Virtual teams are an increasingly popular way to conduct business, but they can have their share of challenges. One area that is often a problem for virtual teams is online meeting efficiency. This blog post will explore some tips and tricks for conducting more efficient online meetings.
The term “virtual teams” describes any team that does not meet in person regularly. Virtual teams are usually made up of members who work remotely from different locations and time zones.
To be an effective virtual team manager, you need to know what to do before your online meeting starts and how things work during the session. Some key points have to happen at various stages of your online meeting to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Here is a helpful guide on these three aspects: before, during, and after your online team meeting.
Setting The Stage For Your Online Meeting
If you’re a manager hosting an online team meeting, there are some crucial steps before the event. Firstly, decide what your goals for this meeting will be and find team members to help achieve those objectives. Next, draft out your agenda with items to discuss at length and topics in need of short exchanges or responses (if any). Finally, send invitations along with reminders, so no one misses them.
What are the objectives of your online meeting?
Virtual team meetings should be a last resort solution, and you should only have them if necessary. They could be a time-consuming and inefficient way of getting the work done. So, before you plow ahead with your next online meeting, consider these options carefully:
- Is this necessary?
- Will people be able to participate from remote locations/different time zones?
- Can we communicate through an email/instant messaging app or a quick phone call instead of scheduling a team meeting?
- Does everyone on my team have access to video conferencing tools like Zoom/Skype for Business or Google Hangouts, etc.?
Meeting overload is an all-too-common problem in the workplace, resulting in overworked and frazzled team members. However, knowing when to set up a meeting can save you from this fate.
After confirming you need to hold an online meeting, your next step is to define what it’s for beforehand and not during the session. If you’re having difficulty determining the goals, then chances are high your online team meeting was unnecessary in the first place.
Who should attend the meeting and what is the agenda?
To make your team meeting more efficient, you should think about who to invite. You don’t need everyone in the loop – just those that will be impacted by it. Asking too many people to an online meeting can be both time-consuming and inefficient for everyone. The general rule is that you want the number of attendees limited not to waste anyone’s valuable time but also to get any work done at all. So think about what each team member will contribute before inviting them.
And every single good meeting should have an agenda explaining what it’s about—you might say “agenda or else no show” if we were talking abbreviated slang today. Although “Have an agenda” may sound like common sense advice, few hosts take this step-which means more meetings than necessary end up being just a lot of wasted talk time.
What are some of the things you can include in an agenda? An agenda should be a short, simple list with points to cover during your meeting. You don’t have to worry about making it fancy or formal because simplicity is the key.
When writing the agenda, start with your objective and then list all of the discussion points to be covered. Start by listing those most important topics first (those things on top) before moving onto less pressing matters. You can also highlight who will talk about each case and set time limits for them if necessary.
Are there any technical requirements for team members?
Choosing the proper remote logistics is an important task. To make it easier, start with your preferred virtual collaboration tool (such as Zoom, GoToMeetings, Webex, etc.) and ensure that everyone has access to this software before you get started.
Then it would help if you decided whether or not to use video conferencing during your virtual team meeting. Video conferencing is indeed a great way to enhance intimacy and cohesion for remote teams. However, it’s essential to consider the needs of all team members when choosing whether or not you want video as well as an audio-only option.
After that, you may want to consider the appropriate date and time for your team when scheduling your online meeting. This task can be difficult, especially with global teams that span different parts of the world and have varying schedules depending on which hemisphere they’re in. The best way to find the correct time is by making a list of everyone’s availability, then picking one from this list.
Many tools can help you organize your meeting time. For example, Time and Date AS (www.timeanddate.com) plugs in the date and the different time zones of various team members and then provides business-friendly hour options with daylight saving for global locations. The best part about this free tool is that it factors in all aspects to simplify planning or scheduling a meeting on behalf of any company no matter where their employees reside, so they’re never out-of-sync again.
And now, let’s move on to some helpful scheduling guidelines to help you set up your next virtual team meeting:
Make your online meetings shorter
You might be surprised by how much you can accomplish in a shorter time frame. Some people think that their meetings need to last the entire one hour, but most of these types of sessions only require 30 minutes or less to complete all agenda items and share relevant information with your team members. So if it doesn’t seem necessary for everyone’s schedules, consider cutting back on meeting times so they aren’t as lengthy.
