the contrary, it can create positive pressure to reduce meeting length, and you might be surprised how much it feels like you get done when you schedule a fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five-minute meeting. According to their research, some time pressure actually makes groups perform with increased focus and stimulation.
Have you ever had a meeting that seemed productive at the time, only to feel like it dissipated into the ether mere moments after you signed off? To avoid this outcome, record your meeting (and tell your teammates that you're doing so.) This doesn't just help to create a record of the ideas discussed and the decisions made, but it can also help people stay on task.
Recording the meeting can also be key when you have individuals who won't be able to attend or if those who were there want to replay something they might have missed.
Your remote meeting was a success– congrats! Now it's time to follow up with your team to keep all that awesome momentum going. Send out a thank you note with any relevant info, such as that recording you made, an outline of the meeting notes, and the next actionable steps.
If we're being honest, the most important tip on the list has got to be the pizza one. After all, if pizza can't solve the problem, it can certainly leave everyone so satiated that they don't feel particularly bothered by the series of technical issues that plagued your meeting.
Similarly, do you have to hold a meeting at a time when a handful of your team members will have to sign on long after the sun has gone down in their corner of the world? Don't worry; a pizza will perk them right up.
Maybe we're biased, but we feel like a little pizza can go a long way to smooth out any bumps in the road you might encounter during your remote meeting. If we're starting to make a whole lot of sense to you, go ahead and get the party started.