Team meetings can be a powerful tool for collaboration and communication—where ideas begin, decisions are made, and the whole team contributes. Or, when poorly planned, they take up everyone’s valuable time and aren’t productive. These issues are only made more pronounced when team meetings are held remotely rather than in person, with many more distractions and technological challenges to overcome. So what’s the best way to set your team up for success? Let us share our steps for conducting productive remote team meetings.
How to plan successful remote team meetings
- Decide what type of meeting to have (and if you really need one). Many employees feel inundated with meetings, so make sure that this meeting will accomplish a goal, rather than just take up valuable time. Decide if the goal of the meeting is to communicate what everyone is working on in a stand-up style meeting, to brainstorm ideas, solve an issue, or communicate across teams. Once you know the type of meeting you need to have, you’re ready for the next step.
- Set concrete goals for the meeting outcome. It can be easy to get sidetracked (whether you’re in-person or online!) and having goals set in stone can help bring everyone back to the issue at hand. We’ve all experienced a meeting that seems to go nowhere. Clearly and concisely communicating the outcomes you’re planning to achieve is a great way to avoid that pitfall.
- Determine who needs to be on the attendee list. It may be a good idea to limit the size of your meeting so that it will be more productive. Not everyone needs to be at every meeting. Having additional people in attendance can distract from the meeting goals. Plus, you’re cutting down on the productive hours employees can spend on other work. So, if they’re not critical to the meeting goals, perhaps they don’t need to attend.
- Decide what technology you’ll use to conduct the meeting. Choosing the video conferencing software you’ll use is an important step in hosting a great meeting. Depending on the type of meeting you’re hosting, the ideal platform might vary. Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToWebinar, and Skype, are all great options, and many more exist if those don’t meet your needs. Make sure you know how to work that platform prior to the meeting. It can be a good idea to get on a few minutes early to test your audio and visuals to make sure you don’t have any issues. You’ll also want to decide if you need any other supplementary technology, if you’re sharing a presentation, slides, need employees to vote on a topic, etc. Determine what technology will help you do so, and make sure everyone has access to that technology.
- Pick a time that works for everyone. Scheduling meetings can be complicated even when everyone works in the same office, but when you add remote work to the mix you may be contending with different time zones, parents picking up kids from school or other childcare duties, and more! Taking these things into account means that logistical difficulties won’t impact employees’ abilities to contribute their ideas during team meetings. Using a meeting scheduling app such as Skedgit is a great way to avoid timing issues, and make scheduling your meetings easy.
- Create an agenda with pertinent information, then share that with all attendees. Create a document where you set the main talking points, the goals you determined, who will be attending, and who’s is in charge of what. Then, share this document with all attendees are request that they review it prior to the meeting. This document should help you stay on track, and make sure everyone is on the same page about what the meeting will cover. You can also include any relevant reference documents with the agenda, for employees to have on hand.
- Set employee expectations. Decide how you’d like your employees to behave in your team meetings, and communicate those details. If you expect all staff to turn their cameras on, let them know this expectation ahead of time. Let your staff know if you’d prefer a professional dress code, if you’d like them to mute themselves when not speaking, and even include if you’ll be asking them to share certain information such as their name and title, or the answer to a certain ‘icebreaker’ question, so they’re able to prepare.
- Designate a meeting lead. Who is in charge? It’s important that the team leader facilitates a meeting where everyone is involved — especially those who are less naturally vocal or comfortable interjecting. Making space for everyone to be heard means more ideas and better communication. The team leader should also keep the meeting moving, and stay on track to achieve goals.
- Keep the whole team engaged. If your team tends to space out during group meetings, make sure that they stay engaged by giving everyone a job to do, throughout the meeting. Giving employees tasks to accomplish throughout the meeting (such as taking notes, presenting information, or moving through a slideshow for the presenter) gives everyone an active role to play, instead of feeling like passive listeners.
- Finish the meeting with deliverables and deadlines. Communicate the main accomplishments of the meetings, key takeaways from your discussion, and deadlines for when to accomplish follow-up tasks. This can be done either at the end of the meeting or in a follow-up message afterward (or both!). Assign employees to follow up on designated tasks, and make sure to include due dates for assignments.
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