Have fewer online meetings
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get more done is by having fewer meetings. Meetings are grueling, draining affairs. They often leave people feeling frustrated and unproductive because they can go on for hours with little to show in the end. Many team members would rather spend that time working instead of being at a meeting – which means meetings take up valuable work time.
Not only is it ineffective when you could be productive elsewhere, but many employees find these long conversations more grating than beneficial. Attending too many online meetings has resulted in decreased productivity or even resentment from colleagues who feel like nobody counts on their opinions enough.
So, when you need to set up many meetings for the same topic, start with only adding more if necessary. For recurring meetings like updates or standing ones, schedule fewer meetings but keep adding them as needed – don’t do it in reverse.
Try scheduling all recurring online meetings around one specific day
Try to schedule your meetings (especially recurring ones) on the same day of the week. This approach will lead to fewer interruptions, decreased productivity loss, and reduce costs associated with switching between work time and meeting time. Your team members will appreciate you for this because they’ll have a better chance at accomplishing more throughout the rest of their weeks. Tuesday is usually considered best since it’s early in the workweek but not too early like Monday.
Try scheduling all meetings around the same time of the day
Online sessions can disrupt the entire day if they are too far apart. Try to do as many meetings in a row, or at least during the same time of day, so that you have some time between them to work on other tasks and focus more fully on your meeting when it comes up.
The general heuristic about meetings is one per part of the day, thanks to how disruptive they often are- not just in productivity but also attention span and energy levels, affecting their performance later down the line.
Think about spacing
It’s important not to have the same type of meeting back-to-back if you want your team members and yourself to focus on their work. If there is no time between meetings, at least 30 minutes should pass before another one starts up so people can take notes or send emails after a session has ended.
Finally, every virtual team meeting should have one designated person responsible for moderating the discussion and achieving its objectives, and capturing notes during it. Usually, the virtual team manager is in this role or someone else in the team, depending on the meeting.
Send your invitation, schedule, and reminders
The last step during the preparation phase is to send out the meeting invite along with your agenda. As you set up your session in the collaboration tool, make sure that a descriptive title helps people know what they will discuss before joining.
Before the meeting, it is essential to include any materials or documents that attendees need. To make sure everyone comes prepared with what they need, provide all of this information in the invitation, so there are no surprises for anyone at the event. Be sure to mention anything about technology requirements and video/audio needs for the meeting as well.
As you get closer to the meeting date, your attendees must know what they’re doing ahead of time. Sending out a courtesy reminder will help ensure everyone has enough information before meeting and making sure nobody misses anything important. After sending reminders about any material or agenda items for review before the meeting, conducting your event is all set up, too, so you can focus on having an excellent experience.
Conducting Your Online Meeting
Now, we will cover the steps that you need to take during your online meeting. These steps include: welcoming attendees, setting ground rules for discussion and how long they can speak before yielding their time back (this is called a “time-box”); running through an agenda of what you need to cover in detail (“agenda items” or “action points”) which includes capturing all discussions by typing up notes on each event, so nothing gets lost when it’s over – these are known as minutes; closing out meetings with final thoughts about proceedings.
Make sure to cover the ground rules.
When you start an online meeting, try to join a few minutes early. This approach allows you to check that the technology is working correctly and gives you some time for changes if it’s not.
If this will be your first time using collaboration tools like Zoom, GoToWebinars or others, make sure to test the tools one day in advance before setting up the call.
If someone else joins early, take that opportunity to check with them if your audio and video are coming across clearly. Then start welcoming new members as they enter the meeting. If you have a quorum of attendees, do a quick roll call, so all participants know who is in attendance for this event or conference call.
When you need to get everyone’s attention at the start of the meeting, the conversation needs to be relevant and engaging. You may summarize what has been done by the team while asking participants if they have any questions or input you need to discuss first. This approach will ensure all attendees are on board with where things currently stand and how you plan to proceed from there, significantly increasing engagement when looking at potential next steps.
Finally, recording your online meeting is a good idea, but if you’re going to do it, make sure everyone knows its purpose and that they agree.
