As a virtual team member, you know that the most challenging part of managing remote employees is holding effective meetings. The best practices for leading an effective virtual team meeting can make your job much easier, but only if you use them consistently.
One thing we would like to stress in this post is that the number one best practice for leading effective virtual team meetings is determining if this topic requires a meeting. Is it important enough to disrupt your team's workflow? Can you get the information across in an email or even over the phone? Are documentation and asynchronous communication better suited for the topic?
Consider setting up recurring meetings that occur weekly or bi-weekly. This consistency will help keep everyone on track while maintaining transparency with your team. If a meeting is necessary, try to set it up when everyone, regardless of timezone, can prepare for it beforehand—as well as ensure that they can attend without worrying about missing work due to travel arrangements or other commitments.
1. Determine if a meeting is needed
You should only set a meeting with your team if it is necessary. If you can get the same information from an email, ask your team member to send you the info instead of scheduling a meeting. Avoid meetings when possible by using tools like Slack or Zoom to communicate with your team instantly and efficiently. GitLab's Guide to All-Remote discusses strategies to help determine whether a topic requires a meeting here.
Before setting up your meetings and arranging everyone's schedules, determine why you need to have everyone on the line together at the same time and how this meeting will benefit you and the team.
Meetings can help get core team members to provide feedback or address a specific project. Meetings may be less helpful for ongoing collaboration and reviewing other team members' deliverables.
Note: Another option is to make meetings optional and record them, depending on your intended purpose for the meeting.
2. Use a consistent schedule
If a weekly team meeting is something you think would benefit your team, try to schedule your meetings at the same time every week. This consistent schedule will help your team members know that you are serious about meeting regularly, making it easier for them to plan their schedules around yours. It will also encourage team connection and collaboration.
When meetings are consistent, employees can prepare for meetings by scheduling their other work around the meeting time, looking over relevant material beforehand, finding questions to ask the speaker or facilitator, and sharing ideas they've had time to consider. This preparation makes for much more productive meetings.
If you have multiple teams, try to schedule all your meetings during the exact times or overlapping time slots. You can use tools like Doodle or Google Calendar to find available times that work for everyone on the team before setting up your calendar.
3. Create a meeting agenda and send it out in advance
Before you begin the call, send out an agenda. This preparation will make it easier to track topics discussed and for attendees to contribute to the conversation. Use a tool like Google Docs or Trello to manage your meeting—these tools allow you to assign tasks and create checklists to help you stay organized during the call.
Rather than creating a multi-page document, send out a set of brief talking points via email or Slack so people know the discussion topics. Preparing your team for virtual meetings by giving them a heads-up about the purpose allows them time to think about and refine solutions before you start the meeting. Follow up with the agenda post-meeting so attendees and relevant parties can stay on top of the following steps and continue the work asynchronously.
4. Open the "floor" for discussion and allow time for Q&A
At some point during the meeting, open the floor for discussion and allow time for Q&A. Google Meet and Zoom are popular video meeting software tools that allow you to see who is talking. Live chat, screen-sharing software, hand-raising, and mute functions are all beneficial for facilitating these discussions.
These tools work well for a few reasons: first, these tools create a signal that someone wants to speak without interrupting everyone else. Second, it reduces the risk that background noises like paper shuffling or coughing will cause the camera focus to shift. Third, it allows you to distribute talk time among your team evenly.
For employees to offer their best ideas, it is helpful for them to feel comfortable participating in the discussion. To encourage team members to participate, ask for questions, input, or ideas after each talking point.
5. Find a virtual meeting software tool that's easy for everyone to use
Before you begin, you must ensure everyone in your team has access to the same virtual meeting software tool. If a person cannot use the platform because of compatibility issues, they cannot attend meetings and stay up-to-date with what's happening in the company.
If you have any employees who are remote workers, make sure that the virtual meeting software tool you use allows for remote attendance via mobile devices.
The key to effective virtual team meetings is understanding your team members' needs and ensuring that you have a meeting tool that meets those needs. You can do this by first determining if a team meeting is necessary, using a consistent schedule for recurring meetings, creating an agenda, and giving each participant an opportunity to speak. In addition to having an effective meeting structure, using virtual meeting software like Zoom or Google Meet helps you create a comfortable environment for everyone involved that allows for collaboration, connection, and brainstorming in a virtual environment.
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