October 25, 2019 / Shyam Nagarajan / Reading Time: 5 mins
Scheduling and preparing team meetings are one of the many tasks that every remote team leader is expected to handle. As a team leader, it is your role to make sure that every meeting that you set is done accordingly and goes smoothly. A lot of planning and preparation will be involved. But by maximising the effectiveness of your meetings, you’ll save time, energy and resources.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a structure that serves your team and the business well. Here are three considerations to better prepare and plan for your next remote team meeting:
When it comes to handling meetings, it’s important to create a list of all the topics that you and your remote team will need to tackle. Before the meeting, it is a good idea to present the agenda to your team members in advance. You can simply send an email invitation containing the details of the meeting. Apart from sharing the agenda with your team, you should, of course, include the time, the people included in the meeting, and the meeting method.
During the meeting, you should start by reading the agenda you sent to everyone, including any last-minute topic inclusions, if any. You should also make use of this session to present the following items regularly:
You may be surprised at how your meetings change once you start to prepare the structure ahead of time. Buffer concluded that By having much of their communication in writing, they’ve basically created self-documented meetings. Alongside that, it means that everything shared is also searchable which stimulates knowledge management within any organisation.
Don’t forget that a team meeting for remote employees may be the only opportunity they have to meet and engage with each other. One study found that workers who had an icebreaker moment with their team introduced 26% more ideas in brainstorming sessions than workers who didn’t.
In remote environments, we need to identify the easier, yet most connected method to meet your team members as often as you can. So the question here is, what method and tools will you and your team members use to properly accomplish your session.
With a remote team, the preference is always to get as close to an in-person meeting as possible. It’s important to set the expectation that video calls should be turned on in order to communicate more effectively through body language and eye contact. Research says that 55% of communication is body language, while another 38% is the tone of voice—all of which is necessary to create a communal atmosphere during a virtual meeting.
Another expectation for remote teams is to ensure that when the meeting is taking place, other technologies and projects are shut down in order to be completely present in the meeting. Yes, that means no more Slack replies during meetings. 🙂 Nancy Halpern, Principal at KNH Associates, suggests developing meeting rules to limit each person’s speaking time and prevent anyone from dominating.
Some tools that you will need to look into may include apps that can help with team collaboration, video conferencing, presentation creation, notes taking, recording and the like. Many remote meeting tools such as Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, Join.me, and the like usually incorporate multiple meeting tools, so it’s just a matter of choosing which tool you think will be more convenient to use.
Now that you have identified the structure and tools for your meeting, you should also determine how often your remote team meeting will be. A good way to identify this is by conducting a survey with the whole team. In this survey, let your team members identify the days and times when they will be available for meetings. Once everyone has responded, you can check the responses to identify which time and day all or most of you can be available.
When working across multiple time zones, it’s often required that team members have to attend meetings outside of their usual working hours. In order to do so effectively, meetings can be rotated so that the inconvenience of really early or late meetings is distributed evenly and fairly. Coordinating the calendars of 15 people who live across different time zones is not the same as asking 15 people at the same table when they can make the next meeting,” says Fio Dossetto from Hotjar.
Meetings should be recorded in remote environments, to allow members who cannot attend to rewatch the video. To ensure the video is actually watched, setting the expectation of feedback and comments on the recording can be a great way to ensure everyone is still engaged in an asynchronous way.
Ideally, remote teams should meet at least once a week. This way, you get to provide regular updates to your team and be able to check on their common concerns all at once. This will also be a way for your whole team to bond, even if it’s just remote. Apart from the frequency, you should also set the length of your regular meetings. For weekly meetings, you can schedule a short meeting that can last from 30 minutes to one hour, depending on your agenda.
Doist’s Founder and CEO, Amir Salihefendic discusses the importance of balancing asynchronous and synchronous meetings with the team. ‘You need to sprinkle them in sometimes. And especially in meetings, using Google Hangouts or Zoom are very important to actually build a connection with the people you work with. So that’s something I can really recommend because we went too far in the asynchronous space, and that does not work either. So you need to sprinkle in.’
Meetings are essential when it comes to fostering communication and collaboration in your team. Always make it a point to think about your meeting structure, tools and frequency to make sure that your meeting runs successfully.
About the Author
Shauna is the founder of Operate Remote who helps remote organisations that are facing challenges with communication, company culture and managing remote teams. Shauna works with businesses that are beginning to work remotely or organisations that want to scale their distributed workforce effectively. She also works with companies who want to bridge the gap between office and remote environments.
Being a qualified coach and consultant allows Shauna to work with her clients in two ways; work with companies around the mindset shift that needs to happen when they work remotely, but she also works with them to create strategies and processes that will serve their remote team as they continue to scale. From working with Shauna, companies see results such as increased productivity, profitability, and overall better team morale.