Present your meeting objective and agenda
When you formally begin the meeting, it’s essential to start by talking about your objective. State your desired outcome from that specific meeting and go through each step of the agenda one-by-one before telling other team members their roles in this discussion.
If you’re late to a meeting, avoid repeating information unless it’s indispensable. It’s best to carry on with the agenda and keep people accountable for their time limits by not allowing them off in different directions during your discussion.
The agenda is a great way to keep the conversation on the topic. Say, for example, someone starts talking about their family vacation while you’re discussing company revenue and expenses – ask them politely if they can take that discussion offline or get back onto the subject at hand.
It sounds like an obvious step, but few meeting facilitators do it because we want everyone in our discussions to feel included (and we don’t want anyone feeling offended). One thing to point out here is that you are responsible as a host of the meeting when it comes down to including everyone’s opinion where possible during these discussions: If some people seem quieter than others, then make sure to hear them too.
Ensure that you keep meeting minutes
It is important to keep meeting minutes because they record your team’s decisions and any topics or issues discussed. Organizations must have records of their meetings so that people can look back at what was decided on to make plans accordingly.
To get the most out of your online meeting, capture as much detail about your discussion during it. You may forget some parts or not be able to recall them later on, so you’ll want a good record for reference if any disputes arise at a later time. Here are just a few things that should go in:
- Meeting details (date, time, attendee list, hostname, etc.)
- Discussed high-level ideas and made decisions
- Current problems and challenges
- Problems and challenges expected in the future
- Tasks the team needs to accomplish
- Topics you need to include in future online meetings
- Any supporting information for your meeting minutes
You don’t have to include every single one of those items listed above in your meeting minutes. Use what makes sense to you and your team, but make sure that if there are any action items at the end, then assign owners and deadlines so that people can be held accountable for getting things done by a specific date or time.
Close your online meeting with a review
One of the best practices for having productive meetings is to review your notes before finishing. If you run out of time during your session, it’s still better to do a recap than to continue ahead without any idea what was accomplished in that time frame.
Start by reviewing action items, first verbally confirming tasks, assigned owners, and deadlines.
To summarize what was said in the meeting before it ends is the best way to increase your chances that things will get done, and there won’t be any confusion about where you stand on this.
Steps To Take After Your Online Meeting
Now that your meeting is over, you need to take two steps. First off, make sure the minutes are well documented and then follow up with any action items assigned at the end of it all.
Distribute the Meeting Minutes
It’s essential to distribute the meeting minutes after an online event is over. This approach ensures that all attendees have time to read through it and understand what was discussed before moving on. If you’re interested, make sure your boss also gets copies as they may not be invited but could still benefit from knowing about recent developments so they can provide guidance or help if necessary.
While there is some debate about whether meeting minutes are effective, they might be necessary or even required in specific projects to track issues if they surface later on. After the meeting has ended, you should also follow up with a written summary that explicitly highlights who will be responsible for what and when everything needs to be done.
One best practice is to send out an email with a list of tasks and the meeting minutes as attachments (in MS Word or PDF format) to minimize the number of emails you need. Here’s what your email should include:
- A quick summary of the meeting
- Meeting minutes
- Summary of immediate next steps
- Relevant links or attachments
Follow up on all assigned tasks
Your last task is to follow up on all the next steps you highlighted in your email and meeting minutes. It’s best if you wait a few days before asking anyone for updates, so they have time to work through their tasks themselves but make sure not to forget about these after a week.
One of the best practices is keeping track of all action items, risks, and issues assigned during the meeting. You may use a document repository tool or spreadsheet to list them for reference. Finally, if your next online meeting is related to the previous one, then it’s a good idea to make sure your team has up-to-date information before starting a new discussion.
Enjoyed this article? Learn more about virtual team management here: 6 Tactics on Creating a Highly Effective Virtual Team and here: Managing Successful Virtual Teams – 6 Tactics For Success
As you can see, there are many ways that online meetings can be more productive. If your team is considering a shift to this type of meeting format, it’s important to keep these tips in mind as well as the reasons why they work so well. Let us know if you have any other great ideas we may not have listed! We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to help our readers succeed with their remote teams.