You’ve got a remote team meeting in two minutes. You start your conferencing software, but it begins downloading an update and you end up joining five minutes late. Your meeting organizer has already texted you to make sure you didn’t forget the meeting. When you join the call, you’re greeted by the facilitator but you can’t tell who else is in the meeting because no introductions were made.
Sound familiar? Virtual meetings aren’t as frictionless as an in-person meeting, but that doesn’t mean your remote employees can’t get the most out of conference calls. Use these best practices to upgrade your next dial-in meeting and get more value from your remote team.
Use Quality Video Conferencing Software
The saying “phoning it in” exists for a reason. Without a visual connection to each other, your remote team members will quickly check out during virtual meetings. For most meetings, everyone should be at a computer and using video, so that everyone can see each other. For quick meetings or low-priority calls, video conferencing might not be necessary—but don’t skip the video on strategic meetings. It’s critical to have that nonverbal communication, especially if your team is multicultural.
At BloomU, we use Zoom conferencing software for all of our virtual meetings. It’s even integrated into or meeting software. Zoom lets you see everyone in the meeting and also share screens with each other. It’s easy to use, reliable, and you can record your meetings.
Don’t Touch the Tech
Even with the best conferencing software, glitches will happen from time to time. Someone may have a hard time logging in, or there might be an unexpected software update. Sometimes you can get an echo effect when someone’s audio isn’t configured properly.
When those issues pop up, the meeting facilitator needs to be able to focus on running the meeting, rather than solving technical problems. We recommend assigning someone else to handle the meeting software and any technical issues. You’ll keep everyone on task without bringing the entire meeting to a halt.
Start on Time
It’s good practice to expect every meeting to start on time. That’s especially important when you’re meeting virtually. A good best practice is to join the meeting a few minutes early for small talk. People who don’t see each other often can catch up for a few minutes without derailing the meeting, then get down to brass tacks when it’s time to start. This also gives you the chance to fix any tech issues that pop up.
If you get delayed from joining for some reason and can’t join on time, communicate with the team immediately so they know you didn’t go AWOL.
Agree on Ground Rules
Many companies have house rules for their in-person meetings, such as “ask, don’t assume” or “silence your phone.” Those rules can do a lot to improve productivity and team culture. But the remote nature of virtual meetings creates unique challenges that can affect the quality of a meeting.
Remote teams should agree on their own set of ground rules. For example:
• Avoid multitasking during the meeting.
• Turn on your laptop camera for every video conference.
• Wear professional attire—don’t show up in pajamas.
• Mute yourself when you’re not talking if there’s background noise.
• Don’t join a meeting from a coffeehouse or other noisy environment.
Call on Each Person
There’s nothing more frustrating on a conference call than talking over one another. And there’s nothing more awkward than unplanned silence.
Virtual meetings are great hiding places, too, because you can lurk in the corner without anyone noticing. But when you’re resolving an issue, that’s a bad place to be. Since the success of collaboration relies on everyone’s input, it’s important to make sure you don’t have any lurkers silently dissenting.
At certain times during your meeting, you’ll need to get everyone’s input. You can help make the process smooth by calling on each person rather than waiting for people to take initiative. Also take note if someone is silent for an extended time, and solicit their input on a regular basis. Be sure to call on each person to get their verbal agreement on each decision.
Don’t Use a Whiteboard to Take Notes
Meetings often have a lot of visual information to present. Even if you’re using a webcam to display notes that you capture on a whiteboard, your remote participants won’t be able to read them easily. Using a video conferencing application like Zoom allows you to share screens, and it adds interactivity. With screen sharing, everyone in the meeting can see notes as you type them in a document, and they can contribute to the note-taking activities.
Make Your Meetings “Virtually” Perfect
Virtual meetings don’t have to be frustrating experiences, if you know what to anticipate and how to involve your whole team. You can get more done during your conference calls, with the right planning and preparation.