Creative Ways to Make Meetings Better on Remote Teams
Meetings. Did you just hear that collective groan? Let’s face it—most of us dread them. They often feel like soul-sucking wastes of time that exist for the sole purpose of making us all miserable.
Alright, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But the point remains the same: given the choice between spending time on productive work and sitting through a meeting, most of us would probably enthusiastically go with the first option.
Unfortunately, these standard sit-downs can quickly become even more painful if you need to do them remotely.
You not only deal with all of the traditional meeting headaches (without the perk of shared pastries!), but you also need to navigate things like technical difficulties, a lack of nonverbal cues, and the inevitable awkward tango that occurs when three people start talking at once.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, meetings are a necessary evil. However, there are some things you can do to make them a little less groan worthy.
Use these tips to make meetings better for your remote team:
Start with small talk.
Take a minute to think of a traditional, face-to-face meeting. Chances are, you don’t just sit down and dive right into business. Instead, the conversation begins with some pleasantries and small talk.
This sort of congeniality and camaraderie can be severely lacking on a remote team—unless you’re conscious about encouraging it.
So before you roll up your sleeves and get to the meat of your meeting, take a little bit of time for some more “culture-oriented” things.
These can include:
- making introductions, in case certain team members haven’t interacted before.
- offering recognition for recent big wins and accomplishments.
- asking a simple small-talk question, such as what everybody has planned for the weekend.
No, you don’t want to spend a ton of time on this friendly chatter. But making sure that you let everybody get comfortable and acquainted (even when they’re spread across the country or world) will ultimately make your meeting more productive.
Have an agenda.
An agenda is important for every meeting—whether it’s remote or not. However, it becomes especially important for remote teams, when certain people may not be in the loop on specific conversations or even the entire goal of the meeting.
Considering that people don’t have the ability to drop by your desk and ask about it, you need to be prepared with an agenda that gets sent out to all participants a few days ahead of the conversation.
That way, everybody knows what they’re in for and can adequately prepare to make meaningful contributions. Your meetings will be far more engaging for everybody involved if you lay the right groundwork.
Beware the mute button.
Oh, the beloved mute button. At first glance, it seems like a good idea. It allows participants to block out everything from their barking dog to their noisy kids in the next room, so as not to distract the other meeting attendees.
But, of course, there’s a downside. While it’s an effective way to tune out distractions, it also makes it easy for everyone to become distracted.
Why? Well, by muting their own activity, participants can easily start multitasking and working on other things, since their colleagues won’t hear anything. Silencing themselves practically encourages disengagement.
Think of it this way: if you were in a traditional meeting around a conference table and an employee began scrolling through his phone or working on something else on his computer, you’d probably think it was a little strange—not to mention counterproductive and disrespectful.
So unless you’re dealing with some major technical glitches (nobody wants to listen to that obnoxious echo or high-pitched whine!), consider asking your participants to stay off mute—and even jump in on conversations like they would in a more natural setting.
Even with all attendees staying far away from that mute button, it’s still much easier to become disengaged in a remote meeting. You’re not in the same room as these people, meaning the whole process seems somewhat detached.
As a way to combat that disconnectedness, consider assigning duties to team members ahead of the meeting. Perhaps one will keep track of time while another will record notes, for example.
Whatever you need done, delegate those duties to different meeting participants. Having a job they need to do—outside of just participating in the discussion—will help keep them far more engaged in the conversation.
It’s hard to get employees excited about a traditional in-person meeting—a challenge that only increases when your meeting needs to happen remotely. Fortunately, there are a few tactics you can implement to make meetings better for you and your remote team. Put these tips to work, and you’re sure to take your sit-downs up a notch.
By Kat Boogaard | September 1, 2017 | Categories: Remote Management