Remote work has changed meetings forever. Sure, it’s made it harder for leaders. It used to be simple for leaders to gather everyone in a room and hash things out. Now, team members may be dotted all over the world.
However, the widespread migration to remote work, coupled with advances in virtual meeting software and video conferencing technology, has also changed things for the better. Or at least, it should have.
It’s a golden opportunity to end Death by PowerPoint and meetings for meetings’ sake. It also allows remote team leaders to democratise virtual meetings, eliminating those times when the person with the loudest voice dominates the agenda.
Here are five things remote teams can do to take the opportunity and make virtual meetings something everyone looks forward to rather than dreads.
1 – Take responsibility
As a leader, a key facet of effective remote management is to ensure that your virtual meetings go to plan, with everyone engaged and not tuning out, so you can get your message across and people leave understanding what they have to do.
No one is saying it’s easy now you’re remote, bringing people together from different backgrounds and cultures using a virtual meeting platform still has its challenges. But, you need to know that the old way of doing things, where the leader talks and everyone listens, doesn’t translate well to a dynamic remote work culture.
You may need to get out of your comfort zone to make a virtual meeting truly effective, more so than in days past, but it will be worth it.
2 – Could it be an email?
First up, consider whether you need to have a virtual meeting in the first place. When you were in the office, a team meeting or virtual standup on a Monday morning was ‘something you did’ because it was easy to set up. Now, you’re taking people away from other things, so make sure it’s worth their while.
For example, if your plan for the meeting is just to do simple screen sharing with slides and a description from you of what's on the slides then why not record it as an asynchronous update video and send that out instead? Always look for reasons to adopt asynchronous communication over gratuitous online meetings, letting your people respond on their terms rather than yours.
3 – Include everyone in your virtual meetings
If it has to be a virtual meeting, you must ensure everyone feels included. However, that’s not just letting people speak.
Virtual meetings depend on technology to ensure that participants can see, be seen, speak and listen, wherever they may be in the world so long as they have a reliable internet connection. You may have access to a top-of-the-range laptop and fibre broadband, but what about your people? If they are going to work remotely in your team, you must make sure they have all the tech they need.
Now, you must plan for everyone in your meeting to participate in some way, so they are engaged and do not tune out. For example, during your meeting, go around the group individually every fifteen minutes (if not less) to check they understand and agree with what’s been discussed so far.
4 – Sense conflict among team members
It’s extremely hard to sense conflict when using video conferencing or running a virtual meeting as you may not necessarily pick up on visual clues, like a subtle frown or rolling eyes. However, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. As a leader, it’s your role to relieve conflict, whether it’s with you or between people in your team.
Listen for prolonged silences or changes in tone of voice among your people. Look out for people trying to make a point but can’t get a word in. If someone is unduly dominating the conversation, try to help others give their input.
If you sense real conflict between team members, try not to dwell on it in the meeting. Instead, deal with it outside of that setting.
5 – Start as you mean to go on
If you get virtual meetings off to a good start, you boost the chances of the rest of it going well.
Start on time, but use the start of it to welcome everybody, introduce people who don’t already know each other and generally catch up. It loosens everybody up and makes them feel warm toward having a meeting, which they may not have felt before.
Once you formally kick off the meeting, make it clear what you’re all there to do, so everybody can focus on the task. Talk about the plan for the meeting and who will be performing any specific roles. If you have any ‘housekeeping rules’ such as keeping your camera on or saying your name when you start talking, now’s the time to make it clear.
Oh, and finish five minutes early. Everyone loves that!
As RemoteWorks Founder Tamara Sanderson told our Leading Remotely podcast:
‘There's a lot of value in adding a bit of play into anything that is already routine within your schedule. So, a lot of teams will have a weekly meeting. How do you start the first 10 minutes with something that is fun and that is playful?
‘There are so many people within an organisation that are creative and waiting to have this moment to share something fun. I think within that, the leader's responsibility is to give space and make it okay.’
Grab The Remote Leadership Handbook today
We cover virtual meetings plus nine other hot remote topics in our new Remote Leadership Book.
Find out how to overcome the challenges of remote leadership and get the best from your remote teams - with the help of some of the remote work space’s foremost experts.